West Brom v Newcastle
Sunday 7 March, 12:00
Live on Amazon Prime
‘Must win’ for Allardyce
West Brom lost 1-0 at home to Everton on Thursday night, leaving them still second bottom of the Premier League and nine points from safety with 11 games to play.
With Newcastle the first team above the drop zone in 17th, this is a big chance for Sam Allardyce’s team to cut into the deficit. The former Newcastle boss has admitted this is now ‘must win‘ territory.
The Baggies did that last weekend with a 1-0 home win over Brighton that kept their defeated opponents within range in the relegation fight.
Allardyce has to deal with less than a 72-hour turnaround from the Everton match, whereas Newcastle have not played for eight days, but the West Brom boss has most of his squad available for selection.
Kieran Gibbs is still out and Robert Snodgrass is doubtful.
Big injury list for Bruce
Newcastle won the reverse fixture 2-1 at St James’ Park in December but have won only two out of 15 since then, dropping them from mid-table into the thick of the relegation battle.
Both of those victories came in their last six games (2-0 at Everton and 3-2 at home to Southampton) and they took another valuable point in their latest match last weekend with a 1-1 home draw against Wolves.
Those recent results suggest Steve Bruce has a squad that is playing for him but cracks appeared with this week’s training-ground bust-up between Bruce and Matt Ritchie following a breakdown in communications over a formation change in the Wolves game.
Bruce’s biggest problem has been that he has not been able to call on his best players for much of the season.
That is the case again with Callum Wilson (hamstring), Allan Saint-Maximin (groin) and Miguel Almiron (knee) all on the injury list for this crunch match. Fabian Schar and Javi Manquillo are also sidelined.
The attacking positions are likely to go to Joelinton, Ryan Fraser and Jacob Murphy.
West Brom’s record under Allardyce is W2 D4 L8 but there have been signs of improvement. Having lost five of their first seven games in his reign, they have taken something from four of the last seven.
Most of the defeats have been against top-half teams and generally they have not been competitive at either end of the pitch against that class of opponent, often losing heavily to nil.
It has been a different story against the sides that started the weekend from 12th down, with a W2 D2 L1 record under Allardyce, and that raises hope here.
Newcastle have been seriously hampered by the absence of their key attacking players and that could be a major factor again with Wilson, Saint-Maximin and Almiron all missing.
Wilson scored both goals in the 2-0 win at Everton, while Saint-Maximin returned to the starting line-up for the first time after his Covid absence for the 3-2 win over Southampton in early February, in which Almiron scored twice and Saint-Maximin made two assists.
Those three have made most goal contributions for Newcastle with Wilson on 15 (10 goals, five assists) and Saint-Maximin and Almiron on five apiece.
Bruce’s team have scored only six of their 27 Premier League goals without at least one of that trio making a contribution, and often it has been a combination of them.
It is also worth noting that Newcastle’s record this season with Wilson and Saint-Maximin in the side is W4 D1 L3 but without them it is W3 D4 L11.
This looks likely to be a tight, nervy match but West Brom might be able to edge it with Newcastle’s attack severely blunted by the absence of their key players.
Under Allardyce, the Baggies have lost only one out of five when they have limited the opposition to no more than a goal (that defeat was Thursday’s against Everton) and that scenario could unfold here.
Siding with West Brom off 0 on the Asian handicap at 1.774/5 looks a reasonable play.
Given their limited attacking options, both managers will be looking to nick three points in a tight game and many will expect a low-scoring match.
Under 2.5 goals is available at 1.75/7.
Both teams have a slight edge towards unders (West Brom 52%, Newcastle 54%) but it is worth noting that West Brom’s figure has risen significantly to 64% in games against current bottom-eight sides.
Newcastle nudge up to 61% under 2.5 goals when both Wilson and Saint-Maximin are not in the starting line-up.
Newcastle have lost eight of their last 10 Premier League away games, winning the other two. All three of the Magpies’ victories on the road this season have been by a 2-0 scoreline and have been goalless at half-time. Draw-Newcastle is 6.86/1 on the Half Time/Full Time and a Newcastle 2-0 win is 17.5.