The teams are in! West Brom stick with the side that lost to Everton on Thursday while Newcastle make three changes: Lewis, Almiron and Saint-Maximin are out; Dummett, Fraser and Hendrick are in.
West Brom: Johnstone, Furlong, O’Shea, Bartley, Townsend, Yokuslu, Matheus Pereira, Gallagher, Maitland-Niles, Phillips, Diagne. Subs: Robson-Kanu, Ajayi, Robinson, Livermore, Sawyers, Peltier, Snodgrass, Button, Ahearne-Grant.
Newcastle: Dubravka, Krafth, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Hendrick, Shelvey, Hayden, Willock, Joelinton, Fraser. Subs: Carroll, Ritchie, Gayle, Lewis, Fernandez, Manquillo, Murphy, Darlow, Sean Longstaff.
Referee: Martin Atkinson.
What a day this is for Newcastle, what a moment. Sure, they are 17th and have impressed few people this season, but today, right now, right here, they have an opportunity to leave a difficult week emphatically behind them and extend their lead over 19th-placed West Bromwich Albion from nine points to 12, with 10 games remaining, and effectively leave themselves with only one relegation place still to worry about. Steve Bruce said this week that his team “will do our utmost to get out of the trouble, unfortunately, we’re in”, and that means perform, today.
(I wasn’t present at his press conference, but it seems more than usually rambling. For example: “More than ever, I’m 100% committed to trying to get us out of the trouble we’re in. I think the players are too. I’ve got 100% faith in them, and I think that remains vital to us. So, no, just because things get tough … I always knew things would be tough. Maybe it’s tougher than I thought, but I always knew it was going to be tough. It’s a tough gig this one, there’s no disputing that. But I’ll try my best, like I always do, to make sure that we’re OK.”)
Sam Allardyce’s response to stories about blazing rows between Bruce and Matt Ritchie was also enjoyable: “It’s a disagreement, what’s wrong with it? I like disagreements.” He agrees with disagreements. He finds disagreeing agreeable. That really is splendidly contrary of him. Anyway, it goes without saying that this is an enormously important game for the Baggies; whereas Newcastle really can’t afford to lose, they really can’t afford not to win … and you can’t really afford not to keep an eye on it.
Welcome! This could be a cracker*!
* He said, with no confidence whatsoever.