West Brom v West Ham
Saturday 14th February, 12:45
BT Sport 1
As half-time approached in last weekend's game against Burnley, with the Baggies 2-0 down having lost 3-0 at home to Spurs the previous week, alarm bells were beginning to chime. But Chris Brunt's goal on the stroke of half-time set the wheels in motion to silence the rings. Brown Ideye would go on and equalise in the second half and secure an important point, then that momentum was taken into the midweek game against Swansea where Ideye would score his fourth of the season and Saido Berahino his 15th to set up a 2-0 win.
There was never a doubt that Tony Pulis would come in to the Hawthorns and sort out the defence. And although there have been blemishes - against Spurs and the opening 35 minutes against Burnley - he has stayed true to his reputation. Four clean sheets in seven games offer evidence of that.
But there was a real concern, which still remains somewhat, about where the goals might come from. Berahino is obviously a genuine quality, but relying too much on one so young and relatively inexperienced has its problems. Time will tell whether it is a burden that the 21-year-old can shoulder, but goals from the likes of Ideye will certainly help the cause.
Sam Allardyce's claims that there is no coach more sophisticated than he in the Premier League are a little brash. Bravado can be a difficult trait to shoulder, and one that can quite quickly come to backfire. Yes The Hammers are having a good season, but let us not forget that less than 12 months ago Big Sam was embroiled in a relegation battle and being hounded by his own supporters.
When Jose Mourinho first claimed to be The Special One, he was quick to justify that by delivering trophies to Stamford Bridge. If Allardyce wishes to be known as The Sophisticated One then it's about time he won his first piece of silverware.
And what better opportunity might he have than this season's FA Cup? After this weekend there will be a maximum of just seven Premier League sides remaining in the competition and with Chelsea, Manchester City, Spurs and Southampton all already knocked out West Ham go into this weekend as fourth favourites in the 2015 FA Cup winner market.
West Ham's recent form line may read as six draws and just two wins in their last nine matches, but points earned in the last week at home to Manchester United - where they were unfortunate to concede in injury time - and away to Southampton- where they played the final 30 minutes with just 10 men - can be seen as positive results. And there can, therefore, be no doubting that they go into this weekend's game on the front foot.
The Baggies will also go into the game in a positive mindset following recent results. But, having gained two big results in the space of a few days, and with an important game against Sunderland coming up next weekend, I do wonder whether Pulis might opt to make a few alterations to his starting XI this weekend.
Even if he doesn't, I see no reason why the home team should be made favourites here at odds of 2.56/4 and consequently believe that there is great value in backing the high-flying Hammers at odds of 3.185/40.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
It may, however, need to be a narrow win. West Ham haven't scored more than once in any of their last four games and haven't scored two or more in any one of their last seven away games, dating back to the beginning of December. Whilst the Baggies, as mentioned above, have kept four clean sheets in seven games since Pulis arrived at the club.
Under 2.5 goals is a slightly unappealing 1.865/6 chance, but you can combine that with a West Ham win to get a meaty 6.25/1 in the Match Odds and Over/Under 2.5 Goals market.
2pts Back West Ham to win @ 3.185/40
1pt Back West Ham/Under 2.5 goals @ 6.25/1