Formerly a strong region for Premier League football, the Midlands doesn't offer up too much any more. West Brom spent the first half of the season trying to restore some pride, but host Aston Villa this Saturday teatime without a win since the distant Boxing Day.
Despite the recent drop off at the Hawthorns, the panic is far greater in neighbouring Birmingham where the second city's top flight reputation looks in greater threat each week. The prices certainly reflect the 11-place gap in the table: West Brom are widely available at 8/11 and the guests as big as 9/2 with Pinnacle. Whilst the prices fairly represent the point difference, they aren't fair indicators of current form.
Historically, this derby is tighter than Doug Ellis and Deborah Meaden's hideous lovechild. This match hasn't been won by two clear goals since 1985 and hasn't gone over 3.5 goals since the year before that. That rules out any handicap markets but those same stats do point to a Goals Galore selection, six of the last seven games ending with both team sides on the score sheet.
Before we even considered both teams scoring, this game looked set to be the tale of two strikers. Two similar strikers. Two Belgian strikers. Football Manager supremo Romelu Lukaku showed last week why Chelsea splurged on the teenager, scoring twice along with taking up most of the Match Of The Day highlights, until a catastrophic capitulation. Aston Villa boast their own strong, pacey finisher in Lukaku's countryman Christian Benteke, or 'Our only hope' as the fans call him. It's still a bit too cold for Darren Bent, so Benteke shall continue as a lone forward. These two Belgians have eight first goals between them; Lukaku priced at 4/1 and Benteke 8/1 to score first with William Hill.
Steve Clark will be looking at this fixture to kickstart his 2013, and all signs say they should. But come the 85th minute, Baggies fans won't be stood at the bar ordering their victory beer. Even with the very different seasons so far, this should be closer than most think. West Brom to win 2-1 is 17/2 with BetVictor and is very much worth considering (feel free to scorecast that with the two aforementioned scorers). For the safer punter Ladbrokes will give you 14/5 that West Brom win by one goal.
Lukaku to score first @ 4/1 with William Hill
Benteke to score first @ 8/1 with William Hill
West Brom to win 2-1 @ 17/2 with Bet Victor