WEST BROMWICH ALBION
Last season: 11th
FA Cup: Third round
Carling Cup: Fifth round
Opening three fixtures: Man Utd(h), Chelsea(a), Stoke(h)
Transfers in: Zoltan Gera (free agent), Ben Foster (Birmingham, loan), Billy Jones (free agent), Gareth McAuley (Ipswich, free), Marton Fulop (Ipswich, free), Shane Long (Reading, £4.5m).
Transfers out: Boaz Myhill (Birmingham, loan), Scott Carson (Bursaspor, undisclosed), Borja Valero (Villarreal), Chris Wood (Birmingham, loan)
Key man: Peter Odemwingie
Odds for relegation: 4/1
Odds for staying up: 7/50
Following their fourth promotion to the Premier League in a decade, West Brom spent much of last season flirting with the prospect of their fourth relegation in the same timeframe.
They were struggling in 17th before Roy Hodgson replaced Roberto Di Matteo in February and oversaw a run of two defeats in 12 games, resulting in a comfortable mid-table finish.
The experienced former Liverpool manager made astute summer signings, adding goalkeeper Ben Foster and Reading’s Shane Long to play alongside top scorer Peter Odemwingie.
With an extra year’s Premier League experience, I fully expect Albion to be safe and football betting fans can back them at 7/50 with bwin to stay up.
Nevertheless, tough opening fixtures could put them in trouble and with Hodgson saying the difference between their squad and the top sides is like comparing a suit from Tesco’s with one from Saville Row, odds of 4/1 for their relegation are also worth considering.
Odds for winning the handicap title market: 10/1
Odds for finishing above Blackburn Rovers: 17/20
West Brom will need their best players like Odemwingie, Chris Brunt and Graham Dorrans to stay fit and combine well with the new signings if they are to improve on last season.
But if the the 2010-11 campaign had started in February, Albion would have finished fifth, so, with a 39-point ‘headstart’ in bwin’s handicap league, odds of 10/1 look an attractive option.
Bwin has also set the more likely target of finishing above Blackburn Rovers, and given the respective quality of the two squads it’s definitely worth backing Albion at 17/20 to finish highest.
West Brom are a tricky side to back in any overall outright markets, with a comfortable mid-table finish (above Blackburn) the most likely outcome.
Given their competitiveness at the end of last season they are certainly contenders for the ‘handicap’ title, but backing a cup triumph arguably looks a better way to go.
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