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West Brom boss Slaven Bilic has his say on midfield conundrum

By Liam Keen | West Bromwich Albion | Published:

Albion manager Slaven Bilic says he has made his mind up on his midfield partnership ahead of their clash with Sheffield Wednesday.

Slaven Bilic (AMA)

The Yorkshire club travel to the Black Country tomorrow and face an Albion side missing stalwart midfielders Romaine Sawyers and Jake Livermore.

The pair will miss the match through suspension, opening the door for several team-mates to fill the void.

Gareth Barry, Chris Brunt, Semi Ajayi and Rekeem Harper are all bidding for a place in Bilic's starting XI but the Croatian insists his mind is already made up on who will get an opportunity.

"Yes I am (clear on decision), I've had enough time here," he said.

"The game against Hull was two weeks ago and I went through all the combinations.

"Unfortunately I couldn't do them on the pitch because some of the players were missing and on internationals.

"But it isn't going to be a massive difference, I'm going to try and make as less changes as possible.

"Not in personnel because we have to, but in the way we play.

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"You don't want a confusion – sometimes it surprises the opponents but shocks your players.

"We want to keep the players quite comfortable.

"It's true that we are without a couple of players that have been instrumental for us.

"The skipper and the guy who has the most passes in the league.

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"But there's no time to cry, there's no reason to cry.

"Yes it's a blow but it's all about the squad.

"I don't want to talk about players that are not playing or the negatives.

"We have a good team, we are fit enough and we are ready for them."

Ahmed Hegazi, Grady Diangana and Ajayi all played international games during the break and Bilic also confirmed that they returned injury free.

"They all came back, no injuries," he added.

"All of them played, Ahmed played a couple of games which was important for him.

"Semi played a couple of games that maybe he didn't need to.

"But like every other situation it's good.

"On one hand you have your players with you but being an international player it gives you another dimension, another motivation.

"There are a lot of positives in that."

While several first team players got minutes under their belt in a reserve game earlier this week, adding to Bilic's options for the weekend.

He added: "It was Kieran (Gibbs), Gareth (Barry), Chris (Brunt) and Rekeem (Harper) also.

"They did well.

"Chris came off at half-time, he felt his calf so he's missed a couple of days.

"He (Barry) played 60 minutes.

"If you look at a player that was out for so long, is 60 minutes enough.

"If it wasn't Gareth Barry you'd say he needs more, but because of who he is he bossed that game.

"I'm glad he's giving me opportunities and we'll see.

"He is also (an option).

"Not just because of Semi, but because of Ahmed.

"Then again, like everyone other situation, there's pluses and minuses.

"We have a few options and we'll see tomorrow."

The Owls are winless in their last three fixtures, but picked up draws against both Swansea and Leeds in those games.

And Bilic is aware of the threat they pose.

"They are a good team, they are like a proper team," he said.

"They are men, there are no kids in that team.

"They are positive, they run and they engage – they make it very hard for you.

"Every game is difficult but this is a difficult game, not because of the players we are missing, but because of the strength of the opponent."

Liam Keen

By Liam Keen
Sports Reporter - @LiamKeen_Star

Sports journalist at the Express & Star, primarily covering Walsall FC and grassroots sport across the Black Country and Staffordshire. Got a story? Get in touch on 01902 319456.

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