West Brom v Birmingham: Baggies backed on Friday night

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CHAMPIONSHIP specialist James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) takes a look at Friday night's fixture between regional rivals West Brom and Birmingham.

West Brom v Birmingham | Friday 29th March 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports

A week ago, Birmingham were heading into this encounter with hopes of possibly making a late run at the play-offs, but that is no longer the case. A nine-point deduction by the EFL for breaching profitability and sustainability rules means that Garry Monk’s side are now looking over their shoulders all of a sudden.

Whilst many will feel as though they will avoid relegation, the reality is that they’re only five points above the drop zone, have lost four in a row and sides below them are starting to pick up points.

West Brom, on the other hand, have a very different agenda and still harbour hopes of an instant return to the Premier League. They have a seven-point gap to the top two to try and overcome, which may seem out of reach, but caretaker boss James Shan has overseen back-to-back wins since Darren Moore was surprisingly dismissed, to give them some hope.

A play-off spot at least looks to be relatively safe for the Baggies, but three points on Friday will apply pressure on the likes of Leeds United and Sheffield United above them in the standings.

Shan shall look to continue what he has overseen so far. Albion defeated solid outfits in the form of Swansea and Brentford in the last two, keeping two clean sheets in the process. That is an achievement in itself against two teams that contain big goal threats, plus West Brom themselves haven’t been known for being as tight at the back this season as their fourth in the table position may suggest.

Whilst the side from The Hawthorns have struck a strong defensive foundation all of a sudden, Monk is left wondering where the goals have suddenly gone. Losing four in a row is a concern in itself, but the fact they’ve scored zero goals in that period is just as alarming. Blues have 53 Championship goals to their name, and the striker pairing of Che Adams and Lukas Jutkiewicz are responsible for 31 of those combined.

It comes as no surprise to see that West Brom’s price is decreasing in the days leading up to this match. They are in-form, have home advantage and are ultimately now 26 points better off than their Friday night opponents.

It really will be fascinating to see Birmingham in the coming weeks. This is probably the perfect sort of game for them to have at this time. Motivation won’t be any issue. They’d love to get one over a rival, especially one challenging near the top. Birmingham have their own need for points, so they cannot afford to feel too sorry for themselves.

Keeping West Brom onside

Odds-on quotes for West Brom don’t appeal too much, even if they’ll probably be popular on coupons going into the weekend. There has to be another way to locate some value. I believe I’ve found it.

We do want to keep West Brom on side as they have shown a different side to them in recent weeks. Whilst I am one who wasn’t in favour of the decision to remove Moore, the performances since then suggest some logic in that, even if that doesn’t change my initial thoughts. West Brom are just a team to stick with right now, and Birmingham are best observed for now at least.

For all that West Brom have been involved in lots of high-scoring matches this season, it is Norwich who has the highest averaging goals per game in the Championship. West Brom still sits at a high 3.20, but six of the last nine in the league has ended under 3.5. As for Birmingham, just two of their previous nine has beat the 3.5 goal line.

You’ve guessed it, West Brom to win and Under 3.5 Goals is my call at 6/4 (Betway).

Exact Total Goals

With that in mind, there is another market I’d like to get involved with. Although West Brom won their last game 1-0, there was enough chances at either end to warrant more goals being scored. Birmingham’s last clash ended in a 1-0 score too, but again, chances fell in that as well.

The last 10 head-to-head meetings between these too has seen at least 2+ goals scored, including the earlier season 1-1 draw at St Andrews.

Whilst both are struggling to beat the 3.5 line in their respective matches of late, the 1.5 line across the season has regularly been smashed. 32/38 of West Brom’s matches has finished O1.5, and the same for 27/38 of Birmingham’s.

Over half of West Brom’s home ties in the league this season has contained exactly two or three goals. It is 37% in Birmingham’s league encounters overall, which beats the percentage for games containing 0 or 1 goals or 4+.

I like the look of 2 or 3 Total Goals in this match at 11/10 (BetVictor).

Baggies to come good in the final-third

As I look to make it three from three on this Midlands derby, there is one final selection I’d like to suggest. I like the odds on offer as well.

The average time for West Brom’s first goal is 54 minutes. They’ve netted within that time in both of their matches under Shan. We all can see the goal threat this Baggies side possess, and Birmingham, who are lacking goals at present, might look to try and keep things tight in this game with that in mind. They are able to play something of a defensive game and have some joy, derby matches can become tight as it is. West Brom should breakthrough eventually, given their desire to win in their chase of automatic promotion.

The average time Birmingham concede is around the 54 minute mark. The comparison between that and when West Brom score is there for all to see. So how do we find a way to try and use this to our advantage? I’ll tell you.

West Brom to be Leading After 60 Minutes at odds of 23/20 (Coral)

Best Bets

West Brom v Birmingham – West Brom to win and Under 3.5 Goals (6/4 Betway)

West Brom v Birmingham – 2 or 3 Total Goals (11/10 BetVictor)

West Brom v Birmingham – West Brom to be leading after 60 minutes (23/20 Coral)

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