West Brom's good start to the season was brought to an abrupt end at Brighton while West Ham finally secured their first points of the campaign at home to Huddersfield on Monday night. What, then, will Saturday bring? Martin Laurence thinks we may see more goals than expected...
"Each of the last four meetings between these two in the Midlands have actually seen over 2.5 goals scored."
West Brom v West Ham
Saturday September 16, 15:00
Pulis to rotate following Brighton collapse
As far as West Brom are concerned, an uncharacteristic capitulation at the hands of Brighton last weekend should see Pulis ring the changes. The Midlands outfit were busy towards the end of the transfer window and will take some time to gel but this could be a chance for the likes of Kieran Gibbs and Oliver Burke to earn their first starts for the club having made an impact from the bench at The Amex. There's a decent chance that the side that finished the 3-1 defeat could start this one then, with the likes of Ahmed Hegazi, Jake Livermore and Salomon Rondon all facing the chop.
The hosts will no doubt anticipate a back three from the away side and set up accordingly, so Burke - who registered a first assist for the club last time out - and Matt Phillips could be key to getting in behind the wing-backs, assuming the former can overcome a minor hamstring strain. As such The Baggies are more than likely to stick with one up front in an attempt to render their visitors extra man at the back redundant.
Elsewhere marquee signing Grzegorz Krychowiak will hope to show his worth after an underwhelming debut, and his afternoon will no doubt be made easier by the continued absence of Manuel Lanzini, who has scored in each of the last two meetings between these sides. The Polish international should prove to be a real coup for the club, with his ability to not only break up play and adhere to Pulis' physical demands but also control possession adding real quality in the middle of the park.
Back three the way forward for West Ham
After a dismal start to the campaign there's finally some optimism at West Ham following a victory over Huddersfield that could have saved Slaven Bilic from the chopping block for the time being at least. On the road for the fifth time already this season, however, the Hammers will likely face a tougher task against Tony Pulis' men come Saturday.
The visitors have lost all three of their away games at this early stage of the Premier League campaign, shipping at least three goals in each of them. While a repeat of such a high scoreline may seem unlikely at The Hawthorns, the Londoners have come away from two of their last three trips having shipped four goals to The Baggies.
Monday night's clean sheet - Joe Hart's first for the club, ending a wait since January when taking his time at Torino into account - will give Bilic some confidence in a back three trialled for the first time in the current campaign. It's a system the Croatian utilised many times last season to good effect, heralding 1.56 points per game in 16 matches with three centre-backs compared to 1.00 from 22 matches with two. With key man Winston Reid back available at the heart of said defence - he missed the 4-2 defeat at WBA a year ago - a continuation of Monday night's tactic certainly makes sense.
The recent history suggests that this game could go either way, with three draws in the last six meetings but none in the last five at The Hawthorns. The Hammers had won on their two previous league trips to play West Brom prior to last season's 4-2 defeat, and enter the game off the back of a morale-boosting victory compared to a defeat for The Baggies.
You can get odds of [2.42] on the Betfair Exchange for a home win, which is probably the way I'd lean, but there's better value to be found elsewhere.
Given West Brom's general reputation and start to the season on home turf, with just three goals across their two games thus far, the odds suggest another low-scoring affair is most likely. However, each of the last four meetings between these two in the Midlands have actually seen over 2.5 goals scored, with West Ham's defensive record on the road thus far also worth taking into account.
There's some value on the exchange when it comes to laying the prospect of honours being even at the interval. Each of the last five meetings between these sides have seen one side or the other ahead at half time and I'd predict a repeat with odds at [2.2].