West Bromwich Albion could be set for two major setbacks, with news coming out regarding Kyle Bartley and Matt Phillips.
The Baggies travel to Bramall Lane to take on Sheffield United, the team that Bruce started his managerial career with back in the late 1990s. However, he may have to do so without two of his bigger-name players.
Speaking ahead of the game, he claimed that Bartley and Phillips were not certainties for the game, saying: “Unfortunately we have a couple of issues in terms of fitness ahead of the game. We might have lost Kyle Bartley because he is sick and Matty Phillips because he has a foot injury. We don’t know the extent of it at this moment in time.”
But what could this mean for Bruce and the team as a result of the duo missing out against the Blades?
Pressure on for Steve Bruce?
The absence of Bartley could very well be huge to the Albion backline.
He currently leads the defenders in the side in terms of blocks, clearances and aerial duels won (via WhoScored). Dara O’Shea ranks second behind him in all of those categories, but as he’s still on the comeback trail from injury, that potentially leaves a pretty big hole in the Albion defence.
So it could be a big ask for the likes of Cedric Kipre, Matt Clarke or Semi Ajayi – depending on who Bruce decides to go with – to be able to step up and take on Bartley’s role in the side.
Having not had a great deal of time to get to know his squad, Bruce appears set for his first big decision as Baggies boss, which could yet set the tone for his tenure at The Hawthorns.
A bad first impression?
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Meanwhile, the injury to Phillips could well end up having an effect on his first-team chances in the long run.
Barring a stretch of games in December, Phillips was pretty much a regular in the Albion side, putting up three goals and two assists in that time. However, depending on the severity of this injury, it might be some time before he’s able to get back into the side.
Whilst he might be one of the few players who are naturally suited to playing out wide, Albion do have a number of players that are capable of filling in when the need arises. And if West Brom are able to enjoy a ‘new manager bounce’ in their first few games under Bruce with Phillips out of the side, it might be hard for him to win his place back.