West Brom vs Newcastle
Tuesday March 3, 20:00
Live on BBC Red Button
A "bonus game" for the Baggies
Following West Brom's unexpected defeat against strugglers Wigan Athletic at the weekend, Slaven Bilic was asked whether his side would be able to overcome their latest setback. The Croatian suggested that the Baggies are already focusing on their upcoming fixture against play-off chasing Swansea and are determined to make amends for their slip-up.
When asked about the club's FA Cup fifth round meeting with Newcastle, he simply described it as a "bonus game", before continuing to outline the importance of next weekend's trip to south wales. It's fairly safe to assume that this midweek meeting with the Magpies isn't top of his priority list.
The men from the Hawthorns are a point clear at the top of the Championship and six points above third placed Fulham. Promotion is largely theirs to lose this season. However, the Baggies can ill afford any more blemishes and the former West Ham boss is understandably keen to avoid any unwanted distractions.
As a result, he is likely to shuffle his pack ahead this fifth round tie, although he will be unable to call upon a number of regular starters. Romaine Sawyers is suspended following his dismissal against Bristol City, while both Callum Robinson and Kamil Grosicki are cup-tied. Ahmed Hegazi's hamstring injury will keep him out of this tie and Grady Diangana is still a couple of weeks away from full fitness.
It is likely to result in a much-changed XI with Lee Peltier, Jonathan Bond, Gareth Barry and Kenneth Zohore potentially in line for a start. The likes of Hal Robson-Kanu, Matt Phillips and Filip Krovinovic could be rested ahead of Saturday's trip to the Liberty Stadium.
Bilic rotated his side ahead of their fourth round clash with West Ham, opting for a mix of fringe players and Championship regulars, however, this will be their eighth match in 31 days, and there were signs of fatigue creeping in at the weekend. He is highly likely to experiment with his line-up on Tuesday evening.
Bruce likely to stick with the 4-4-2
Newcastle are the lowest scorers in the Premier League and the Magpies' lack of firepower has dragged them back into a relegation dogfight. They have taken just a single point from their last two games, although they were much improved against Burnley at the weekend.
Steve Bruce has been desperately trying to find a way to unlock his side's attacking potential, and he opted for a change of formation at the weekend, switching to a 4-4-2. Despite drawing another blank, the Tynesiders looked far more dangerous in the final third and that bodes well for this potentially tricky cup tie.
He reinstated Jonjo Shelvey and the fit-again Javier Manquillo to the line-up, with former West Brom loanee Dwight Gayle also given a rare opportunity to shine in the Premier League. The Toon managed 21 shots throughout the 90 minutes, 11 more than they mustered against Arsenal, and they looked far slicker than they did at Selhurst Park two weeks ago.
Bruce appears likely to stick with the new system, although whether the switch is able to unlock the goalscoring potential of Joelinton remains to be seen.
Newcastle fans will be hoping to see fourth round hero Alain Saint-Maximin recalled for this contest, whilst Fabian Schar, Karl Darlow, Christian Atsu and Matty Longstaff could also be given the nod.
Very little between the pair
With Premier League-bound West Brom concentrating on their mission to secure top flight football next season, and Newcastle nervously glancing over the shoulders, this game could be considered a bit of a nuisance for both managers. Neither Bilic nor Bruce is likely to deploy a full strength XI for this one, and that could potentially disrupt the rhythm of both sides.
Newcastle looked far more dangerous at the weekend, yet they still fail to convince in front of goal. It may be best to back the draw at 3.211/5 on the Exchange here with extra time and penalties a real possibility at the Hawthorns.
Gayle keen to get off the mark
Gayle was handed a rare start at the weekend, and although he failed to fire against the Clarets, he looked extremely handy, and helped stretch Burnley's defence on numerous occasions. He has played just 289 minutes of football this season, and Steve Bruce may just have seen enough to give him another chance on Tuesday night.
The 29-year old scored 24 times for the Baggies last season, and he's formidable against Championship opposition. He could make the difference in this one, and could be worth backing at 23/10 on the Sportsbook to score anytime against his former employers.
*You can follow Jack Critchley on Twitter @jcritch7