It may only be a slither of hope, but Sam Allardyce and his team will be hoping to thicken that strand a little this weekend as Graham Potter’s Brighton and Hove Albion visit the Hawthorns.
The Baggies’ record against the other Albion is good – the Seagulls have never won a league game at the Hawthorns and the real Albion has a 100% record in home Premier League games against Brighton, albeit there has only been one!
Albion are well and truly into must win territory now with just thirteen games left and a massive eleven points to make up on 17th placed Newcastle United. It’s not quite impossible, but the Baggies cannot afford any more slip ups if they are to have any chance of survival.
The last two games have produced promising performances and, had they picked up the six points they arguably deserved rather than just two, things would be much more positive. Nonetheless, it has been a marked improvement and the players need to stay positive and keep belief. Momentum is a strange thing and just one win could get the ball rolling.
I’m not deluded, however, and I do expect Albion to be relegated. They need to average about two points per game for the remainder of the season and that is top four form – surely it is too much to ask.
All Baggies fans have the “if only” frustration at the moment. The remarkable turnaround in performances has led everyone to wonder what might have been had Albion managed to assemble this squad at the beginning of the season, or even early January, but it was not to be and we now have to hope for a miracle.
Allardyce will be without Semi Ajayi and Robert Snodgrass for Saturday’s match, but it is nice to say that the team more or less picks itself. O’Shea for Ajayi should be the only chance from the starting line up from Turf Moor, and Matt Phillips will be hoping to get longer than the half hour he got last Saturday after he was withdrawn following Semi’s red card.
Graham Potter’s team have played well for much of the season, but their frailties in front of goal have cost them. Their last match on Monday evening was a prime example – they should have beaten Crystal Palace easily but ended up losing to an injury time goal, their only league defeat in their last seven games.
Only twice in their last 16 Premier League games have Brighton scored more than once, and on neither occasion did they win – a 3-3 draw with Wolves and a 2-2 draw with West Ham. In the eight Premier League games since the six goal thriller with Wolves, the Seagulls have scored just five goals and conceded just four, so don’t expect a goal fest on Saturday.
Despite picking up 12 points in those 8 games, Brighton are just one point better off than Newcastle and also need the points – a win for Albion would not only give them three points, it would keep one more team just about in reach.
We can but hope.