Premier League 17/18 Week 30: West Bromwich Albion vs Leicester City -Lineups, Preview and Prediction
The Beleaguered Baggies host a Foxes side without a win in five as Alan Pardew looks to earn a stay of execution
15:00 GMT, Saturday 10th March, The Hawthorns (Birmingham, England)
Alan Pardew continues to helm the struggling Baggies but for how much longer remains a source of much speculation. Having lost their last 6 matches including their FA Cup defeat to Southampton, West Brom are now firmly rooted to the bottom of the table and effectively nine puts adrift of safety due to their inferior goal difference. Left playing for pride rather than survival, Pardew will be keen to add to the solitary win he’s achieved with the Baggies from his first 15 games in charge of the club.
Claude Puel has also overseen a recent barren run of his team, however, not to such an extreme extent as that experienced by his opposite number this weekend. Without a win in their last 5 league games, the Foxes have picked up 3 draws in this time but it’s prevented them from climbing above 8th in the table. With only 8 points separating them from Arsenal, this could be seen as an opportunity wasted, however, Leicester can rectify their drop in form with a visit to a side they’ve beaten in each of their last 3 games at the Hawthorns.
Last Time Out
Watford 1-0 West Bromwich Albion (Premier League)
An improved game from the Baggies made little difference to the result as West Brom fell to their 5th successive league defeat. Having switched his side to a 4-5-1 formation, there was more structure to the team and more of an attacking threat behind Salomón Rondón.
The Venezuelan striker was yet again guilty of wasting West Brom’s best chances of the match, especially at the beginning of the second half when he was put through on goal with only the keeper to beat.
Jonny Evans also saw a shot clip the outside of the post but there were only two shots on target from West Brom throughout the afternoon. Watford were marginally the better side and thanks to Troy Deeney’s goal, Ben Foster could not keep a clean sheet in his 200th Premier League appearance and the Hornets marginally won the match.
Leicester City 1-1 Bournemouth (Premier League)
The Foxes earned a third-consecutive 1-1 home draw in the league with a performance that left plenty of room for improvement. Only a magnificent free-kick deep in injury time from Riyad Mahrez snatched a point which had otherwise been looking unlikely.
A physical first half saw the Cherries have the better moments, and they went ahead through a penalty when Marc Albrighton made a reckless challenge just after the half-hour mark. The Foxes slowly grew into the game after the break and built momentum, especially through Mahrez who grew in confidence over the 90 minutes.
Despite forcing 11 corners in the second half alone, Leicester could not carve open many clear-cut opportunities and were left until seconds from the end for their goal to arrive.
West Brom Lineup
Daniel Sturridge (hamstring) again misses out for the Baggies with Jonny Evans (illness) Gareth Barry (knock) Nacer Chadli (thigh) and James Morrison (Achilles) also missing for this fixture.
Only Daniel Amartey (hamstring) will be missing from the squad this weekend giving Puel many options on who to play in his starting lineup. Following a limp midfield performance last weekend, Puel should make adjustments to his starting eleven with Vicente Iborra one particular player deserving of another run of games in the team.
Key Battle: Jake Livermore (West Brom) vs Shinji Okazaki (Leicester)
Making his first start in over a month, Livermore was one of the small positives for Pardew to take away from West Brom’s latest defeat. Playing the holding role in central midfield, this change of position worked well for both player and team, providing an upgrade to the recent displays of Gareth Barry and Grzegorz Krychowiak who have both been used in this role. Livermore worked tirelessly to prevent Watford time and space in front of the Baggies defence and could again give a strong foundation from which their attacking players can build from.
While Puel is trying to turn Leicester into a team playing a possession-based style, he is caught between the present and the future. With player confidence slowly being eroded, a win this weekend is essential to move his side forward and could cause him to turn to a familiar face in attack. Okazaki is the most effective “number 10” player in the squad and can get the most out of Jamie Vardy during a game.
Playing for their manager?
Alan Pardew stated this week that his players were guilty of not believing in the own abilities on the football pitch. With one of the most experienced squads in the Premier League, the West Brom dressing room should, in theory, have contained enough knowledge and maturity to dig their way out of trouble.
Their latest defeat came on the back of a dressing room blast from midfielder Chris Brunt. Among those caught in the crossfire of his wrath was Pardew who he blamed for deploying the wrong formation and tactics in recent games. Having relented to his player’s advice with the appropriate changes last weekend, the Baggies put in a more impressive display. This leaves the question floating whether the team were playing for the player or manager against Watford and if Pardew still commands the respect of his squad.
Many Leicester fans woke up to the news on Wednesday morning that Riyad Mahrez had apparently retired from football due to medical advice. While it’s not known whether the Russian’s were involved, this has been squarely blamed on a hacked Facebook account posting the fake news message through his official feed.
With instances of badly conceived messages appearing on various social media platforms now commonplace that verified player accounts are often run by a marketing team rather than the individual is not major news. It questions the wisdom of players allowing others direct access to something which can heavily impact their personal image, especially when their own actions can upset the base of the club’s supporters such as Mahrez’s recent transfer saga’s.
Prediction: West Bromwich Albion 0-2 Leicester City
Having scored the winning goal in each of his last three matches at the Hawthorns, Vardy will provide a serious threat to the West Brom defence once again. It’s the lack of any such threat in the Baggies side which has been the downfall for much of this season and could again leave them struggling against the Foxes who should be able to claim their first win in 6 attempts in the league this weekend.