While Valerien Ismael’s West Bromwich Albion side currently find themselves sitting in second place in the Championship standings, having picked up 15 points over their opening seven fixtures of the season, the Baggies’ recent form will be a cause for concern for the Frenchman.
Indeed, after labouring to a 1-1 draw against Millwall last weekend, West Brom once again struggled to break down lower-league opposition in the shape of Derby County in mid-week, with Albion failing to score at The Hawthorns for the first time this season in a 0-0 draw with Wayne Rooney’s side.
As such, the 45-year-old Baggies boss will undoubtedly be hoping for a return to winning ways on Saturday, with a trip to 14th placed Preston North End on the cards for the promotion hopefuls.
So, will Ismael make any changes to the side who started last time out against the Rams? Here’s how we think West Brom could line up against the Lilywhites, along with the latest team and injury news…
With Matt Clarke and Dara O’Shea remaining sidelined due to injury, and Kean Bryan looking as if he is not ready for first-team action just yet – with the defender having played 45 minutes for West Brom U23s on Friday evening – we expect Ismael to stick with the back five that started the 0-0 draw with Derby on Tuesday.
This means that Conor Townsend retains his place as part of the Frenchman’s back three, while Adam Reach also keeps his spot in the starting XI at left wing-back.
In midfield, the established first-choice duo of Alex Mowatt and Jake Livermore look set to once again start, while Darnell Furlong retains his place on the right.
However, considering the availability of certain players, and the fact that defence has not particularly been an issue for a side who have conceded just once in their last three league fixtures, perhaps it was to be expected that there would be no changes to Ismael’s back eight for the trip to Deepdale.
Indeed, it is in attack where we think the 45-year-old will tinker, with the Frenchman making two changes – the first of which is the £30k-per-week Karlan Grant – who is without a goal since the 3-2 win over Luton Town back in August and missed a penalty against Millwall – and the second Callum Robinson – who was largely ineffective following his return from illness and being withdrawn at half-time against Derby.
In their place, the two players who replaced the duo against the Rams come in to start against Preston, with Matt Phillips taking the spot of Grant on the right-wing, while the 29-year-old Jordan Hugill is awarded his first Championship start since joining the club on a season-long loan from Norwich City earlier this summer.