Table-topping West Brom travel to fellow promotion hopeful Stoke City in the Championship on Friday at 7.45pm (UK time).
Under former Barnsley manager Valerien Ismael, the Baggies are yet to taste defeat in the Championship this term and find themselves setting the pace atop the table, but fourth-positioned Stoke under Michael O’Neill are currently unbeaten at home, so this should be a very tight contest.
Stoke vs West Brom live stream:
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Scoreline prediction: Stoke 1-2 West Brom
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Stoke vs West Brom build-up, previous line-ups & injury news:
Since dropping out of the Premier League in 2018, Stoke have been unable to put together a genuine promotion push in the Championship, finishing in the bottom half of the table across the previous three campaigns, but things are looking hopeful this time around. The Potters are currently fourth and just four points off early leaders West Brom, so maximum reward on Friday night could seriously close the gap and lay down a marker for the Staffordshire club’s aspirations this term.
It took the Baggies two seasons in the Championship the last time they dropped out of the Premier League in 2018 (alongside Stoke no less) before they bounced back, but the makers and shakers at the Hawthorns will be eyeing up an even swifter return this time. Under the innovative tactical blueprint of Ismael, the club has established itself as a devout advocate of a wing-back system, which has been growing in popularity in recent years, and that shift in approach has paid dividends thus far as they currently lead the way in the second tier for 2021/22.
- Stoke (vs Preston): Davies; Ostigard, Souttar, Wilmot; Smith, Sawyers, Thompson, Tymon; Powell, Vrancic, Brown.
- West Brom (vs Cardiff): Johnstone; Ajayi, Bartley, Townsend; Furlong, Livermore, Mowatt, Reach; Robinson, Grant, Hugill.
Tyrese Campbell and Tashan Oakley-Boothe remain long-term absentees for Stoke, while West Brom are currently looking in good nick.
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A 46th birthday to remember
On Tuesday night Ismael enjoyed a 46th birthday that he won’t be quick to forget any time soon as his players gifted him a return to the top of the table, and in some style, as the Baggies emphatically dispatched Cardiff City 4-0, with Alex Mowatt’s 75th-minute strike undoubtedly a ‘Goal of the Season’ contender.
Following the contest in Wales, Ismael was quick to shift the praise onto his players rather than taking the plaudits for himself on what was ostensibly his night as the birthday boy.
“Straightaway after the game I must say a massive thank you for the three points but especially for the performance,” he said.
“At a time when you could be celebrating with your family, you need to make a sacrifice and when you see a game and a performance like that, it’s worth it sometimes.
“It was a great evening for us; it was a similar situation to Luton, to Sheffield United, to Blackburn – when we score first, we know we can set the tone in the game and we moved the ball quickly.
“We knew we had to keep the ball in play and we made it perfectly in the first half. Second half, we knew we had to stay on the front foot against Cardiff and defend their set pieces and long ball.”
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