Stoke vs West Brom | Friday 1st October 2021, 19:45 | Sky Sports
On Friday night, West Bromwich Albion make the 40 mile journey up the MG to take on Stoke City at the bet365 Stadium, with the Baggies going in search of a third win on the bounce, whilst also looking to at least preserve their unbeaten start to the Championship season. Michael O’Neill’s Stoke aren’t doing too bad either, with them currently occupying a play-off position.
As mentioned, WBA have won their last two games and both in different manners. They had to come from behind last week at home to QPR, before a late show saw them secure all three points.
It was a much more comfortable night in Wales on Tuesday however as they hammered Cardiff 4-0 to pile more pressure onto Bluebirds boss Mick McCarthy. Karlan Grant has found his scoring boots again with three in his last two, and after some indifferent performances the team as a whole will just be happy to really dominate a game and get what they deserve.
Stoke have quietly gone about their business this season but talk of a serious promotion push is really starting to gather momentum. They’ve made some canny signings over time, but they’ll be missing one of those here as Romaine Sawyers is ineligible to feature versus his parent club.
Whilst losing a key player like that may have been a problem in recent seasons, O’Neill has good options at his disposal this time around, even still with the likes of Joe Allen and Steven Fletcher being injury concerns. Tyrese Campbell is finally nearing a return from a lengthy lay-off, so there really is plenty to be optimistic about from a Stoke perspective.
This will arguably be the biggest test Valérien Ismaël as West Brom boss. Sure, he faced Bournemouth away in his first game but that was on the opening day and neither would have been completely at 100% for that. Now the league has settled down, we very much now this Stoke team mean business, and the fact they remain unbeaten at bet365 Stadium further enhances their prospects.
On the flip side, this will be Stoke’s biggest test as well. I mention their unbeaten home record, but on paper you’d say it was Huddersfield or Reading were the strongest opposition they’ve faced. They should still relish the challenge though as it is probably games like this which will really tell us where they are at and how serious we can treat them in the promotion picture.
Nick Powell scoring in back-to-back games since returning from injury adds another goal threat to the Friday’s hosts, which will give the WBA backline something else to think about on the night.
It’s all set to be a ‘cold night in Stoke’, but can West Brom keep up the winning trend? Certainly they’re capable and they have momentum, but Stoke are no pushovers anymore. Scoring goals had been their problem last season but they’ve certainly kicked on in that aspect in that campaign.
They’re actually only three points better off than they were at this point last season, so they’ve still got in all to prove in that regard. I can really only see a tight game on Friday, with fine margins likely to determine the winner, if there is one.
My one concern about Stoke is that they’re more prepared to play from the back these days, and West Brom are the best pressing side in the division. We could quite easily see some turnovers that would be the home team on the back foot. Ismaël has very much taken the style that took Barnsley to the play-offs against the odds to this group of ultimately better players at West Brom, and they’re reaping the rewards.
That being said, value is the name of the game here and seeing quotes of 9/4 and 2/1 on a home win here does look tempting, especially with them being so strong at home. Then again, they’re still to prove themselves here against the top sides in the division, and you could argue they’ve only faced one ‘top team’ this season in the form of Fulham, and lost 3-0, albeit away from home.
Rather than deliberate it too much longer, I will put together a few little selections for this one, which should be another good watch to get your weekend up-and-running. I again make no apologies for jumping on the player card markets here, which you rarely get in Championship games, unless they’re televised.
Mario Vrancic has really hit the ground running since joining from Norwich and has one goal and four assists to his name already. Stoke always look to get him on the ball, and with West Brom pressing him hard I’m just banking on him getting dispossessed and maybe conceding a few too many cheap fouls to break up counter attacks from progression. 10/3 (Bet365) on him getting booked is worthy of interest.
Finally, I think a bit of a punt on West Brom to Score in Both Halves is worthy of some interest at 11/4 (Bet365). They’re the sort of team that don’t really sit back when they get ahead, especially when scoring fairly early. I can see them really wanting to lay down a bit of a marker here to back up what they did to Cardiff in midweek.
A difficult game awaits both these teams but I’d fancy West Brom to get a few goals if they went ahead more so compared to Stoke.