West Brom are set to have club captain Kyle Bartley available for the Black Country derby this weekend, according to the Express & Star.
The 29-year-old lasted only an hour in last weekend’s FA Cup defeat to Blackpool but it appears as if he made it through unscathed and is now in line to start against Wolves on Saturday.
Bartley had missed five straight matches with a calf injury.
Although it’s a big boost to have your skipper back for one of the biggest games of the season, it does give Baggies boss Sam Allardyce a selection headache.
The last thing a struggling side like Albion needs is to constantly chop and change players, especially in a leaky defence that ranks worst in the Premier League.
“We can’t make too many rotations so it’s going to be a big ask for some of the players,” said the 66-year-old earlier this week.
It seems as if Big Sam had settled for Semi Ajayi and Dara O’Shea in recent matches, though Bartley’s return throws doubt into that continuing for much longer.
And with another game on Tuesday night against West Ham, there’s no guarantee that the former Leeds colossus even starts up at Molineux.
Allardyce also told reporters, via the E&S:
“Kyle had to come off after 60 minutes according to our sports science and medical staff. We didn’t want to fatigue him and get another injury,” before adding: “It was about getting him in and trying to win that game and saving him for the game next week against Wolves, then we have a midweek game against West Ham.”
In the absence of an out-and-out defensive midfielder, Ajayi moved into the role as they were dumped out of the cup, so there’s a chance that he sticks with the same defence that leaked two goals to League One Seasiders, which would mean Ivanovic partnering Bartley despite neither completing the full 90 minutes in preparation for this huge clash.
Bartley’s return would be seen as a major positive in a game like this as Allardyce needs a leader to step up and stop the rot of leaking so many goals.
Former caretaker boss Jimmy Shan once dubbed him a “natural -born leader” as he’s a “voice in the changing room” and a “real competitor,” which is exactly what Albion need right now.
If 100% fit, he should start against the Baggies’ arch-rivals in what is the first Black Country derby in nine years.
AND in other news, Dowling heading for an unforgivable West Brom disaster over £30k-p/w gem…