West Bromwich Albion

The Lowdown: Slaven Bilić's Baggies In Profile

West Bromwich Albion will be Leicester City's maiden opponents of the 2020/21 Premier League season at the Hawthorns on Sunday.
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After two seasons away, the Baggies return to the top flight this season after winning promotion as runners-up from the Sky Bet Championship under Slaven Bilić last campaign.

Ahead of the keenly anticipated season opener in the West Midlands, the 115th competitive meeting between the two sides since 1901, LCFC.com takes a closer look at the Black Country outfit...

The squad

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Charlie Austin
Charlie Austin

Forward Charlie Austin was a key source of goals for the Baggies in 2019/20.

West Brom's squad has been boosted by the permanent arrivals of 2019/20 loan stars Matheus Pereira (Sporting CP) and Grady Diangana (West Ham United).

David Button (Brighton & Hove Albion) also joined this summer, while Foxes fans will recognise former Academy star Cédric Kipré, who joined from Wigan Athletic this summer.

On Wednesday, on the other hand, it was confirmed that Republic of Ireland international Callum Robinson returned to the club from Sheffield United, following a successful loan spell.

High-profile departures include Chris Brunt (Bristol City), former Leicester City full-back Lee Peltier (free) and Gareth Barry (retired), the Premier League's highest-ever appearance-maker.

The Baggies' promotion season saw Charlie Austin net 11 goals in all competitions, while Hal Robson-Kanu (10), Matt Phillips (8), Pereira (8) and Diangana (8) were also successful in front of goal.

Former Manchester United goalkeeper Sam Johnston, meanwhile, made 46 outings for the Baggies, one more than Semi Ajayi and Jake Livermore for Slaven Bilić's side.

The manager

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Slaven Bilić
Slaven Bilić

Slaven Bilić has a 48 per cent win ratio at the West Midlands club after one season.

Former Hajduk Split, West Ham United and Everton defender Slaven Bilić is in his second management role in England after a six-year tenure in charge of his native Croatia between 2006 and 2012.

After beating England home and away in UEFA European Championship qualifying, the Split-born manager led his country to the quarter-finals of the 2008 tournament, but missed out on the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Despite exiting the 2012 EURO at the group stage, the nature of their performances in a 3-1 win over Republic of Ireland, a 1-1 draw with Italy and a 1-0 loss to Spain saw Croatia and Bilić generally praised.

Spells at Lokomotiv Moscow and Beşiktaş followed, before Bilić returned to West Ham United as a manager and enjoyed a host of notable success, beating Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City away.

A seventh-placed finish led to a place in the UEFA Europa League qualification rounds, but a defeat by Astra Giurgiu, and a modest fall to 11th place in the Premier League represented a disappointment. 

Nevertheless, a ratio of 1.33 Premier League points per game is the best of any previous Hammers manager, but Bilić departed the club during the 2017/18 season, their second at London Stadium.

After a short spell at Al-Ittihad in the Saudi Professional League, the Croat returned to England and he guided West Brom to promotion in his first season as Championship runners-up with a 48 per cent win rate.

Form guide

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Callum Robinson
Callum Robinson

Callum Robinson's goal helps secure a 2-2 draw with QPR on the final day of last season.

West Brom won 22 of their 46 matches in the Sky Bet Championship last term, drawing 17 and losing just seven, as they accrued 83 points to finish as runners-up to Leeds United in the second tier.

Their bid for promotion went until the final matchday of the season, with a 2-2 home draw with Queens Park Rangers - combined with Brentford's 2-1 defeat by Barnsley - being enough to secure second place.

That QPR result was part of a run of four games without a victory, but their form earlier in the year ensured they were out of the reach of late challengers Brentford and eventual play-off winners Fulham.

Between October and late December, West Brom went 14 games without defeat, of which nine were victories, while journeys in the Emirates FA Cup and Carabao Cup ended at the fifth and first rounds respectively. 

On 5 September, meanwhile, the Baggies and Brighton & Hove Albion played out a 0-0 pre-season draw at AMEX Stadium, with youngsters Rayhaan Tulloch, Jamie Soule and Sam Field among those to play.

Previous encounters

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Jamie Vardy
Jamie Vardy

City's No.9, Jamie Vardy, is a man with a fearsome record at the home of West Brom.

The Black Country outfit have the advantage over Leicester in the historic post-1901 head-to-head record, winning 51 of their previous clashes, while City have emerged triumphant on 39 occasions.

Over recent years, though, the Foxes have enjoyed four consecutive Premier League wins at the Hawthorns, with Jamie Vardy scoring in each game, most recently in a 4-1 success in March 2018.

Vardy's opener was followed up by further efforts from Riyad Mahrez and Kelechi Iheanacho, while Vicente Iborra struck in added time to wrap up a 4-1 success for Claude Puel's men.

Other memorable visits to the Hawthorns include another 4-1 triumph in the West Midlands in March 2008 - which included a Steve Howard hat-trick - and a 3-2 success in November 1995.

Trophy cabinet 

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Alan Ashman
Alan Ashman

Manager Alan Ashman holds the FA Cup aloft for the thousands of fans who lined the streets of West Bromwich in 1968.

 One-time English champions West Brom lifted the First Division title by a margin of nine points in 1920 and have finished as runners-up on two occasions - at the conclusion of 1924/25 and 1953/54.

The Baggies have also won the second tier title three times - in 1902, 1911 and 2008 - while also earning promotion in second place four times this century, most recently last term.

They are five-time winners of the FA Cup (1888, 1892, 1931, 1954 and 1968), although they have tasted success in the League Cup just once, in 1966, when they defeated West Ham over two legs.

The Hawthorns outfit have appeared in continental cup competitions 16 times, facing the Foxes in the 1975/76 Anglo-Scottish Cup and 1993/94 Anglo-Italian Cup, and starring in three UEFA Cup campaigns.

The stadium

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The Hawthorns
The Hawthorns

A tribute to West Brom legend Jeff Astle - nicknamed "the King" by the club's fans - outside the Hawthorns.

The 26,688-capacity Hawthorns has been West Bromwich Albion's home venue since 1900, although its record attendance was set at 64,815 in an FA Cup Sixth Round tie against Arsenal in 1937.

Its construction, at the turn of the 20th century, is reported to have only taken four months to complete, while the stadium is also the highest ground above sea level of all 91 venues in English professional football.

One of several distinctive features at the Hawthorns is a gate in tribute to former Baggies forward Jeff Astle, located on the Birmingham Road, featuring his celebratory pose during the 1968 FA Cup Final.

Albion's record appearance-maker and goalscorer, Tony Brown, is also remembered with a statue depicting 'Bomber' netting his second goal in the 1978/79 UEFA Cup Last-16 against Valencia.

Please note that Sunday's Premier League curtain-raiser at the venue will be staged behind closed doors and fans are asked to follow their team from home for the safety of all.

Upcoming fixtures

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The Hawthorns
The Hawthorns

Early fixtures in the 2020/21 season will be staged behind closed doors.

Following the visit of Leicester City on Sunday, West Brom's first season back in the Premier League in two years continues with an away game at Carlo Ancelotti's Everton on 19 September.

The Baggies then welcome Chelsea to the Hawthorns on 26 September, before travelling to take on Southampton on 3 October, while they host Burnley on 17 October, following an international break.

Their last five games of the season, meanwhile, will see them face local rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers (H), Arsenal (A), Liverpool (H), West Ham United (H) and Leeds United (A).

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