STEVE Clarke hopes the return of key players from injury will give his men a new lease of life heading into Saturday’s Barclays Premier League clash with Villa (ko 5.30pm).
Peter Odemwingie and Steven Reid both returned to action with cameo roles in tonight’s 1-0 FA Cup defeat by QPR after spells on the sidelines, and Goran Popov got a much-needed 90 minutes under his belt.
Claudio Yacob (hamstring) and Shane Long (dead leg) missed the Hawthorns replay but Clarke has rated them both at 50/50 for the derby encounter.
The Albion boss does expect skipper Chris Brunt to be fit to face Paul Lambert’s strugglers after he also missed the Hawthorns replay due to illness.
And fellow absentee, Marc-Antoine Fortune (hamstring) has been given a 60/40 chance of making this weekend’s fixture.
“It’s just a matter of getting another three or four players out of the treatment room to boost the squad back to full strength,” said Clarke.
“We need to get a little bit of rhythm and continuity back into the group – that’s the main aim I’ve got for the next three to four weeks.
“We managed to get Peter on for a few minutes at the end.
“He’s hasn’t even trained for one day with the group because the weather was so bad yesterday we didn’t have a decent area to train on, so, he did a little bit yesterday.
“It was nice to get him out of the treatment room ready to go.
“Steven Reid made a little appearance so he’s in a better place.
“Claudio has trained a couple of days with the group.
“He’s probably 50/50 for Saturday.
“Chris Brunt had the flu so hopefully he’ll be okay for the weekend.
“Shane’s dead leg is improving, again I’d say he’s 50/50 for the weekend because he’s got a lot of blood in there.
“It’s congealed and we’re trying to get it out.
“But he’s got a chance for the weekend.
“Fortune is 60/40 in our favour.”