The Premier League finally kicks off the new season on Saturday afternoon, and West Bromwich Albion start their campaign at home to second-season Southampton.
The Baggies have had mixed results in recent years when they’ve started the league season at home. Last season they emphatically defeated Liverpool 3-0 and this set the club up for a good season, but in 2011 they lost 2-1 to Manchester United in what was to be manager Roy Hodgson’s last campaign before taking the England job. Looking at the last 15 seasons however, it becomes alarming as West Brom have only won twice on the opening day.
Southampton played away to Manchester City on the opening day of last season and despite going into the lead at one point, they ultimately lost 3-2 to the defending champions. Mauricio Pochettino has since taken over at St. Mary’s and so they will be hoping to achieve a better result away at the Hawthorns on Saturday.
Looking at the head to head record last season, West Brom have the upper hand. Steve Clarke’s side defeated the Saints 2-0 at the Hawthorns, before winning 3-0 at Southampton in the return fixture. With West Brom holding some sort of hoodoo over Southampton it’s no surprise that Pinnacle Sports make them favourites to win with odds of 2.38.
West Brom have made some big additions to their squad during the summer. Nicolas Anelka has made his return to English football by joining the club and is in line to make his debut this Saturday. Matej Vydra has also joined on loan from Udinese after scoring 20 goals while on loan at Watford last year, and could also make his debut this Saturday.
Southampton have brought Victor Wanyama in from Celtic, and the young Kenyan will be hoping to make his debut against West Brom on Saturday. Promising young defender Luke Shaw could miss the start of the season however, after suffering a knee injury in the club’s friendly against Real Sociedad. Pochettino confirmed in the post-match press conference that it could be as serious as a ligament injury (Goal.com).
Eurosport have some interesting stats for the two teams involved in this game:
- West Brom have only suffered defeat at the hands of Southampton once in their last eight league meetings.
- Southampton have only conceded two goals in their last five away games in the Premier League.
- The Saints have won just once on their last 14 opening day appearances in the Premier League.
West Brom – Shane Long
The striker scored eight goals for the team last season. Only Romelu Lukaku bettered this with 17, but as he has gone back to Chelsea, Long’s goals along with his assists (joint highest last season – 4) marks his importance to the team. Over the course of the campaign, Long attempted 44 shots on goal of which 20 were on target, giving him an accuracy rating of 45%. He created 23 chances for his team, not including the assists, and also created a further 3 clear cut chances. If Long can maintain this level of shot accuracy on Saturday and create as well as he did last season, he’ll be the man to stop for Southampton.
Southampton – Rickie Lambert
Lambert will come into this game on a high after scoring the winning goal against Scotland at Wembley earlier in the week, and this will only raise the difficulty levels for West Brom to stop him. Lambert was the top goalscorer at St. Mary’s last season, with 15 goals. He also achieved five assists, making him joint top with Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez. Lambert attempted 79 shots at goal last year with 42 of those being on target giving him an accuracy rating of 53%. He also scored nine of his clear-cut chances giving him a conversion rate of 56%. In short, Lambert could be in lethal form for Southampton on Saturday.
The opening day hasn’t been favourable to either team in the past and it will obviously be more of the same for one of them here. In my opinion, Southampton look strong under Mauricio Pochettino but West Brom have made better additions to their squad. With home advantage on their side, I believe West Brom will win this game 2-1.
As mentioned earlier Pinnacle Sports have provided odds for this game and have given West Brom odds of 2.380 on a 1×2 bet to win, while they have Southampton at 3.240 to win. A draw seems the best value with odds of 3.450 so a £10 bet would get you £34.50 (includes your initial bet).