West Brom play host to high-flying Huddersfield on Friday night, and I’ve picked out three selections for a Bet Builder.
The hosts, the greatly underachieving West Brom; the visitors, the greatly overachieving Huddersfield.
Cast your minds back to the fixture between these two back in November, if I’d have asked you which side will be sitting in 3rd and which side would be in 13th position before the return match in March, I’d guess that most of you would have them the wrong way around.
Albion were returning from an international break in 3rd spot, 6/1 for the title, 1/2 a Top 3 finish and at the very least 1/12 to end the campaign in the Top 6 of the Championship.
West Brom weren’t hitting the heights they were back in August, but thoughts of Valerien Ismael being sacked wouldn’t have been on the minds of most Baggies fans.
Huddersfield were in 8th, licking their wounds after a late Kieffer Moore brace in Cardiff and at 4/1 for the Top 6, 20/1 Top 3 and 50/1 Top 2; a play-off push looked the very best they could hope for under Carlos Corberan.
The Terriers took advantage of their opponents’ travel sickness to record a 1-0 victory that day and although they would go on to lose the next two Championship games, they haven’t lost since the defeat against Middlesbrough at the end of November, leaving the boot very much on the other foot.
Tipped by many to be battling relegation after a 20th place finish last season, with signings that didn’t look like propelling them up the table, Carlos Corberan has proved all the doubters wrong.
Though their play-off place isn’t secure yet, they shouldn’t require many more wins, and having not lost since November, they won’t fear anyone at the moment.
They’re a side not shy in front of goal – only Fulham, QPR and Bournemouth have scored more – but much of their success has been built on a solid rear-guard. The experienced Tom Lees and Matty Pearson have lined up with the young Levi Colwill on loan from Chelsea to form a solid back three for much of the season, which has seen them keep the joint-most clean sheets in the league.
With Ismael gone, Albion have turned to Steve Bruce, a veteran of both the division and of Midlands clubs, and he finally had something to shout about after recording a 2-0 victory at his former club Hull last Saturday. Bruce ditched his preferred 4-3-3 on Humberside and reverted to a 3-5-2 which his inherited squad seems better suited to.
He also started a player that the Baggies faithful had been crying out for, a player who had got better with every game he didn’t play – Taylor Gardner-Hickman. His youthful energy worked nicely with a previously-under-par Alex Mowatt and Jake Livermore. The latter had just returned from yet another suspension, he was also red carded at the John Smith’s Stadium in the November clash, and has often borne the brunt of fans’ frustration in what has been a disappointing campaign, however he excelled in a deeper role.
Daryl Dike, signed to hopefully provide the goals he scored on loan at Barnsley last season, has managed just one start before picking up a hamstring injury. Andy Carroll was brought to the club but has yet to score in his six starts, and the decision not to start the former Newcastle man may have also helped as Albion looked more fluid up top with former Terrier Karlan Grant bagging a brace.
I had Sander Berge to score any time at 9/2 when Sheffield United played Nottingham Forest last week… so of course he scored on Tuesday night when the Blades but Middlesbrough to the sword. Grant registered four shots on target at Hull, the most he’s recorded in one game and he’s my opening selection for the boosted Friday night Bet Builder. He commented how the players as well as the fans have been feeling the poor run of form and he’ll be full of confidence against his former side.
Let’s be honest, he’ll need to be because the visitors, who have just missed out on a quarter final tie against Liverpool, have defied the odds to climb the table.
As somebody who loves a goal-scoring defender, I muttered “not again!” when Tom Lees bagged against Forest, and Albion will need to be on the guard from set-plays. The Baggies have the highest set piece xG in the division at 18.8 but have only scored eight times, whereas Huddersfield have notched 15 from 108 set play shots, recording an xG of 14.1 and are the best in the division at defending a dead-ball.
Neither side are amongst the leading corner takers in the league, but I’m happy to back Over 10 Corners in the match at 11/8.
Similarly, neither side ranks highly in the Both Teams to Score table – the Yes has landed in less than a third of Baggies games and less than half for the Terriers, but the home side are approaching must-win territory, and I’m happy to take 10/11 about BTTS Yes for a Bet Builder boosted from 9/1 to 12/1.
Karlan Grant To Score Anytime - 7/4
Over 10 Corners - 11/8
Both Teams To Score Yes - 10/11
By Steve Freeth