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Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Dwight Gayle and Jay Rodriguez give WBA the edge over Birmingham

Garry Monk's side are second-lowest scorers in Sky Bet Championship

West Brom striker Dwight Gayle
1 of 1

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Sky Sports Football & Main Event, Friday 7.45pm

West Brom are the leading scorers in the Sky Bet Championship with 15 goals from six games and their high-quality attack led by Dwight Gayle and Jay Rodriguez could give them the edge over rivals Birmingham at St Andrew's.

A large crowd is expected for the first league contest between the teams since March 2011 and it may take a while for the game to settle down.

Birmingham will probably adopt a physical, high-tempo approach and look to feed off their lively home support.

An early goal would give them something to hold on to but getting it will be easier said than done.

Garry Monk's side are the second-lowest scorers in the division with four goals and haven't netted on home soil since a 2-2 draw with Norwich on the opening weekend of the season.

Birmingham's two main strikers, Che Adams and Lukas Jutkiewicz, have scored just one goal each and there is little scope for Monk to freshen up his attack.

Reserve striker Omar Bogle has failed to score in six appearances for the club and Isaac Vassell is sidelined with a hip injury.

That lack of firepower makes it tough for Birmingham to climb the table and it is just as well they have been fairly solid at the back, conceding four goals in their last five league games.

However, achieving a shutout against West Brom could be beyond them.

The Baggies needed time to adjust to life back in the second tier and were far from convincing when losing 2-1 at home to Bolton in their opener.

At that stage – almost a week before the closure of the transfer window - some of their players might have been looking for moves elsewhere.

But Albion have looked more united in recent weeks and they possess undoubted quality in attack with Leicester loanee Harvey Barnes playing just in behind Gayle and Rodriguez.

Gayle, who has three goals from five league games, and Rodriguez, with four from six, are proven goalscorers at this level and forge arguably the strongest strike-pairing in the division.

Defensively, Albion have been less convincing but they were stronger in their 2-1 success at home to Stoke 13 days ago.

Craig Dawson, one of the players reportedly unsettled by summer speculation, was back in the starting line-up against the Potters and could go on to be a key player in a Baggies' promotion push.

Midfielders Jake Livermore and Chris Brunt also boast a wealth of top-flight experience and the retention of so many Premier League players is a testament to the popularity of manager Darren Moore, who has done so well since taking on the job in April.

Moore's overall record in the West Brom hot seat is eight wins, three draws and three defeats, including stunning 1-0 successes away to Manchester United and at home to Tottenham.

He has got the players and the supporters believing in a West Brom revival and the feelgood factor can be maintained with a derby victory.

West Brom
1pt 29-20 Hills

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Team news
David Davis (ankle) will miss the rest of the year and Isaac Vassell (hip) is unavailable.

West Brom
James Morrison, Dwight Gayle, Kyle Bartley and Matt Phillips are expected to be available after recovering from minor injuries.

Key stat
Birmingham have failed to score in five of their last six matches.

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Birmingham will probably adopt a physical, high-tempo approach and look to feed off their lively home support
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