West Brom vs Watford predictions: Baggies can draw Hornets' sting
West Brom and Watford each have designs on promotion back to the Premier League this season and while both made promising starts to their 2022-23 campaigns, it was the Hornets who caught the eye on the opening weekend.
Watford manager Rob Edwards arrived at Vicarage Road having taken Forest Green up into League One last term and he got his new club off to the perfect start by beating fellow promotion hopefuls Sheffield United 1-0.
In the West Brom dugout, Steve Bruce has plenty to prove after he oversaw a drop from sixth place to 10th in the Championship last season following his February arrival.
But an away draw at Middlesbrough last weekend showed plenty of promise.
Three of Bruce’s four summer signings started last weekend, with Jayson Molumby retaining his place after making his loan move permanent while John Swift and Jed Wallace impressed on debut.
All three are likely to feature again in the West Brom XI.
Okay Yokuslu, returning to the club following a 2021 loan spell, missed out last weekend but is back in contention and will likely feature at least on the bench.
Watford manager Edwards has a near fully-fit squad, with only Imran Louza unavailable through injury.
None of Edwards' seven new signings started last weekend – albeit striker Rey Manaj did come off the bench – but right-back Mario Gaspar comes into contention after signing last week from Villarreal and could slot straight into the starting line-up.
West Brom might have been disappointing as they fell away from the promotion scrap last season, but there are reasons for Baggies fans to be optimistic about the upcoming campaign.
A lack of goals was a huge problem for Bruce’s men last term, with only six Championship sides scoring fewer, but the club went some way to addressing that by signing attacking pair Wallace and Swift.
Last season Swift scored 11 Championship goals and laid on 13 assists for Reading, while Wallace netted six and provided 12 assists for Millwall.
The pair got off to a flying start last weekend at Middlesbrough, too, with Wallace setting up Swift for the equaliser.
While that hints at an attacking improvement, the Baggies were solid in defence last term and particularly so on home soil.
West Brom went unbeaten at The Hawthorns against every top-half opponent they hosted in 2021-22, winning five of those matches – including victory on four occasions when hosting top-six visitors.
Watford slipped from the Premier League in disarray last term, losing 10 of their final 12 matches and scoring at a rate of just 0.75 goals per game in that run.
However, in their last Premier League relegation season in 2019-20, Watford dropped from the top division having scored similarly few goals – 36 to last season’s 34 – but they bounced straight back up from the Championship as runners-up.
Supporters will be hopeful that a repeat performance is on the cards after their opening-day performance against Sheffield United.
Not only did they take all three points but it was also only the third time in 14 Championship games that a ball-playing Blades' side had not had more possession than their opponents.
With transfer speculation hanging over Watford’s attacking pair Ismaila Sarr and Emmanuel Dennis, visiting manager Edwards may be keen to take advantage of the strike power at his disposal and go all out for the win.
However, as every top-half visitor found last season, The Hawthorns is not an easy place to go and Watford visit a West Brom side who may have addressed their problems in front of goal and thus can offer a potent counter-punching threat.
Both may offer plenty of intent in the early stages but if the game is level going deep into the second half, it is hard to see either Bruce or Edwards risking too much in pursuit of victory.
A draw seems the likeliest outcome.