West Brom v Brighton: Baggies and Seagulls set for a stalemate

West Brom host Brighton on Saturday afternoon and Steve Rawlings fancies another close encounter is on the cards...

Battling Baggies look destined for the drop

Having won just two of their 25 Premier League games played this season, West Brom look set for a swift return to the Championship. The Baggies are currently only three points above the bottom club, Sheffield United, the only team they've mange to beat at home this season (1-0 in November), and they're 11 points behind Newcastle in 17th.

West Brom are now 1.07 to be relegated and I'm not going to argue that that's too short but they have shown a bit of fight. The Baggies held the champions-elect, Manchester City, to a 1-1 draw at the Etihad in Slaven Bilic's final game in charge just before Christmas and they managed a 1-1 draw at last season's Premier League winners, Liverpool, under the new manager, Sam Allardyce, just after the festive period.

Allardyce also oversaw their only away win of the season, 3-2 at Wolves in January, and they've drawn their last two games - 1-1 at home to Manchester United and 0-0 at Burnley on Saturday, when West Brom were the better side, despite playing the bulk of the game with only ten men after Semi Ajayi's sending off after half an hour.

The baggies should have left Turf Moor with all three points and Allardyce was left ruing a number of spurned chances.

"We are bitterly disappointed in the end result, we should have had the three points," said Allardyce. "We had far greater opportunities to score than them, the goal was the only thing missing. It would have been the perfect performance with 10 men.

"Let's keep it up and try to create those amount of chances again. The confidence among the players should be sky high because that should have been three points but the last two games have given me confidence. If we get nine clean sheets in the next 14 games I think we'll have a chance."

Profligate Seagulls continue to frustrate

Graham Potter's Brighton continue to impress but they take missing chances to a whole new level with their latest xG horror story coming against their bitter rivals, Crystal Palace, on Monday night.

The xG for the match read 2.59 for Brighton and just 0.18 for Palace but the game ended 2-1 in favour of the visitors and it's starting to be something of a joke just how poor Brighton are at taking their chances.

It was a game almost entirely dominated by the Seagulls, who enjoyed 75% of the possession, but once again they lacked that killer instinct in front of goal and only one of their 25 shots found the back of the net. Palace ventured into the Brighton box just twice but it was enough to see them steal the points and Potter must be wondering what he has to do to change things.

It was a similar story the week before when they drew 0-0 will Aston Villa at home in a game they completely dominated, again producing far superior xG figures that 2.33 - 0.14, and they've failed to score more than once in each of their last eight in the Premier League.

The Seagulls aren't performing poorly though and the Palace defeat was their first in the Premier League since they lost 1-0 to Manchester City at the Etihad back on Jan 13 - one of only two defeats in their previous 12 in the Premier League.

In-between the City and Palace defeats there were 1-0 wins away at Leeds and Liverpool and at home to Spurs and if they'd enjoyed the services of an even vaguely in-form striker, they wouldn't be toiling in 16th place, just four points above the relegation zone.

Brighton are pushing the old adage that the table never lies to the absolute max.

Another stalemate the safest play

Under 2.5 is the strong favourite in the Under/Over 2.5 Goals market and I can see why. There have been less than three goals scored in each of West Brom's last three Premier League games and in seven of the last eight featuring the Seagulls. And there have been under 2.5 goals scored in each of the last five encounters between the two - although that does include a friendly and an two F.A Cup ties.

It's tempting to play Under 2.5, even at the prohibitive odds, but I'm going to keep things simple and stick to the outright market.

Brighton are warm favourites to win the game, at just a shade over even money, but they've never won at the Hawthorns in ten previous attempts and their profligacy in front of goal is a massive concern. Taking around 2.0 about a team that hasn't scored more than once in eight Premier League matches at a ground they've never won at holds little appeal.

Although deep in the mire and almost certainly destined for the drop, West Brom's last two matches can't be ignored. Their draw against United was very much deserved and they were unlucky not to beat Burnley away so it would be foolish to think they've given up and resigned themselves to the inevitable just yet. The hosts at almost 7/2 make slightly more appeal than the visitors at evens but all things considered, the draw is the sensible play.

Having drawn 0-0 in a pre-season friendly, the return Premier League fixture at Brighton in October finished 1-1 and the two teams drew with each other twice in the F.A Cup two years ago too. Having played out a 0-0 stalemate at home, Brighton progressed at the Hawthorns (3-1 after extra-time) following a 1-1 draw after 90 mins.

The 3.6 on offer about a fifth consecutive draw between the two teams looks the most prudent option in what's a very tricky looking match.




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