After a lacklustre display at the Riverside Stadium against Michael Carrick’s Middlesbrough two days before Christmas, a sold-out Hawthorns crowd was brimming with festive cheer as they watched their side earn maximum points from a Boxing Day clash with David Wagner’s Norwich City.
The Baggies had a tight grip on proceedings even before Borja Sainz’s persistent descent reduced the Canaries to 10 men during the first half, with Brandon Thomas-Asante bagging his seventh second-tier goal of the campaign in the second period to secure Albion’s second win in six matches since the start of December.
Although the Ghana international bagged the winning goal in the game, Championship veterans Jed Wallace and John Swift ran the show against Norwich, proving a constant nuisance for the Canaries and displaying why they were lured to the West Midlands from Millwall and Reading respectively in recent years.
Carlos Corberan’s men are beginning to close the gap on the second tier’s fantastic four of Leicester City, Ipswich Town, Southampton and Friday’s visitors Leeds, and maximum points at The Hawthorns against the Whites in front of the TV cameras would see West Brom come within three points of Daniel Farke’s side.
Following the four-goal thrashing of second-placed Ipswich Town on December 23, hardly any Leeds United supporters were anticipating a Deepdale disaster for their side, with the Whites now having won just one of the last four Championship matches as their promotion push hits a roadblock.
Alan Browne opened the scoring for Ryan Lowe’s Lilywhites, but Leeds were able to restore parity in the Lancashire contest via Pascal Struijk’s penalty, although a sensational right-footed curler from wing-back Liam Millar earned North End all three points in the closing stages of the match.
With Russell Martin’s Southampton dismantling a managerless Swansea City on the same day, Leeds were leapfrogged in the second-tier standings by the Saints and sit in fourth place, eight points behind Ipswich ahead of 2023’s final round of Championship fixtures on Friday.
West Brom could name an unchanged XI from the side who beat Norwich on Boxing Day, meaning Kyle Bartley would keep his place alongside Cedric Kipre at centre-back.
Albion’s engine room is the most-likely area where Corberan could tinker, with Jayson Molumby potentially coming in at the expense of Alex Mowatt.
Jeremy Sarmiento had to settle for a place on the bench last time out, and we expect the Brighton & Hove Albion to suffer a similar fate on Friday night.
After being sent off at Deepdale, Illan Meslier will be available for the trip to The Hawthorns, so Karl Darlow will play in goal for Leeds.
Although the Whites’ front four have been sensational this term, Farke could opt to rotate his attack slightly, with Wilfried Gnonto and Patrick Bamford pushing for starts.