Bournemouth vs West Brom | Friday 6th August 2021, 19:45 | Sky Sports
A summer of sport from across the globe has kept us occupied, and continues to do so, since the 2020/21 EFL campaign concluded a few months ago but Friday night highlights the return of domestic, competitive football, and a top match awaits us.
Bournemouth and West Brom are ranked within the top-four in the Championship title winner odds, so both will be eager to lay down a bit of a marker over a likely promotion rival, even on MD1.
We’ll firstly focus on Bournemouth, who suffered heartache in the play-offs last season, with a red card to Welsh international Chris Mepham proving to be the costly factor in losing to Brentford, who will ply their trade in the Premier League this season.
Jonathan Woodgate was only ever really a caretaker in this role, even if official he was not, and so the club were always keen to get a fresh face in, and that comes in the form of Scott Parker, who somewhat surprising to some decided to jump ship from Fulham.
After a rollercoaster spell at Craven Cottage which saw one promotion and two relegations, he is happy to take on this new challenge, and it is a pressurised one as promotion is very much the expectation for the Cherries.
Not a huge amount has really changed within the playing squad, but there are still some notable alterations. The goods news has seen Emiliano Marcondes ironically depart Brentford for Bournemouth having participated in the play-offs against them a few months ago, and the Dane has already been pinpointed a key role in Parker’s setup.
Asmir Begović has decided to be Jordan Pickford’s understudy at Everton, leaving Mark Travers as current first-choice at the Vitality Stadium, although the club did tease the fact that the number one jersey is still free when announcing their squad numbers recently. Freddie Woodman of Newcastle, who has impressed on loan at Swansea over the last few seasons, is the man they want.
Arnaut Danjuma remains on the books but continues to be heavily linked with a move away. He has also had some supposed injury issues over pre-season anyway, so he is unlikely to feature here. Whilst that is a blow, a revved up David Brooks is arguably the best player in the league on his day.
Just like the other two relegated clubs out of the Premier League, West Brom have experienced a managerial change in the dugout and Valérien Ismaël has got the gig having made a big impression in guiding Barnsley to an unlikely play-off appearance last season.
There was no real pressure on him on that occasion but it is very much project promotion for the Baggies, and he knows he has to deliver the goods.
Last season clearly didn’t go as planned, and although they wanted Big Sam Allardyce to stay on and try to get them back up, he felt this was a long-term project and wasn’t willing to commit, so getting a fresh face in may prove to be a wise move.
In terms of players, I think it is fair to say that Matheus Pereira has kicked his last ball for the club following his recent Twitter outburst. He wants to leave the club and the new boss has frozen him out completely. Sam Johnstone is another heavily linked with the exit door, and whilst he too would entertain a move he has resumed training, albeit late, meaning he is unlikely to feature on Friday night.
Alex Mowatt, Matt Clarke and Adam Reach have been added to the group to add proper Championship experience, whilst the squad has been heavily trimmed by getting the likes of Hal Robson-Kanu, Kamil Grosicki, Rekeem Harper and Kyle Edwards off the books.
One factor to consider going into this game when determining your bets is that Bournemouth do already have one competitive match under their belts already. The club utilised the traditional final pre-season friendly slot to get their Carabao Cup first round tie with MK Dons out the way, and a 5-0 romp secured their second round berth. The same XI should likely take to the field again, so confidence is already high at this early stage of the campaign.
Another is the factor that Parker hasn’t necessarily changed a massive amount at Bournemouth so far. I think he sees this as more of a gradual process, and in truth there isn’t an awful lot that does need changing.
We can expect to see a high pressing style of play, but I think the transformation in West Brom is much greater, and they’re likely to improve as the season progresses. WBA do have a strong squad and their results won’t necessarily suffer in the interim, but we’ll see the best of them in a few months.
I am leaning more towards Bournemouth in this one. I fully expect both to try and lay down a marker here, and as such an end-to-end game is anticipated, and a full stadium returning for a competitive match will surely spur the players on, too.
Jefferson Lerma is suspended for the home side, but the emergence of Gavin Kilkenny in pre-season in the holding role means the absence of the Colombian won’t be so heavily felt. He offers more creativity compared to the combative Lerma, but he can hold his own.
The 4/1 (Betfred) on offer for Bournemouth to Win and Both Teams To Score does appeal to me greatly. Whilst the opening day can sometimes be cagey, I just can’t see this one falling that way with the quality on show, having fans back and just the general return of competitive football.
High stakes aren’t advisable on the opening day, and it’s wise to allow the league to settle down and some trends can hopefully start to emerge.
Bournemouth vs West Brom – Bournemouth to Win and Both Teams To Score (4/1 Betfred)