Bournemouth v West Brom
Friday August 6, 19:45
Parker eyeing promotion with Bournemouth
Bournemouth were arguably the Championship's biggest underachievers in 2020/21. Having returned to the second-tier after a five-year stint in the top-flight, the Cherries' were expected to challenge for top honours. However, the south coast club saw their campaign conclude with a bitterly disappointing play-off semi-final defeat to Brentford.
Eddie Howe's former assistant Jason Tindall struggled with the step-up to full-time management and was eventually replaced by Jonathan Woodgate. Whilst Bournemouth enjoyed a welcome upturn in fortunes under their new boss, the talented squad rarely looked like the real deal and it's no surprise to see the Cherries make another change.
Scott Parker has stepped into the breach and, following a reasonable spell at Fulham, should be capable of engineering a tilt at the top-two this term. Emiliano Marcondes is the standout summer signing and joins an eye-catching forwardline that features Junior Stanislas, David Brooks, Dominic Solanke and in-demand Arnaut Danjuma.
West Brom eye immediate bounce back
West Brom's latest Premier League sojourn was a miserable affair. The Baggies were doomed with three games to play with Sam Allardyce unable to keep Albion afloat after taking over from Slaven Bilic in December. WBA bounced back down with the division's worst defence, and having conceded the top-flight's most goals in 2020/21.
But the sombre mood has been lifted by the appointment of highly-rated head coach Valerien Ismael from Barnsley. The former Tykes boss worked minor miracles at Oakwell last season and should ensure Albion extend their remarkable record of finishing inside the top-six for a ninth successive second-tier season this term with promotion the main aim.
Barnsley skipper Alex Mowatt has been recruited, along with respected centre-half Matt Clarke and winger Adam Reach. And although Matheus Pereira is angling for a move away, Albion can still call upon Grady Diangana, Karlan Grant, Kyle Bartley, Romaine Sawyers, and Robert Snodgrass, a collection of players possibly too good for Championship standards.
Bournemouth and West Brom have crossed paths just six times in league action over the past 28 years with the Cherries enjoying slight supremacy (W3-D1-L2). In fact, the hosts have posted W2-D1-L0 when welcoming the Baggies to the Vitality Stadium during the duos Premier League days, suffering a solitary home defeat to Albion in their recent history.
Exclude the trio of promoted clubs and Bournemouth 2.506/4 boasted the division's best home points tally in the Championship last season (W13-D3-L7). That return included four victories from six Vitality Stadium tussles against fellow top-seven outfits, although Expected Points (xP) rankings suggested the Cherries may have overperformed as hosts.
West Brom 2.982/1 tabled only five triumphs during their Premier League relegation campaign, only two of which arrived on their travels. Only six points were garnered in away games against fellow bottom-half sides (W1-D3-L5) and the Baggies managed to keep their sheets clean only once on the road, conceding 2.00 goals per-game on average.
With Bournemouth and West Brom operating under new management, in their first game of a season in which both have realistic promotion ambitions, it's a tricky tussle to second-guess on the south coast. However, I'm hopeful an entertaining and exciting curtain-raising clash could be in the offing at the Vitality Stadium with Both Teams To Score appealing at 1.804/5.
The two teams are blessed with game-changing ability in the final-third, and without the end-of-season pressures hanging over either, plus the often-haphazard nature of season openers, there's the potential for a very watchable affair to breakout with fans back in the stadium to give the contest the atmosphere it so desperately deserves.