Both sides in Saturday’s encounter between Bournemouth and Albion are mathematically safe following Norwich’s defeat at Arsenal last weekend, and both will breathe a sigh of relief as they are sitting 18th and 19th in the Premier League form table with only rock bottom Villa (11 consecutive defeats) below them.
With only two points from the last seven games, Albion’s season has somewhat petered out, although with one of those points coming at White Hart Lane, they at least had a say in the title run-in. The Cherries, on the other hand, won three on the bounce in early March to pull away from the drop zone, but have since lost five of their last six, with their only positive result being a win at Villa Park. Both teams will see this as their best chance to pick up some points from the last two games with Albion facing Liverpool at home, and Bournemouth travelling to Old Trafford on the final day.
Bournemouth have come a long way in the last few years, and it transpires that they bent a few financial rules to do so, losing more than £38m last season. It was revealed this week that this resulted in a £7.6m fine for a breach of the FFP regulations. Ouch!
This will be just the seventeenth meeting between the sides and, while Albion edge the overall record with seven wins to Bournemouth’s six, the hosts have won the last two meetings including December’s first ever win for them at the Hawthorns. Albion have won at Dean Court (/Seward Stadium/Vitality Stadium) once in the league, which was their last league visit. That was some 23 years ago when David Speedie scored the only goal in a Division Two fixture in January 1993. The Cherries won the last match in Bournemouth, in the League Cup last season, but the previous match saw the Baggies run out 4-1 winners in a League Cup tie in 2011 with Marc-Antoine Fortuné scoring his third brace for the club (he only scored 13 goals in total in his Albion career).
Albion have been accused of being on the beach in a few of their games recently, and I’m sure plenty of their fans will be on Saturday afternoon – given the weather forecast, it may be a struggle for them to tear themselves away to attend what is a fairly meaningless match.
As thoughts turn towards summer squad changes and next season, some players will be playing for a contract and I’m sure that Tony Pulis won’t want to finish the season on such a poor run, and he always likes to do well against his former clubs. Albion fans are still split on whether they want Pulis to stay, but I’m sure the conservative Jeremy Peace is unlikely to consider a change from a manager proven to keep you in the top flight year in year out.
The appointment of Nick Hammond as Director of Football seems to be a positive move as he comes with an excellent reputation from his time at Reading. It will be interesting to see how he and the Welshman get on, and I wouldn’t entirely be surprised to see a pre-season walk out from Pulis should things not be to his liking, although I’m sure he’ll make sure his contract is watertight before considering it!
There is a chance that James Morrison and Alex Pritchard could be fit enough to be available on Saturday, although Chris Brunt is out until next season. Jonathan Leko will be hoping for another start having impressed on his full debut last weekend, and Tyler Roberts could also be involved.
Max Gradel is a slight doubt for Bournemouth and Sylvain Distin, Adam Smith and Tyrone Mings are unlikely to play again this season.
Two teams in poor form but both desperate for a win – I think it will finish all square.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
19 Dec 2015 – Premier League
West Brom 1 (McAuley)
AFC Bournemouth 2 (Smith, Daniels (pen))
Last meeting at AFC Bournemouth
28 Oct 2014 – League Cup 4th Round
AFC Bournemouth 2 (O’Kane, Wilson)
West Brom 1 (Elphick (o.g.))
23 Aug 2011 – League Cup 2nd Round
AFC Bournemouth 1 (Lovell)
West Brom 4 (Thomas, Fortuné (2), Cox)
Albion’s Record against AFC Bournemouth
|Premier League Record|