It says much about the times in which we live that Albion manager Tony Mowbray should go out of his way to emphasise that he is taking the League Cup seriously.

He has, he said, "the utmost respect" for the competition and plans to field a full-strength team. "I won't be taking this lightly," he added, although nobody suggested that he would.

Nevertheless, wanting to field a strong team and being able to are not necessarily the same thing, for Mowbray will be without three key defenders when Albion face Cardiff City in the third round at The Hawthorns tonight.

Paul Robinson, the left back, has been ruled out after he received a knock to his ankle in the dying seconds of the match away to Scunthorpe United last weekend, which Albion won to maintain their rise up the Coca-Cola Championship table.

Neil Clement is out with a knee injury and Bostjan Cesar nursing the back problem he sustained while playing for the reserve team. The injury to Cesar, the Marseille player who is on loan with Albion, was particularly frustrating for Mowbray because the Albion manager wanted to use the match to give the central defender more experience of English football.

"It's a bit of a blow to Bostjan because he's played in both of the cup games against Bournemouth and Peterborough and got two clean-sheets," Mowbray said. "It would have been the next test for him, playing against a side from our own division and getting up to speed with the game. He needs to do that to get used to the demands of the English game."

Robinson's omission is not significant. Mowbray expects the former Watford defender to be fit to face Queens Park Rangers at The Hawthorns on Sunday. "Robbo will be fine," Mowbray said. "Leaving him out will give the knock time to settle. It was a knock rather than a twist or a strain and he will be OK."

Albion's victory away to Scunthorpe seemed to confirm that the extent of the hangover after the failure to gain promotion has eased. The goals continue to flow and

competition for places is such that Mowbray could claim, with some justification, to have the strongest Albion squad in a generation.

Whether that will equate to success in the League Cup this season remains to be seen. Albion have made no secret that promotion is their priority, even if the League Cup offers the carrot of European football and will provide a euphoria that seems to be lacking at The Hawthorns this season.

Michael Oakes, the former Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa goalkeeper, is hoping to keep his place in the Cardiff team. Oakes, aged 33, made his first start of the season in the match against Preston North End, which ended in a 2-2 draw. He replaced Ross Turnbull, who had come under fire for conceding a number of goals in recent games.

Dave Jones, the former Wolves manager, is doubtful over the prospects of Glenn Loovens, the defender, who has missed the past three matches with a foot injury.

Kevin McNaughton may be asked to partner Roger Johnson in the centre of defence. Johnson was stretchered off against Preston after taking a blow to the head, but he was not required to go to hospital. n Albion supporters are being given a cut-price incentive to cheer on their team tonight.

Admission is £10 for adults and £5 for children while prices have also been slashed for next weekend's league game (Sunday, 1.15pm). Tickets will be £10 for adults, £5 for seniors and students and just £1 for children.

Supporters are urged to use the cash-only ticket kiosks on match days to speed up service. Tickets are available for all areas of the ground.