West Bromwich Albion will face a stern test on their way to a Premier League return when the Baggies take on Derby County at The Hawthorns on Wednesday, 8 July 2020.
Their most recent meeting ended in a 1-1 draw at Pride Park on 24 August 2019, which ended a run of three consecutive wins for Derby County.
All in all, WBA's last competitive victory over the Rams was in February 2010, when The Baggies mounted a second-half comeback to win 3-1.
West Bromwich Albion Betting Preview
The Baggies are back on track after a poor run before and after the break, winning back-to-back games for the first time since February. They remain second in the Championship table, five points above second-placed Brentford, and obviously aim for an automatic Premier League promotion.
After a period when WBA were unbeaten in six successive Championship matches (winning five) between 1 January and 25 February, Slaven Bilic's side have failed to win in five consecutive matches until their 3-0 victory at Sheffield Wednesday last week.
West Bromwich Albion have reignited their form and scored seven goals in their last two matches, having endured a barren run of four games without scoring. The mentioned success over Sheffield Wednesday was followed by a 4-2 victory against Hull City on Sunday, which was their first home win since 25 February, when they beat Preston 2-0.
Looking at their last performance, Albion had some shaky moments at the back, but their attacking performance ensured they claimed a precious 4-2 victory against relegation-threatened Hull City.
Slaven Bilic's men may well have the best away record in the Championship but their home form hasn't been that strong, even though they've lost just three of their 20 home matches. However, they've won 9 of them and the big number of home draws (8) is the reason why West Bromwich Albion couldn't earn a better lead to the other promotion pretenders and will have to be extremely accurate in the closing weeks of the campaign.
After he scored a brace in the win over Sheffield Wednesday last Wednesday, Matheus Pereira notched a hat-trick of assists against Hull City and the 24-years-old Brazilian already has 8 goals and 15 assists in 37 Championship appearances.
Slaven Bilic could choose between the likes of Kamil Grosicki and Grady Diangana for the left wing spot, but the pair can also start on either flank here, while WBA's top goalscorers Charlie Austin and Hal Robson-Kanu are in contention for the centre-forward role.
Nathan Ferguson remains sidelined for the home side, while Kieran Gibbs picked up a hamstring injury during the first half of the clash against Hull City.
Ahmed Hegazi, who scored the second goal against Hull City, was sent off in stoppage time and the Egyptian centre-back will be suspended for the crucial clash against Derby County.
Gibbs' injury and Hegazi's suspension mean that Slaven Bilic will have to shuffle his defensive formation for the upcoming midweek so Semi Ajayi will likely start alongside Kyle Bartley at centre-back, while Conor Townsend should replace injured Kieran Gibbs at left-back.
Derby County Betting Preview
Unbeaten in six league games, winning five in a row until the 1-1 draw in the East Midlands Derby (against fierce rivals Nottingham Forest) last weekend, The Rams have climbed to seventh place and they're just three points below the playoff spots.
Moreover, Phillip Cocu's side have won their last 3 away matches in the Championship to improve their away form, as they have won just two times in the previous 17, meaning they've had one of the worst away records.
Derby County looked to be heading for a first Championship defeat since 25 February, when they lost 2-1 at Queens Park Rangers, in their home match against Nottingham Forest on Saturday, but a last gasp equalizer by Chris Martin saved a point for The Rams.
Considering that Derby County have spent the majority of the Championship campaign in the bottom half of the table, their progress over the past few months (prior to and after the break) has been quite remarkable but the biggest challenge is yet to come.
The point earned against rivals Nottingham Forest could still well prove not to be enough as The Rams have an incredibly tricky schedule in the closing weeks of the season, with four of the top five still to play in their remaining five matches.
Indeed, Phillip Cocu's men must prepare for home matches against third-placed Brentford and leaders Leeds United, as well as for the visits to second-placed West Bromwich Albion and Cardiff City (6th), as they look to reach the Championship play-offs for the fifth time in seven seasons.
Since he returned to England to join Derby County in January, Wayne Rooney's contribution has rightly been well documented, as the England's record all-time goalscorer now operates in midfield. Rooney was instantly named captain and bagged five goals to help the Rams win nine out of 14 Championship matches prior to the aforementioned draw against Forest.
Derby's top goalscorer Martyn Waghorn (12 goals in 41 Championship appearances) was sent off late on against rivals Nottingham Forest and he joins Tom Lawrence (10 goals in 34 Championship appearances, also suspended) on the sidelines, as well as an injured trio of Andre Wisdom, Krystian Bielik and Jack Marriott.
Teenager Louie Sibley will likely get another start as the 18-years-old attacking midfielder has already scored four goals in his six Championship appearances this season, including a hat-trick for Derby's 3-2 win at Millwall in their first match after the break.
Left-back Max Lowe is one of the players who can get another start after an impressive substitute cameo at the weekend.
Possible Starting Lineups of West Bromwich Albion and Derby County
West Bromwich Albion: Sam Johnstone – Dara O'Shea, Kyle Bartley, Semi Ajayi, Conor Townsend – Rekeem Harper, Romaine Sawyers – Grady Diangana, Matehus Pereira, Kamil Grosicki – Charlie Austin. (4-2-3-1)
Derby County: Ben Hamer – Max Lowe, George Evans, Matthew Clarke, Jayden Bogle – Max Bird, Wayne Rooney – Duane Holmes, Louie Sibley, Jason Knight – Chris Martin. (4-2-3-1)
Spooky Express Betting Prediction
West Brom (-123 @ BetOnline) are five points clear of Brentford, with five games left to play, but as we can easily see this distance could be shortened if promotion rivals Brentford claim an anticipated victory over Charlton on Tuesday, which can possibly add more pressure to the home side.
Derby County (+310 @ BetOnline), on the other hand, will have to fight for another positive outcome without two of their top goalscorers (Chris Martin and Tom Lawrence) and they'll be pretty reliant on captain Wayne Rooney's performance. However, Saturday's hero Chris Martin will be there to lead the line, while youngsters Louie Sibley and Jason Knight, as well as USA international Duane Holmes should provide additional challenge.
There were over 2.5 goals scored in their last 3 matches at The Hawthorns, and in five of their last six matches, so considering their attacking potential and the importance of the game for both sides, we expect more of the same on Wednesday.