West Brom v Leicester: Baggies can make positive return to Premier League

West Brom manager Slaven Bilic
Slaven Bilic's West Brom side have been hard to beat at home
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Andrew Atherley says the new boys can take something from a Leicester side struggling for form and fitness...

"Bilic's side were joint-top scorers at home in the Championship last season (alongside Brentford) and they can be spectacular when it all clicks."

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Back West Brom off 0 on Asian handicap at [3]

West Brom v Leicester
Sunday 13 September, 14:00
Live on Sky Sports

Loan deals made permanent

West Brom spent most of last season in the automatic promotion places in the Championship and eventually came second to Leeds, but they struggled to finish the job after the restart and only just limped over the line ahead of Brentford and Fulham.

That suggested Slaven Bilic's tactics had been found out and, if they are too predictable, it is a weakness that will be amplified in the Premier League. Overall, however, they compiled a strong record in the Championship and have a better chance of staying up than the odds indicate. I'd be a layer at [2.1] in the relegation market.

Most of their spending has been on players who had key roles on loan last season - winger Grady Diangana, attacking midfielder Matheus Pereira and striker Callum Robinson. Another forward must be the main priority for Bilic before the transfer window closes.

The starting XI is unlikely to be much different to the one that finished the Championship season with places for Diangana, Pereira and Robinson and a settled back four led by Semi Ajayi.

Defensive problems

Leicester's 2019-20 season was a tale of two halves. The Foxes were second in the table at the halfway stage and looked well set for a Champions League place but they tailed off badly after Christmas and finished fifth overall, putting them in the Europa League instead.

The Foxes ranked a poor 12th in the second half of the season and, even worse, they were 15th in the post-restart standings. Brendan Rodgers badly needs to reverse that decline but there has not been much transfer action and his squad, which is full of cracks as well as promise, is depleted by injuries.

Rodgers has only Caglar Soyuncu available from last season's regular back four, with Ben Chilwell having gone to Chelsea, Jonny Evans suspended for the first three games following his final-day sending-off and Ricardo Pereira injured.

Timothy Castagne, brought in from Atalanta to replace Chilwell at left-back, has not had much training time and the other option is teenager Luke Thomas. James Justin is a good back-up on the right but Rodgers has limited options in the centre of his defence and Wilfred Ndidi might have to fill in there.

That would further weaken the midfield, with James Maddison likely to be missing with a hip injury, and the central three there could be Papy Mendy in the deeper role, Youri Tielemans and Dennis Praet.

At least Rodgers can still call on Jamie Vardy, last season's Golden Boot winner with 23 goals. Vardy is [19.0] to be the Premier League's top goalscorer again.

Baggies have a decent chance

West Brom secured fewer points at home than away in the Championship last season, which is perhaps a sign that their play was one-dimensional at the Hawthorns.

They lost only three out of 23 at home, however, and were never beaten when they scored at the Hawthorns, which gives them a decent chance of a positive start here if they can crack Leicester's patched-up defence.

Bilic's side were joint-top scorers at home in the Championship last season (alongside Brentford) and they can be spectacular when it all clicks.

The same is true of Leicester but the scintillating football they produced in the first half of last season has gone missing in recent months.

Their last away win in the Premier League was the 3-0 at Newcastle on New Year's Day and since then they have won just four league matches out of 17, losing eight. Their away record since the Newcastle win is W0 D3 L5 and they have not scored more than one goal in an away game since Newcastle.

Leicester remain potentially much better than their recent form suggests but they simply look poor value for the win at [2.02].

West Brom could well be worth chancing for the win at [4.0].

Another option to be on West Brom's side is the double chance at [1.96].

Better still is West Brom off 0 on the Asian handicap at [3]. This looks a pretty good pick for decent odds on the first weekend of the season.

Foxes steady on goals

Last season 58% of Leicester's matches had over 2.5 goals. There was no variation between the home and away figures, and perhaps surprisingly the figures were exactly the same in the two halves of the season despite the wide variation in their results.

West Brom ranked quite low for goals per game in the Championship (57% under 2.5 goals overall, 52% at home) but it is questionable whether they can match those stats at this higher level.

Over 2.5 goals is the outsider at [2.0] and is worth considering.

Last season both teams scored in 15 of West Brom's 23 home games (65%) and that happened in 11 of Leicester's 19 away games (58%).

Both teams to score makes some appeal at [1.83].

Opta Stat

Leicester have won their opening Premier League match of the season in just one of their last 11 attempts (D5 L5), though that win came in their title-winning season in 2015-16, (4-2 against Sunderland). Leicester are [2.02] to win here.

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