The Premier League weekend concludes this evening the visit of Southampton to the Black Country to face West Bromwich Albion. The Saints, who are rock-bottom after nine matches, will be desperate to get their campaign up and running, but will have to be at their very best to trouble a Baggies side that has beaten the likes of Liverpool and Everton already this season.
West Brom boss Steve Clarke may be without Shane Long, who has had scans on a hamstring problem this week. If the Irishman misses out, Romelu Lukaku will be the man to lead the line against the Saints. Midfield metronome Claudio Yacob is also a doubt, but Billy Jones should be fit to resume duties at right-back. Southampton could welcome back Gaston Ramirez, who will add to Nigel Adkins' attacking dilemma; the Uruguayan will vie with Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez for two starting berths.
Back-to-back wins over Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday (in the League Cup) brightened up Southampton's September, but things have gone awry since: they've picked up just one point from a possible 12 in the league, and suffered a humiliating 3-0 loss to Leeds last week. Their away record in the Premier League makes for worrying reading: they've lost four out of four on the road, conceding 16 goals in the process. The Baggies, meanwhile, have won all but one of their home games - and that loss came against reigning champions Manchester City. The omens are not good for the Saints, then...
Five of the last six competitive meetings between these sides have ended in draws, the most recent of which came in the 2007/08 Championship season. Chris Brunt and Adam Lallana scored the goals that day, and will be keen to stamp their mark at the Hawthorns this evening.
Lukaku, who is coming off an excellent display against Newcastle last week, looks the best value bet to net the opening goal. The bustling Belgian is available at 6.00 to open the scoring. James Morrison (3.35 to score) is another Baggies player to watch out for; he's been operating in an advanced midfield role this season. For the Saints, the ever-potent Lambert is at 8.00 to net first, while Lallana can be backed at 5.50 to score anytime.
Southampton have won admirers with their gung-ho style, but they will likely come up short against Steve Clarke's side. West Brom have been ruthless at home this term, and represent decent value at 1.67 for the win.
West Brom 2-1 Southampton (8.00)
While both teams to score (1.57) has been a great bet in Southampton games this year, the odds aren't hugely attractive. A better bet would be Draw/West Brom in the HT/FT market, at 4.90. The hosts aren't the quickest starters, meaning Saints could well get to the break on level terms.