Two out-of-form sides do battle at Molineux on Saturday lunchtime, and Kevin Hatchard thinks it'll take a while for defences to be put under pressure...
"Wolves have seen the second half contain more goals than the first in 15 of their last 28 PL games, and with confidence low on both sides, this game might take a while to warm up."
Wolves v West Brom
Saturday 16 January, 12:30
Live on BT Sport
Nuno aware of challenge ahead
When you set the bar as high as Wolves and their manager Nuno have in the last couple of seasons, it can be difficult to manage expectations. The men in Old Gold finished seventh in each of the last two campaigns, but a serious head injury to star striker Raul Jimenez has made life difficult this time around. The Mexican is a scorer and a creator (he produced 30 PL goals and 13 assists across the last two campaigns) and his absence has been keenly felt.
Wolves have won just one of their last eight Premier League matches, and with the team eight points adrift of the top six, Nuno admits he is worried by the current sequence of results and performances. Wolves have only won one of their last five home games in the league, although it should be borne in mind that all of those games were against top-half sides.
Not only is Jimenez out, but Daniel Podence has been sidelined, and Adama Traore faces a race to be fit. Defender Willy Boly is still short of full fitness because of a thigh problem.
Allardyce struggling to work his magic
Sam Allardyce has never been relegated from the Premier League, and if he maintains that record with West Brom this season, it'll be an act of escapology that Harry Houdini or David Copperfield would be proud of. In his four league games in charge, Albion have lost 3-0 to Aston Villa, 4-0 to Arsenal and 5-0 to Leeds United, as well as pulling off an improbable 1-1 draw at Anfield against Liverpool. A limp FA Cup exit at Blackpool has reinforced some of Allardyce's ideas about the depth of his squad.
And yet that draw at Liverpool is perhaps the template to work from. The champions were restricted to just two shots on target in that game, while the Baggies had three. Semi Ajayi led the back four superbly, and the team played with diligence and discipline. In their last two away games, WBA have drawn at Manchester City and Liverpool, so the potential is there.
Midfielder Conor Gallagher is suspended, while Karlan Grant, Conor Townsend and Hal Robson-Kanu are all struggling with injury. Out-of-form attacking midfielder Matheus Pereira could get a chance to shine - the Brazilian was outstanding in the Championship, but has just one goal and three assists this term.
Wolves too short for derby showdown
As bad as West Brom's form is, it's hard to get excited about backing Wolves at 1.635/8 in the Match Odds market. They have key players injured, they don't look as defensively solid as they have in the past two campaigns (26 goals leaked in 18 PL games), and they have won just six times in the top flight.
If you think West Brom can replicated what they did at the Etihad and at Anfield, you could lay the hosts, or if you're feeling more cautious you could give Albion a goal advantage on the Asian Handicap at 1.794/5.
Overs bet offers value
Over 2.5 Goals is trading at a chunky 2.3611/8 here, and you could certainly make a case for it. The Baggies will try to shut up shop, but five of their last seven league games have featured three goals or more. Even without Jimenez, six of Wolves' last nine top-flight games have seen an Over 2.5 Goals bet land.
Slow start expected
The opening exchanges of Wolves' games are usually pretty tepid, and although their last two games against Brighton and Everton have gone against that trend, the general pattern is worthy of consideration. The second half has contained more goals than the first in 15 of their last 28 Premier League matches, and yet that outcome is odds-against here at 6/5 on the Sportsbook. Albion are unlikely to take any early risks here, especially after their humblings at home against Leeds and Arsenal.
Ajayi to pose a threat?
Baggies' defender Semi Ajayi scored against Blackpool at the weekend, and also hit the net against Liverpool. Wolves have leaked eight PL goals from set plays this season (only Leeds have a worse record), and four of WBA's 11 top-flight strikes came from dead-ball situations.
You can back Ajayi to have at least one goal attempt at evens (it doesn't have to be on target), and given that Albion are likely to rely on set plays to pose a threat, that's a bet worth making. If you want to back him to score, he's priced at 16/1.
Kevin Hatchard English Football P/L
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