Sunderland v West Brom
Sunderland played in the only championship match last weekend and the 3-0 win will have given them plenty of hope that a play off position could still be within reach. Sunderland have gained vital match sharpness from that match and so will come into this match at full speed, which could be a huge advantage to them over their opposition who may need to work their way into the match. Sunderland could also be buoyed by a return to action from Ross Stewart after his recent injury, however he is unlikely to be fit enough to start so Ellis Simms will still be the man leading the line in this match.
West Brom had a torrid start to the season but had started to find their form under new manager Carlos Corberan, they won their last 3 matches before the World Cup break and will be desperate to carry that form on so they can move out of the relegation zone. West Brom can take faith from Nottingham Forest’s run from the relegation zone to promotion last season and that will be Corberan’s aim for the remainder of this season. West Brom look to play a possession based passing style which will provide a very interesting match up against a Sunderland team with a lot of pace, that are happy to play on the counter.
Sunderland’s defensive system sees them concede a lot of chances from balls in behind their defence. Therefore, Sunderland have struggled to defend against less physical strikers who have really good movement. Scott Hogan had 2 shots on target against Sunderland, Tom Bradshaw had a shot on target for Millwall against Sunderland and Jordan Rhodes had 2 shots for Huddersfield against Sunderland.
Brandon Thomas-Asante will likely be chosen to start for West Brom in this game, especially after he scored a wonder goal in West Brom’s previous Championship match. Thomas-Asante loves to play on the shoulder of the last defender, so this game suits him perfectly. I see Thomas-Asante being West Brom’s most dangerous player in this game, Sunderland have allowed the opposition centre forward to have a shot in 4 of their last 5 matches so I am predicting for the same to happen in this match.
Alex Pritchard is so important to Sunderland attacks and is often the driving force that creates chances. He is the key to Sunderland, often the player that is finding the passes to the wingers in behind which allows Sunderland to move up the pitch. While Pritchard has only scored 2 goals this season, he is not shy with shooting. Pritchard averages 1.9 shots per 90 but only 0.36 shots on target per 90.
This poor shot on target percentage is mainly down to how far from goal he often shoots, on average he shoots from 22.5 yards out from the goal. Pritchard is also on free-kicks, he averages 0.6 shots per 90 just from direct free-kicks and as Sunderland are the joint most fouled team per 90 he gets plenty of opportunities from these situations.
In West Brom’s final match before the winter break 62% of opposition xG came from central attacks, this is ideal for Pritchard. After running the game in the last Sunderland match, Pritchard will come in full of confidence and should be more than capable of hitting 2 shots in this match.
One of West Brom’s strongest points is their set pieces. Only 2 teams have had more shots from set pieces per 90 this season than West Brom and Sunderland are pretty average when it comes to defending them. Kyle Bartley is an important player for West Brom under Corberan and for a centre back, his shooting numbers are astonishing. He has had 1.99 shots per 90 so far this season and since Corberan took over he has had 7 shots in the 3 matches he has played.
One of the only teams better at set pieces than West Brom is Millwall, who Sunderland played in their last match. Millwall had shooting opportunities from 4 separate corners in that game so Bartley will fancy his chances of at least 1 shot in this match.
While Corberan did use a back three in his first match as West Brom manager, he has since switched to a back four in their last 3 games, all of which they won. With a back four, Corberan encourages his full backs to push forwards on either side. These full backs will have to be very careful against Sunderland, they love to keep Jack Clarke and Amad Diallo in wide positions where they can be key for counter attacks.
Sunderland’s wingers are their best counter attacking outlets, Diallo and Clarke combine for 0.63 xG+xA per 90. Diallo’s brilliant recent form has forced Patrick Roberts to sit on the bench recently, his goalscoring threat particularly has made him a key player in recent games. Diallo has only started 7 games for Sunderland this season but has scored 4 goals, as many as Jack Clarke has in 20 matches.
Diallo is averaging 0.97 shots on target per 90 and has had a shot on target in all his last 6 appearances. With West Brom’s full backs pushing high up the pitch, Diallo should have some great chances, so I am backing him for a shot on target.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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