Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United travel to West Brom for the FA Cup fifth round; can the Championship leaders beat the Premier League outfit?

West Bromwich Albion boss Slaven Bilic believes Newcastle United counterpart Steve Bruce deserves ‘big credit’ for making the Magpies a tough nut to crack this season, while speaking to the Birmingham Mail.

Bruce may be a boyhood fanatic who bleeds black and white but that does not automatically make him a terrace favourite on Tyneside. Far from it.

Question marks were asked of a former Sunderland boss when he replaced the world-renowned Rafa Benitez in the summer and, while the Geordie gaffer has masterminded victories over Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea, the standard of football has left a lot to be desired.

No team in the Premier League has scored fewer goals than a Newcastle side a million miles away from Kevin Keegan’s legendary ‘Entertainers’. They have only found the net in one of their last five games; the exception being against League One Oxford United in the FA Cup fourth round.

Nonetheless, Bilic thinks Bruce should be applauded for grinding out results when required.

“They’re a very solid team. They’re not scoring and you can say, it’s obvious, they haven’t scored in their last four games, but they’re very hard to beat and they’ve made some tremendous results, especially away at big clubs,” the Croatian said.

“If you add to that that after many years they have also a good cup run, it shows that this season is pretty much good. Steve Bruce deserves big credit for that. Again, I’m saying that I have the team – it’s going to be a good test for us.”

West Brom have already defeated one Premier League team – West Ham – in this season’s FA Cup but it’s fair to say beating Newcastle tonight at The Hawthorns would hardly represent a ‘giant-killing’ – more a 5ft 7ins man knocking out a 5ft10 ins man.

The Baggies are top of the Championship, meaning there are just seven places between them and Newcastle in the Football League pyramid.

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