Bundesliga Saturday Tips: Billy Goats and Eagles to go wild
Promotion-chasing West Brom entertain manager-less Birmingham on Saturday at The Hawthorns. Mark O'Haire previews the Championship encounter.
West Brom v Birmingham Saturday June 20, 15:00 Sky Sports
West Brom eye up automatic promotion
West Brom began the 2019/20 campaign without 55 (63%) of last season's goal tally following the expiration of Dwight Gayle and Harvey Barnes' loans, plus the summer sale of Jay Rodriguez. With Slaven Bilic only appointed in mid-June, the task of the rebuilding job required at The Hawthorns appeared steep with little to no action in the transfer market.
However, the Baggies brushed off any pre-season concerns with a clutch of late high-class arrivals that have helped propel Albion right into the automatic promotion mix. The likes of Romaine Sawyers, Grady Diangana, Filip Krovinovic and Semi Ajayi have been added to in January by the eye-catching arrivals of Charlie Austin, Kamil Grosicki and Callum Robinson.
The enforced break has given Diangana and Ahmed Hegazi an opportunity to return to full fitness leading to Bilic admitting he may even have too many options for the first game back on Saturday. The Croat has an embarrassment of riches in the final third to select from and is therefore looking forward to utilising the new five substitutions rule against Birmingham.
Birmingham prepare for life without Pep
Birmingham are searching for their seventh manager in the space of just three-and-a-half years following the unexpected news that head coach Pep Clotet will be stepping aside at the end of the season. The former assistant boss will be allowed to leave to fulfil his desire to "explore other coaching opportunities".
The Spaniard has guided Blues to 16th ahead of the Championship's resumption with the Second City club eight points clear of the relegation zone with nine matches to play. It's not always been a serene ride although Clotet deserves immense credit for providing the platform for some of the club's star youngsters, such as Jude Bellingham, to thrive in.
The January signing of Scott Hogan has given the Blues vital attacking support to the ever-willing Lukas Jutkiewicz, giving the group considerably more balance across the park, leading to a solitary league reverse since New Year's Day. Elsewhere, Birmingham have called 19-year-old striker Miguel Fernandez into the first-team squad with Kerim Mrabti out of action.
Baggies firm favourites
West Brom come into this contest unbeaten in their last seven meetings with Birmingham across all competitions since October 2006 (W5-D2-L0). The Baggies have also suffered a solitary defeat to the Blues here at The Hawthorns over the past 15 years of league meetings (W4-D3-L1) and were 3-2 winners in the reverse showdown in December.
West Brom 1.65 were winless without scoring in their final two fixtures before the enforced break (W0-D1-L1). Albion haven't been a reliable host when welcoming bottom-half dwellers under Slaven Bilic's watch (W3-D3-L3), although WBA are the league's top home goalscorers this season, averaging 2.00 goals per-game at The Hawthorns.
A collection of stalemates thwarted Birmingham's5.10 progress before the end of March and the Blues have returned W7-D11-L14 when excluding the current bottom-three. Pep Clotet's charges have W3-D6-L7 on the road when again excluding the basement battlers but can call upon a reasonable W2-D2-L5 effort when visiting top-half teams this term.
Both sides can oblige
Only Loftus Road (3.68) has seen more goals per-game than The Hawthorns (3.28) with West Brom's home fixtures crossing the Over 3.5 Goals barrier in eight (44%) of their encounters here. A massive 13 (71%) of those matches have also paid out for Both Teams To Score backers with no Championship club keeping fewer home clean sheets than Albion (2).
Birmingham have found the back of the net in 13 of their 14 outings before the break with BTTS banking in 12 of those contests. Supporting a repeat holds plenty of appeal at 1.75 quotes but we can bolster the odds to 2.10 by adding in West Brom in the Double Chance market. It's a selection that's already won in 13 (71%) of WBA's home games this term.