Preston v West Brom: Albion can edge tight Deepdale affair
West Brom head into the weekend at the top of the Championship but the Baggies face a tricky test at Deepdale against Preston on Monday evening. Mark O'Haire previews the contest.
Preston v West Brom Monday December 2, 19:45 Sky Sports
Preston reeling after heavy loss
Preston suffered their biggest defeat in three years - and largest under Alex Neil's watch - last midweek when North End went down 4-0 at Hull. The Lilywhites started brightly at the KCOM Stadium, hitting the woodwork through Sean Maguire in the opening 10 minutes. However, after conceding against the run of play, PNE's makeshift defence collapsed.
Defenders Ben Davies and Darnell Fisher both sat out the clash on Humberside, as did Alan Browne, who has played at times at right-back. With Andrew Hughes and Tom Clarke already sidelined, Neil found himself light of numbers and chose to play Ryan Ledson at right-back. Later Ledson moved to the opposite flank with Daniel Johnson filling in.
The margin of victory could have been more but for a string of fine saves from Declan Rudd with Neil admitting: "It was one of them ones where we came up against a team where their best players are their wide players and all my full-backs are missing, so I knew it was going to be difficult." The Preston boss will make a late decision on Davies and Fisher's inclusion.
West Brom consolidate place at the top
West Brom earned their biggest win of the season as they beat Bristol City 4-1 to go back top of the Championship last Wednesday. First-half goals from Kieran Gibbs and Matheus Pereira set Albion on course to stretch their unbeaten run to eight games - and their goal tally to 35 in 18 matches - with Hal Robson-Kanu and Charlie Austin also on-target.
The Baggies produced an eye-catching display, full of pace, power and precision, with Slaven Bilic's side opening up a seven-point cushion on the play-off pack after the latest matchday. Jake Livermore and Romaine Sawyers returned to the fold, as well as defender Nathan Ferguson after suspension, while fit again Gibbs started for the first time since august.
The influential Grady Diangana proved a constant threat and in-form ex-Wales international Robson-Kanu hit his fifth goal in seven league games in an almost flawless display. Bilic said: "We played really good. To win 4-1 against a side like Bristol City, it had to be a good performance. They are a very solid team. But we made them not solid enough."
Albion fair favourites at Deepdale
Preston's 3-2 defeat in this exact fixture last season ended an 11-match unbeaten run versus West Brom at Deepdale in league competition (W8-D3-L1). North End have now lost each of their most recent three fixtures with the Baggies, leaking three or more goals on each occasion. Albion haven't won four on the spin against the Lilywhites since 1954.
Preston3.05 come into this contest on the back of successive Championship defeats without scoring, although the hosts have only been beaten in 11/55 (20%) of Deepdale outings under Alex Neil. However, PNE have managed just W2-D4-L7 when welcoming top-six teams in that sample and 14 (45%) of their 31 goals this term have arrived via set-pieces.
West Brom's 2.44 only reverse under Slaven Bilic came away at title favourites Leeds as the Baggies have picked up top honours in 11 of 18 encounters (W11-D7-L1). The visitors boast the division's best road record (W6-D2-L1) and can now claim a mightily impressive 53% win ratio at this level since suffering Premier League relegation (W17-D6-L9).
Baggies can edge tight tussle
Goals have tended to flow at Deepdale this term. Seven (78%) games have surpassed the Over 2.5 Goals (1.75) line with five of nine league matches even breaking the Over 3.5 Goals barrier. Those fixtures have featured 3.89 goals per-game on average and with the hosts' potentially fielding another makeshift defence, a similar outcome could be on the cards.
West Brom have produced much more pragmatic displays on their travels, compared to their performances at The Hawthorns. No second-tier side is seeing fewer goals per-game on the road (1.89) with seven of Albion's nine games as guests producing no more than two goals. Even so, the Baggies have only once failed to notch on the road under Slaven Bilic.
Considering WBA's more measured away approach, I'm happy to oppose a goal-glut whilst keeping Bilic's boys onside with Betfair Sportsbook's Same Game Multi market allowing us to support West Brom double chance and Under 3.5 Goals at 2.00. It means we'll make money should Albion win 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0, or if the game ends in a 0-0 or 1-1 draw.