Two struggling teams meet at the Hawthorns this Saturday afternoon as West Bromwich Albion host West Ham. Neither has enjoyed a buoyant start to the new campaign, with discontent in the stands as well as on the pitch. Baggies supporters told boss Tony Pulis in no uncertain terms that his style of play was not to their taste at Bournemouth last week.
Given the fine job he did keeping West Brom in the top flight, this might seem a trifle unfair. Premier League stability is something clubs the size of Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest and Leeds United would jump at. Supporters however, want to be excited and there’s precious little of that at the Hawthorns.
Meanwhile, tempers are frayed in east London too, with scuffles breaking out in sections of the Olympic Stadium crowd during West Ham’s home defeat to Watford. The incidents have been blamed on insufficient radio systems within the stadium, but what has caused such angst among West Ham supporters is unclear. Only a few weeks ago, the stadium move was heralded as a brave new dawn but now it seems some are disillusioned. A change in results can see the mood change very quickly.
West Brom’s 1-0 defeat at Bournemouth last week may look like another drab display on first glance, but Pulis’ men spurned a number of chances before Callum Wilson’s winner. Nevertheless, they are without a win since the opening day with their 0-0 draw at home to newly-promoted Middlesbrough was a particularly soporific affair. The Hammers threw away a two goal lead against Watford last time out, losing 4-2 in kamikaze fashion. Away defeats by Chelsea and Manchester City can be accounted for, but the Hammers need some positive momentum quickly.
West Brom Starting XI West Ham Starting XI
Injuries and Suspensions
Scottish winger Chris Brunt is West Brom’s only absentee through injury. West Ham have no new injury concerns, but Andre Ayew, Aaron Cresswell, Diafra Sakho and Andy Carroll are long-term layoffs and all are short for this weekend. New signing Simone Zaza should continue up front.
This is a match between two teams low on confidence, and that scenario usually produces a tight match with not many goals. West Brom scored a mere 20 league goals at home last season, and have only netted once at the Hawthorns in two games this term. The Hammers ran out 3-0 winners in this fixture last year, and despite their sticky start to the season they have ample offensive quality to win this game. Dimitri Payet and Mario Lanzini are back in the fold after truncated pre-seasons, and showed their quality against Bournemouth; rabonas and all. The visitors might be able to take advantage of a restless home crowd and an atmosphere that could take a turn for the worse if West Brom fall behind. Thinly veiled swipes have been exchanged between Pulis and the board about West Brom’s transfer business and the marriage between club and manager looks to be on the rocks. We’re backing the Londoners to hasten the divorce.
Verdict: Away Win.