PROMOTION contenders West Brom and Derby meet on Wednesday and EFL expert Gab Sutton (@_FootbalLab) shares his selections.
West Brom vs Derby | Wednesday 8th July 2020, 17:00 | Sky Sports
After losing to fellow Midlanders Aston Villa in the play-offs last season, West Brom and Derby are both keen to win promotion this time around.
The Baggies can do so automatically, having gone five points clear of third place with a 4-2 win over Hull City in their previous encounter.
Their visitors, meanwhile, would need to achieve promotion via the Play-Offs – and to get in there, they must overtake an in-form Cardiff side.
Much is riding on this game for both teams – but who will come out on top?
Albion’s victory over Hull was an enthralling, end-to-end affair. Slaven Bilic’s side showed their quality with Matheus Pereira achieving three assists and Kamil Grosicki always looking a valuable outlet.
On the flip side, they may consider themselves fortunate not to have conceded more than twice, because Hull spurned numerous chances before they established a two-goal lead.
It was a similar story in the preceding game at Sheffield Wednesday where, although West Brom won 3-0, they were outshot 14-9 and saw their hosts fail to capitalise on several chances with the game goalless.
Hull and Wednesday do not have as much individual quality as Derby do, so we are looking at a Baggies side who will provide a goal threat, but one that could also display defensive vulnerabilities.
Derby drew the derby
Phillip Cocu’s side were somewhat fortunate to snatch a point in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest. They had a lot of the play in the opposing half but also lacked the width to stretch their rivals, who in the second half hit the post and spurned a one-on-one among other chances.
Wayne Rooney no longer has the physical qualities required to operate high up the pitch and thus he is now the deepest of Derby’s midfielders. This can be an advantage when he is not pressed, because it means there is time and space for one of the most technically gifted players English football have seen this century – and there is no denying Rooney’s impact.
When he is pressed, though, he does not have the mobility to elude challengers and because the 34-year-old is operate as a borderline quarterback for the first time in his career, he is still learning defensive aspects of the role.
For that reason, Rooney’s body posture in defensive phases can be suspect and it is possible that we could see Derby become vulnerable to counter-attacks.
The tactics board
Although West Brom are better in many ways than Derby’s previous opponents, they will pose less of a threat in certain respects. An opposing midfield trio of Ben Watson, Ryan Yates and Samba Sow gave Forest central solidity and pressing prowess, both of which counter-acted Derby’s main strengths.
A theoretical opposing midfield trio of Jake Livermore, Romaine Sawyers and Filip Krovinovic, by contrast, is much more languid, with Livermore being the only player known for what he does without the ball – and he’ll operate in a similar area to Watson. For that reason, we can expect Rooney to find life easier in his own half without facing an intense press.
Plus, because Sawyers and Krovinovic are not as switched on without the ball as Yates and Sow, Derby could have more opportunities to rotate and combine in advanced, central areas which is the crux of their game under Phillip Cocu.
If attacking right-back Darnell Furlong comes into West Brom’s XI, though, for centre-back by trade Dara O’Shea, then Bilic’s troops will have somebody overlapping Matheus Pereira.
The brilliant Brazilian loves to come inside onto his sweet left foot, so an outside option would double Pereira’s threat and cause problems for Craig Forsyth or Max Lowe – especially if either’s left-sided partner, Jason Knight, is overambitious in the press.
In essence, both teams have the potential to stretch the other in what could be an exciting contest.
The betting angle
Derby are surprisingly big underdogs for this match, considering they are the Championship’s form team in 2020.
For those interested in getting an even bigger price than the outright Rams victory at 15/4, it may be tempting to do so by backing a goal-heavy encounter.
The Rams have won eight of their last 14 games and five of those victories have come with more than three goals scored.
West Brom vs Derby – Derby to win and Over 3.5 Goals (14/1 Coral)