West Brom are heading into the international break in the perfect position.

The west Midlands club sit top of the Championship on goal difference after 11 matches – with the team behind them being Nottingham Forest, who they defeated on the opening day.

Slaven Bilic’s men responded well to losing their unbeaten streak by defeating Cardiff City 4-2 just a matter of days later over the weekend.

Now the next week or so gives the Croatian time to regroup ahead of what usually can be a tough festive period, but for some, it could actually bring some valuable game time.

None more so than with Ahmed Hegazi, who is expected to make his long-awaited return from injury on Monday when Egypt host Botswana in a friendly.

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The 28-year-old has missed the start of the Baggies’ campaign after it was decided he needed surgery on a long-term ankle injury, which he had been playing on for quite some time.

Hegazi featured for the U23s two weeks ago in their victory over Newcastle United, but this would mark the first competitive fixture since the operation.

Bilic has said the defender is “in good shape” ahead of his return.

Albion have managed to keep just one clean sheet all season which came against ten-man Queens Park Rangers, the last win of their nine-game unbeaten run.

They have struggled defensively throughout the season so far, conceding 13 goals, meaning eight teams have let in fewer, per WhoScored.

Summer signing Semi Ajayi has looked like a fantastic acquisition considering he cost just £1.3m, but on the other hand, Kyle Bartley has been somewhat inconsistent.

Therefore, the Egyptian’s return could be coming at just the right time, considering Bilic’s side will need to be tighter at the back as the season goes on if they genuinely have ambitions of regaining their place in the promised land of the Premier League.

Last season he was an influential member of the squad, playing in 40 Championship matches on their way to the playoffs.

During that time, Hegazi won 4.1 aerial duels per game on average on top of 6.1 clearances and 4.6 long balls per game too.

Should Kieran Gibbs return?

Yes

Yes

No

No

If he were to record similar exploits this campaign, it would currently put him second for aerial duels won and first for clearances, which suggests he may well be a better option at centre-back.

His ability to pass from the back would also suit Bilic’s style of play too.

Keep an eye on Monday, Hegazi may well be back in the blue and white stripes sooner rather than later.


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Lewis Blain