Nottingham Forest v West Brom
Saturday August 3, 17:30
Live on Sky Sports
Nottingham Forest begin another new era
Hopes are high that Nottingham Forest can end their 11-year Championship stay this term. The Tricky Trees have posted only four top-half finishes during their current spell in the second-tier, although further investment from Greek shipping magnate Evangelos Marinakis, plus the appointment of boss Sabri Lamouchi have raised expectations.
Without Premier League football since 1999, Lamouchi becomes Forest's 13th full-time manager over the past eight years with a clear remit to build a promotion-winning squad. The head coach takes the hot-seat after a semi-successful stint with Rennes and is eager to implement an attack-minded outfit from the club's plethora of offensive options.
The Tricky Trees have made seven summer signings - the latest in the form of Rafa Mir, a Spanish U21 international forward - although it's unclear how many will be involved in Saturday's showdown. Key playmaker Joao Carvalho won't feature this weekend due to injury, but Tiago Silva and Alfa Semedo may be given an opportunity to flourish.
West Brom invest faith in Bilic
West Brom have undergone a squad overhaul this summer after missing out on an immediate return to the Premier League. Slaven Bilic was appointed in mid-June and recruitment has been slow considering the Baggies are looking to plug the void of 55 goals worth of talent departing from 2018/19 (Dwight Gayle, Jay Rodriguez and Harvey Barnes).
Albion insiders expect the rebuilding to continue right up to next Thursday's transfer deadline, with three or four more signings wanted and the focus very much on strengthening in forward areas. But for now, WBA could look a little light up top with Kenneth Zohore the club's only striker on the books to start the season.
Last term, West Brom were top heavy, sluggish in the middle, and sometimes suicidal at the back. Albion's ageing squad were run ragged at times, but they finished fourth thanks to their quality in the final third. The arrival of returning Romaine Sawyers should at least steady the ship in midfield, where Bilic's options are most plentiful and competent.
Forest's fine opening day record
Nottingham Forest haven't lost an opening day league match at the City Ground since August 1983 under the watch of Brian Clough. The Tricky Trees have registered W11-D6-L0 in their following 17 curtain-raisers here since, but they'll be hoping to improve on a winless return from their past four home fixtures with West Brom (W0-D1-L3) this weekend.
Under previous management, Forest 2.486/4 finished eight points off the top-six despite performance data figures ranking the former European champions amongst the bottom-half. The hosts' efforts were underpinned by a strong home record (W13-D4-L6) that included taking maximum points in eight of their 12 contests with clubs in 13th and above.
WBA 3.052/1 picked up the division's fourth-most points on the road (W11-D4-L8) in 2018/19 as the Baggies' counter-attacking instincts paid dividends at leading lights. Albion pocketed W5-D2-L4 when travelling to top-half teams, notching at least two goals on six occasions. However, it's hard to foresee a repeat this term with such a paucity of attacking options.
Same Game Multi presents value
Arguably, the key reason holding Nottingham Forest back last season was the figures of Aitor Karanka, and then Martin O'Neill, in the dugout. Traditionally pragmatic head coaches, the pair struggled to unlock the offensive potential in the Tricky Trees squad and so there's excitement surrounding the City Ground following the capture of Sabri Lamouchi.
The former Ivory Coast boss favour a forward-thinking approach and that should appeal to goals-based punters. Forest fired two or more goals past only 18 opponents last season and so an improvement in the final-third is anticipated with Lamouchi's previous work at Rennes showcasing a side that prefers attractive football with a mean and clinical edge.
Slaven Bilic is unlikely to be quite so attack-minded during August as he continues to remodel his West Brom squad. It therefore makes selecting a goals-based angle tricky from the opening encounter, although there is appeal if we dip into Betfair Sportsbook's Same Game Multi market where Nottingham Forest double chance and Over 1.5 Goals is 1.84.
Forest's fixtures beat the Over 1.5 Goals line in 70% of last season's outings and I'm happy to follow that same pattern with opening season action often high on goals as clubs continue their process of fine-tuning ahead of a 46-game marathon campaign.