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Strenuous schedule will strengthen youngsters, says Smith ahead of Stoke

Albion Under-23s boss Jamie Smith says the cluttered calendar his side are having to contend with will make Albion's youngsters more 'robust', ahead of their trip to Stoke City on Monday night (7pm ko).

The young Baggies will take on Stoke at the bet365 Stadium in their Premier League 2 Division Two fixture in their second fixture in four days. Smith's side played on Friday against Burnley in the Premier League Cup and most of the side featured in Albion's FA Youth Cup quarter-final 4-3 win against Everton on Tuesday - meaning some of the youngsters will play three games in seven days.

However, Smith is confident that the frantic fixture list will provide long-term gain, with the players being tested physically as well as being able to learn about recovery and develop tactically through video analysis.

"Playing lots of games definitely does help with their development," said Jamie.

"From a physical point of view it's testing them and developing them to become more robust and developing a real understanding of what is needed from a recovery perspective to help them into the next game. They're learning even more about the importance of nutrition and hydration.

"There are lots of different recovery strategies the sports science department use to help the players cope with the schedule. It's also important that when away from the club, the players show good discipline with regards to nutrition and rest to help themselves.

"Also if you look at the first team's schedule, they are playing on a Saturday, then a Tuesday, then a Saturday again a number of times this season - so it's getting them used to that.

"There is also lots of tactical development you can utilise through video analysis which we do as we can't do as much out on the grass, and ultimately players most enjoy playing games and although we as coaches would like to be able to do more on the training pitch the players can still be working on specific things related to them in real match situations."

Last time out against Burnley, Jamie Smith's side succumbed to a 1-0 defeat that ended their Premier League Cup campaign. The young Baggies will be hoping for better against Stoke, but are aware it will be another difficult game.

"It was an alright performance," said Jamie of the Burnley game.

"We're obviously disappointed to concede so early on which allowed them to sit deep and defend which they did well and we weren't quite good enough to break them down which was disappointing as we've been good from an attacking perspective lately.

"Games against Stoke are always tough games. They always have a good work ethic throughout the age groups which we will need to match. Team wise it's looking likely we will be as we have been for the last few weeks with a young side."

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