West Brom and Bournemouth will meet at the Hawthorns on Saturday afternoon for their Premier League curtain raiser both looking to kick-start their season after impressive finishes last campaign.
The Baggies were within touching distance of the top six at Christmas after a blistering start to the season before fading and finishing tenth, and they will no doubt want to emulate that superb start.
Yet their opening opponents enjoyed an even better season under Eddie Howe, finishing ninth in just their second season ever in the top-flight, and the Cherries won’t want the momentum to stop now.
Read below for The Boot Room’s detailed preview of the opening weekend clash at the Hawthorns.
West Brom supporters won’t want to be reminded of the past few months as far as pre-season preparations go, only beating Burton Albion and Walsall in an uninspiring run of results.
Defeat against non-league outfit Slough Town was a real low point, followed by a loss to League One Bristol Rovers and La Liga’s Deportivo La Coruna, and they will want to quickly get a victory on the board.
On the other hand, Bournemouth have enjoyed some good run-outs against some esteemed European sides in recent months, performing well against Portuguese side Estoril and pushing Valencia close.
But they arguably saved their best performance for last as last weekend they came seven minutes away from beating a full-strength Napoli side, and that will give them hope heading into the new season.
The good news for West Brom manager Tony Pulis comes in the way that the trio of Jonny Evans, Nacer Chadli and Chris Brunt have all been training this week after sitting out the Deportivo La Coruna defeat.
Evans – newly-named captain – will take his place in the centre of the defence, whilst his partner Gareth McAuley should be passed fit in time to line-up alongside him.
Other than those injury worries the Baggies have a full squad at their disposal for Saturday’s clash.
As far as the visitors are concerned they are expected to set up similar to the draw with Napoli last weekend, with Nathan Ake potentially coming into the starting eleven as Eddie Howe’s only change.
Summer signing and fan favourite Jermain Defoe faces a race against time to be fit for Saturday’s match with a slight knock, so the England striker may have to be content with a spot on the bench.
Match Prediction: West Brom 1-1 Bournemouth
Bournemouth will go into Saturday’s clash with a renewed sense of anticipation following good pre-season results and summer transfer business, and they will believe they can leave with three points.
But Tony Pulis will be relieved at having key defender Jonny Evans and Gareth McAuley ready and available to play, and it could turn into a battle of which side has the better subs bench to call upon.
It isn’t exactly a fixture that leaps off of the page when looking at the opening weekend fixtures, but with both sides arriving on the back of excellent campaigns it could turn into an entertaining encounter.