Sako welcomes Albion opportunity

Versatile forward Bakary Sako is relishing an opportunity to help West Bromwich Albion challenge for an immediate return to the Premier League.

The 30-year-old was a free agent after leaving Crystal Palace at the end of last season and has opted to join the Baggies on a season-long deal after being the subject of interest from a number of top-flight clubs.

And Mali international Sako, who has also played in England with Wolves, has revealed that the influence of Albion boss Darren Moore was a major factor in him heading to The Hawthorns.

He told his new club's official website: "A lot of Premier League clubs wanted me, but as soon as I knew Darren Moore wanted to see me I went to see him straight away and we clicked.

"The way he manages players, the way he talks, he's passionate and I love that – that's why I came here."

Meanwhile, Moore himself was delighted to have landed Sako, adding: "He brings great experience and adds greatly to our goal threat across a range of positions. He brings competition to the group and a know-how of this division.

"He's been a credit while he's been training with us and I can vouch for the fact that the way he has committed to us has been exceptional."

The Baggies, who top the Championship table heading into a midweek round of games, are back in action on Wednesday evening when they head to Hillsborough to take on Sheffield Wednesday.

They are 11/10 to defeat the Owls and are 10/1 to win the game 2-0, with the visitors 9/4 to keep a clean sheet.

View all Soccer betting

Livermore issues warning to rivals

Jake Livermore has warned West Brom's rivals that "there is a lot more to come from us" after they went to the top of the Championship table.

Darren Moore's side took advantage of Leeds United's 1-1 draw at Sheffield Wednesday on Friday and Middlesbrough's inability to win at lowly Hull City to take over at the top thanks to a 3-2 win at bottom side Preston on Saturday.

Jay Rodriguez, a Ben Davies own goal and Dwight Gayle scored the goals at Deepdale as the Baggies made it three wins in succession to move them a point clear of Leeds, Boro and Sheffield United.

And, while Livermore insisted that the players were delighted with the win and to go top, he is adamant that they have yet to find their best form this season.

He told the club's website: "Most importantly it was a massive three points but we know within ourselves there's a lot more to come from us.

"This team has more to offer. Our mission today was to come out and get the three points. But we probably played better in the opening game of the season against Bolton and came away with nothing.

"It's good we're finding ways to win games now. So credit to the boys and the coaching staff and it was fantastic to get the win.

"We're under no illusions this season we're going to face teams who make it difficult for us to come and play. We may have to adapt the way we play but the most important thing is we come away with a win. By no means were we at our best but the main thing is the result and all in all it was a good day's work."

West Brom, who are 9/4 to win the Championship this season, can maintain their place at the top of the table on Wednesday when they travel to Sheffield Wednesday.

The Baggies are 1/1 to win at Hillsborough, while the Owls are priced at 13/5 to win with the draw 5/2.

View all Soccer betting

Moore expecting Albion response

West Brom boss Darren Moore has demanded a much improved showing from his team when they welcome high-flying Bristol City to the Hawthorns on Tuesday.

Albion have made a strong start to life in the Championship following their relegation from the Premier League last season and are currently 2/1 to be promoted having taken 11 points from their first seven games.

However, the Baggies were off colour in their last outing, escaping St Andrews' with a point after a 1-1 draw with Birmingham City.

Blues missed a penalty and a whole host of chances against Moore's men, who looked shaky at the back.

The West Brom boss says he is expecting a much better display from his defenders as they gear up to face a Bristol City side who have won their last four matches, lifting them to third in the Championship.

“It was unlike us,” said Moore. “It was a bad day at the office, and it wasn’t just one or two, it was six or seven of the players. It was an off-day.

“I know the players, I work with them every day, they’re fantastic players. We’ll reflect on that game and try put those wrongs right in this game.”

West Brom have won their last two at home but Moore says it will be far from easy to extend that run, admitting Lee Johnson's Bristol City have impressed him during the early part of the season.

“They’re an excellent team but I like to think we’re a good team,” said Moore. “You’ll see two teams at the right end of the division playing good football and doing the right things.

“We’ve got to do those little things that went wrong against Birmingham much better, and hopefully we’ll see that."

West Brom could hand a debut to midfielder Wes Hoolahan after he completed his move to the club on Friday.

The Baggies are 19/20 to come out on top, while Bristol City are 10/3 and the draw 5/2.

Monk refuses to be downcast

Garry Monk thought there were plenty of positives to take from his Birmingham City side's 1-1 draw against West Brom on Friday.

The Blues have failed to win a Championship game so far this term although they have drawn five of their seven fixtures.

Monk's side had their chances to break their duck though as, after Jota had scored from close range to give them the lead, the same player had a penalty saved by Albion goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.

The Baggies levelled through Matt Phillips' strike but Monk was happy with a point, saying after the match: "We just played against a very good side, to me they are probably the best side we have played this season.

"We knew it was going to be difficult for us. But I thought the way we set up, the organisation, what we were trying to do was very effective for large parts of that game.

"It's very difficult to sit here as a manager and criticise when there's not much to actually criticise. Those margins are not quite with us at the minute."

Birmingham are 13/8 to be relegated this season, while West Brom are 9/5 to make an immediate return to the Premier League.

McAuley hopes experience counts

Gareth McAuley said that he hoped to use his experience to help Rangers' youngsters following his move to Ibrox.

The 38-year-old defender left West Brom at the end of last season and now becomes Steven Gerrard's 15th signing after agreeing a one-year deal with the Glasgow club.

He certainly has experience to pass on. McAuley played over 200 games for West Brom during his time at the Hawthorns and gained 78 international caps for Northern Ireland.

He realises that his value to Rangers will be as much for his influence off the field with the youngsters than in actual playing time.

He told Rangers TV: "[I hope to bring] experience, there is a young group of players here.

"Help them with my knowledge and help develop them, also challenge them to play in the team.

"It's a project here at the minute and I was speaking to the manager in the last week or so and that's something I can bring to the project."

With Rangers having Europa League games this season as well as their domestic demands, McAuley will also boost Gerrard's centre-half options which also include Connor Goldson, Nikola Katic and Joe Worrall.

Gerrard suffered his first defeat as Rangers boss at the weekend, Celtic winning the first Old Firm game of the season 1-0.

The result leaves Rangers seventh in the Scottish Premiership table after four games.

Gerrard has however brought regular European football to Ibrox. They beat Russian side Ufa in the play-off round and are now through to the Europa League group stages where they are in a group with Spartak Moscow, Villarreal and Rapid Vienna.

Rangers are 7/1 to win the Scottish Premiership with Celtic 1/8.

Kyle Lafferty is 6/1 to be the Premiership's leading goalscorer.

View all Soccer betting

Chadli makes Monaco move

AS Monaco have signed West Brom's 29-year-old Belgium international Nacer Chadli for an undisclosed transfer fee.

Chadli, who moved to The Hawthorns from Tottenham for £13million two years ago, scored six times in 36 Premier League matches for the Baggies, who were relegated from the top-flight last term.

He has penned a three-year contract with AS Monaco, who won the Ligue 1 title and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2016/17.

"I am very happy to join AS Monaco, a great French club that participates in the Champions League," Chadli said.

"The results of the last seasons prove the quality of the project and the ambition of the club. I will do everything to help AS Monaco achieve great things and achieve its goals."

Monaco finished second in Ligue 1 last season and have been drawn to play Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Bruges in Champions League Group A.

"We are delighted to welcome Nacer Chadli, an offensive midfielder who has demonstrated his quality. His experience at the highest level and his technical profile will be additional assets for the team," said Monaco's CEO Vadim Vasilyev.

Chadli scored a last-gasp goal for Belgium at World Cup 2018 as Roberto Martinez's side came back from two goals down to beat Japan 3-2 in the round of 16.

West Brom are 2/1 to be promoted from the Championship this season and 21/20 to beat Stoke City on Saturday while AS Monaco are available at 9/5 to emerge victorious against Marseille on Sunday.

O’Neill rues Brunt retirement

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill admits it was a blow to learn that West Brom midfielder Chris Brunt was going to retire from international football.

Brunt, 33, won 65 international caps and scored three goals after making his debut against Switzerland in 2004.

A knee injury deprived the influential midfielder of his part at Euro 2016, when Northern Ireland ended a 30-year wait for a major international tournament appearance.

Brunt was quickly back in the fold, as the much-improved Northern Ireland story under manger O'Neill continued with a journey that almost took them to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

He played his final game for his country in the play-off second leg against Switzerland last November, a scoreless draw that saw the Swiss progress 1-0 on aggregate by way of a controversially awarded penalty at Windsor Park.

O'Neill left Brunt out of his recent squads to give the player time to consider his international future but he has now received the verdict he was hoping to avoid.

"I am disappointed Chris is retiring as I believe he still has much to offer the team, however I completely understand his decision to spend a bit more time with his young family and to concentrate on his club career," said O'Neill.

"I want to thank him for everything he gave me on the pitch. He was a model professional and his contribution to the Northern Ireland team over the past 14 years will be remembered for a long time."

West Brom are 21/10 to win away at Middlesbrough in Friday's Championship clash. Tony Pulis' side are 13/10 to get one over on his former club, while the draw is 9/4.

View all Soccer betting

Prolific Baggies please Brunt

Chris Brunt sees no reason why free-scoring West Brom cannot make an immediate return to the Premier League.

The Baggies thrashed QPR 7-1 on Saturday and have now scored 13 goals in the first four games of the Championship campaign.

Darren Moore's team are 2/1 to be promoted this season, while Leeds United can be backed at 13/8 and Stoke City at 3/1.

Matt Phillips and Jay Rodriguez both scored twice for Albion while Kieran Gibbs, Dwight Gayle and Hal Robson-Kanu were also on target.

"We've done well this season in the transfer window to hold on to our attacking players. We've also brought in Dwight Gayle and Harvey Barnes and we've seen immediately how much of an impact they can have," said a delighted Brunt.

"To get out of this league you need to score a lot of goals and we've certainly done that in the last couple of games.

"Hopefully over the next couple of weeks, with no midweek game this week, we can work on a few things in training.

"We've got a good squad of players that are capable of doing well this year – of doing really well – so hopefully that's just the start of it."

Brunt demands big reaction

Chris Brunt hopes that West Brom can learn from the mistakes they made against Bolton Wanderers when they take on Nottingham Forest on Tuesday.

After suffering relegation from the Premier League last term, Albion were expected to challenge for promotion this season but suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to Bolton on the opening weekend of the campaign.

Brunt has demanded a big reaction from the Baggies players when they take on Aitor Karanka's team, who have spent heavily on new players over the summer.

Albion are 2/1 to win at The City Ground and 11/4 to be promoted from the Championship this season while Forest are 10/3 to go up.

"It helps with the next game coming quickly," said 33-year-old Northern Ireland international Brunt. "You have to move on. You don't have much choice really.

"That's the beauty of this league. You can never dwell on anything too long, get too high or too low.

"Hopefully we'll learn from the mistakes we made on Saturday because for the majority of the game we were dominant. We had a lot of the ball."

West Brom completed the loan signing of Newcastle United striker Dwight Gayle on Monday while Salomon Rondon has moved in the opposite direction.

Pulis reflective after fightback

Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis said it was important to remember it was a different team from last season as they fought back to draw with Millwall.

On the first Saturday of the Championship season Boro were heading for defeat with the home side going into half-time two up.

Aiden O'Brien and Lee Gregory put the Lions deservedly ahead but Pulis's side stormed back in the second half with two late goals.

Martin Braithwaite reduced the arrears with just three minutes remaining, then, deep in stoppage time George Friend completed the comeback with the equaliser.

Middlesbrough are facing a difficult end to the transfer window with both Ben Gibson and Adama Traore likely to leave the Riverside Stadium in the coming days and Pulis referred to the changing side after the final whistle at Millwall.

He told the BBC: "Let's put everything into perspective at the moment, in the group that have come here, we're six [players] short of what we finished the season with. If you look at the team, it's half the team we finished with last season.

"First half, we were poor. We sat back, we never got after it, we never got the ball forward, we never got enough possession in their half to cause problems.

"There were a few choice words at half-time, we made a couple of changes, and the last twenty, 25 minutes, we showed our teeth for the first time in the game."

Of the sides relegated from the Premier League last season, only West Brom were in action on Saturday afternoon and they got off to a disappointing start, losing 2-1 at home to Bolton.

Manager Darren Moore called it a wake-up call, Wanderers Yanic Wildschut scoring the winner in the last minute of normal time.

Wigan started life back in the Championship with a win over Sheffield Wednesday but Rotherham lost heavily on their return, losing 5-1 at Brentford.

Middlesbrough are back in action on Tuesday night when they are at home to Sheffield United. They are 10/11 to win the game with the Blades 3/1 and the draw 12/5. Boro are 11/2 to win the game 1-0.

View all Soccer betting