EFL Cup - West Brom v Milwall preview: Rematch brings big chance for debutants
An immediate rematch between two teams that played barely 72 hours previously, in a competition not a top priority for either, wouldn’t typically be the kind of fixture to get the juices flowing.
Yet there’s perhaps a little more reason than normal for Albion supporters to take an interest in tonight’s Carabao Cup tie against Millwall, beyond simply rooting for a victory and progress to the second round.
The potential of debuts for several of the Baggies’ newest recruits provides the added intrigue.
Slaven Bilic opted to keep all four of his deadline day signings in the stands for Saturday’s 1-1 draw with the Lions, having decided it was too soon to let them loose in the Championship.
Albion’s head coach stopped short of confirming the attacking quartet of Charlie Austin, Matheus Pereira, Grady Diangana and Chris Willock would be introduced tonight.
Yet in truth it represents the ideal chance to build match fitness and chances are all four will be involved in some capacity. For supporters, it may offer a glimpse into what their rapidly-evolving team might look like a few weeks from now.
Of the new arrivals, Austin is by some distance the most high-profile, a proven Championship goalscorer who Bilic will hope can provide the cutting edge the Baggies have noticeably lacked over the opening two league fixtures.
Judging by his early comments on the 30-year-old, the Croatian clearly feels he has acquired a ready-made goalscorer.
“I don’t want to change his game, we didn’t bring him here to change his game,” said Bilic. “He wants to score goals, he has since he started to play.
“We want him to do the same as he did at QPR, Southampton or wherever he’s been.
“I want to say now, there will be many questions about Charlie week in, week out, when he scores or when he doesn’t.
“It’s not only Charlie, he’s just one player, a very important player, who brings joy and wages and big responsibility.
“But it’s not just Charlie, it’s West Brom. We have to help him get into positions, he has to help us in the defence line first.
“I don’t know how many goals he’s going to score, but I see him being in a good position because the players around and behind him are all good players who can provide him.”
Millwall’s team is also likely to feature several changes, with boss Neil Harris keen to give his own fringe players an opportunity.
It means Matt Smith, who came off the bench to score the London club’s equaliser on Saturday, could start tonight. Former Wolves striker Jon Dadi Bodvarsson may also get the nod.
“Not just to freshen things up, but because the lads deserve the opportunity,” said Harris. “Players have been on the bench and have worked so hard in pre-season and have played so well. They deserve to show what they can do.”
Albion were 1-0 winners against Luton in last season’s first round. Oli Burke, who got the only goal that night, is among those pushing for a start tonight. Right-back Darnell Furlong is also poised for a debut.