West Bromwich Albion have received a significant boost ahead of their Championship encounter with local rivals Birmingham City over the weekend after defender Matt Clarke completed his recovery from injury.
The Brighton and Hove Albion loanee has been on the treatment table with a hamstring problem since the end of August when he hobbled off before half-time in the 2-1 win at Blackburn Rovers.
However, he returned to the pitch for West Brom’s U23s prior to the international break before taking a place on the substitutes bench against Stoke City.
“I feel like I’m now ready, but it’s the international break, and there are no games to play,” Clarke said following the defeat at the Bet365 Stadium. “It does give me a chance to catch up even further in terms of fitness and sharpness, so we will see where we are when the matches return.”
But with domestic football set to resume over the coming days, the centre-back is expected to make his comeback against Birmingham, something former Baggies striker Kevin Phillips believes will be a sizeable bonus to Valerien Ismael’s charges.
In an exclusive interview with West Brom News, Phillips said: “Of course now with the break, you’d like to think he’ll be in and around it come when they next play.
“Big boost he’s got some minutes under his belt, we know how experienced he is and where West Brom are sitting at the minute, they need those experienced players back in the side to help them. That will be a big boost.”
The Midlands outfit have been victorious in all three of the games that Clarke has started since his arrival on a season-long loan from Brighton, meaning Ismael will be delighted that his star defender is set to return to action.
Despite his limited action, the 25-year-old has already showcased his true potential at the Hawthorns, averaging 2.3 interceptions per league game, the highest tally amongst his teammates, as per WhoScored.
Clarkes has also won 5.7 aerial duels during his second-tier outings and made 2.7 clearances, placing him third amongst his West Brom colleagues for both metrics, illustrating his importance to Ismael’s charges.
While he’s been out, Albion have only won two of six matches, which just goes to show how big a miss he’s been.
Hopefully, they’ll get back to winning ways if he returns this weekend.
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