After two long weeks of international football, club football return in earnest when Birmingham travel to the Hawthorns to take on West Brom in the Championship.
In what is an important game at both ends of the table, there is money to be made with our best bets for Friday night’s live game.
West Brom to win – 4/5
Predicting games directly after an international break can be tricky at times. Clubs on winning runs have had their momentum stopped in its tracks, while those enduring difficult spells are offered the chance to regroup. Birmingham will certainly hope that that is the case.
A run of four successive defeats before the two-week break was bad enough, but Birmingham emerged on the other side of an international break in a lower position in the league. The timing of the long-anticipated points deduction was not ideal, and Birmingham now find themselves looking nervously over their shoulder in a relegation fight, rather than sitting comfortably in mid-table.
Between that and suffering the ignominy of a fan attacking Jack Grealish in the Second City Derby, it has been a turbulent few weeks for The Blues.
They need a win to steady the ship but getting one at promotion-chasing West Brom will be no easy feat, especially a West Brom who have reinvigorated under new manager James Shan. The decision to sack Darren Moore was a shocking one at the time, but results (thus far at least) have backed up the Albion board’s decision.
Wins against Swansea and Brentford have West Brom sitting comfortably in the play-off places and they boast an outside chance of going up automatically. They should REALLY have too much for a Birmingham side in turmoil on Friday night.
Both teams to score? No – 19/20
Despite having a forward nominated for the Football League Player of the Year, goals have dried up drastically for Birmingham. Che Adams has notched 21 league goals this season, but has failed to score in any of his last five games – while Birmingham have failed to score in any of their last four league games.
West Brom, on the other hand, seem to have shored up what was an untypically leaky defence this season. The Baggies, so often one of the more miserly defences in any season, have conceded 48 goals in 38 games, but have kept clean sheets in their two under Shan. They averaged just 33% possession in those two games and seem to have dispensed with the cavalier approach of Darren Moore in favour of a more pragmatic one.
That change of style, coupled with Birmingham’s goal drought, makes us believe that the Brummie’s will fail to score on Friday.
Under 2.5 goals – 4/5
Only Norwich have scored more goals than West Brom in the Championship this season. That being said, the bulk of West Brom’s 72 goals came under Darren Moore when they were playing uncharacteristically open football.
The aforementioned change in management will inevitably restrict that attacking threat and it would be a shock to see West Brom run up a big tally on Friday.
Shan’s two games have seen Albion sit deeper, concede possession more frequently, and favour a more experienced midfield. Stalwarts Chris Brunt and James Morrison have been picked in a three around the centre over the likes of Jake Livermore in what can only be described as a defensive approach and Friday’s game could pan out in a similar fashion to their recent wins over Swansea and Brentford.
Excitement, and goals, might be thin on the ground in this Midlands derby and it might just make you wish that the international break was still going, but at least there’s money to be made!
* All odds correct at time of posting.