Luton v Huddersfield
Luton showed against Blackburn in their last home game how strong they can be at Kenilworth Road. The fact that they then backed this up away in their last match proves that they are in good shape at the moment as a squad.
Nathan Jones wanted to name an unchanged lineup on Friday night but a knock to Cauley Woodrow meant that Elijah Adebayo returned to the starting XI. Adebayo had been fairly disappointing this season but that dropping and return appeared to revitalise Adebayo and he was back to playing the way we had seen in the previous season. However, this doesn’t take anything away from Carlton Morris either, if both can score goals in the team then Luton begin to look a very strong outfit indeed.
Luton have pushed themselves up into the top six in the expected points table off the back of their improved performances recently. They are generating over a goal a game in chances now whilst keeping the opponents down below that magic mark. At home they have won four out of six xG battles, and the two that they lost were very tight in margin.
Huddersfield really were humbled at the weekend. I had high hopes for them achieving something at Reading but in reality The Royals outplayed The Terriers and it was a disappointing display, especially in a new manager’s first match. Mark Fotheringham wouldn’t have had much chance to work with the players on his philosophies in between the two matches and that is a big concern for me here.
The record in away games for Huddersfield this season is another concern, they have lost all but one of the xG battles on the road. So despite general improvement in the last few weeks, much of that has been at home and going to Kenilworth Road is definitely not the ideal scenario for this team in its current state.
Bristol City v Coventry
Bristol City once again showed their penchant for comedy defending at home against QPR on Saturday. It appears to be something that can’t be fixed by Nigel Pearson over the course of almost a full calendar year now. They are still one of the division’s top scorers but now they are becoming one of the poorest defensive records as well.
This is, of course, good news for the goals bets. At this stage I believe that the margin is still there in the prices that work for this bet. Coventry are also quite a good foil for this bet as well I believe. The Sky Blues, until the clean sheet against Middlesbrough this weekend, were the team who had conceded the highest xG per match in the league. The fact that all of those matches were played away from The Ricoh Arena would definitely have contributed to that, but this is also an away game.
Coventry have multiple threats of their own as well. Viktor Gyokeres, as well as actually scoring the winner on Saturday, put in a masterful performance in terrorising the Middlesbrough defenders with his size, skill and pace. I would have confidence that between him, Matt Godden and Kasey Palmer, there is enough creativity and finishing skill that they should be notching at least once against a porous Robins defence.
Nakhi Wells continued his fine form at the weekend as well. The Bristol City attack has had words of praise in many weeks from this column but it will be interesting to see if Pearson thinks that it is now time to release Antoine Semenyo from the start. I’m confident that if he did so then it would be no downgrade on Tommy Conway or Andreas Weimann, indeed Semenyo has the best xG per 90 compared with the other forwards in the squad.
Cardiff v Blackburn
This bet is really against Blackburn. Despite their win on Saturday, Rovers have continued to look quite sluggish in open play, especially going forwards. They are currently outperforming their xG by an unsustainable and, frankly, alarming level and, as on Saturday, coming out well in tight low-margin scenarios.
Rovers’ away record is particularly poor as well. Other than the short trip to Blackpool, Blackburn have created fewer good chances than their opponents on every away day. Trips to Sheffield United, Reading, and, recently, Luton Town, have been chastening for the gulf in quality of performance between Rovers and their opponents.
Despite the return of Sam Gallagher to the starting line-up Blackburn continue to look slightly short in the attacking department, with Ben Brereton Diaz being relied upon to fire in most matches. This could come unstuck against a solid Cardiff side, one that has kept their opponents at bay at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Even against one of the best Championship sides in Burnley at the weekend The Clarets managed only two shots on target. This is very much in keeping with the season that Cardiff are having, despite currently being under the caretaker charge of Mark Hudson. The challenge for Hudson and Cardiff is to get firing in the other end.
It will help The Bluebirds that Callum Robinson scored the late equaliser against Burnley. Robinson is a player who has shown that he can be a quality performer at this level and if Cardiff can restore his confidence and then supply him with the ball in dangerous areas then he can score goals.
With the low margins that I’m expecting to see in this match I was tempted by the Under 2.5 goal market but the price was prohibitively short. There is a better chance of Cardiff winning this match than the prices suggest so I’ve been tempted to back them here.
Burnley v Stoke
As mentioned above Burnley are one of the best sides in this division. Vincent Kompany has done a great job of matching his style of play to the squad and the division, the only problem has been in converting territorial and possession dominance into three points.
There is an undeniably great chance to do this here against Stoke. The Potters are still trying to work out what their best XI is under Alex Neil and also how that XI should function. There were very few positive signs against Watford, especially around how loose they were in possession of the ball. They will get even less of the ball here so the sloppiness will have to be cleared up by a large degree if they are going to be effective here.
For Stoke there is also the issue of goals. Their chance creation statistics aren’t great, but they aren’t awful either, which begs the question of the individuals in the team. What strikes me when watching Stoke is that they haven’t yet managed to work the right players into the right positions to make them effective. Dwight Gayle is the prime example of this, the 33 year old has a history of goals at this level but at this stage of his career he really needs the service to provide those goals. Liam Delap’s performance on Sunday was good but at the same time he doesn’t quite look ready to be the one to fire a team into good form in The Championship.
It is interesting to observe that Kompany’s first choice XI at the weekend didn’t really use many of his Belgian league imports. Kompany has the opposite problem to Neil in that the front four of Jay Rodriguez, Nathan Tella, Josh Brownhill, and Johann Berg Gudmundsson have been around the block a few times and are, at this stage, probably more suitable to this division, with the others to come in during the second half. With such great depth available it is a persuasive argument for Burnley to come out on top in this match.
Middlesbrough v Birmingham City
Chris Wilder’s time at Middlesbrough is at an end. With plenty of expectation and excitement ahead of the season beginning, only West Bromwich Albion rival Middlesbrough for being the biggest disappointment in the Championship. 10 points from 11 games and just two wins so far, Boro sit inside the bottom three, averaging 1.3 goals per game at the Riverside Stadium. Home games have delivered nine of their 10 league points so far this season.
Pre-season, Birmingham City were predicted to be in a similar position to where Middlesbrough currently find themselves in, but ahead of matchday 12 find themselves in a respectable 15th place and on a four game unbeaten run. Blues have only scored five goals away from home so far this season, three of those coming from a Scott Hogan hat-trick away at West Bromwich Albion back in mid-September. That 3-2 win over West Brom is the only Birmingham City away game that has seen three or more goals be scored collectively. A balanced midfield three of Krystian Bielik, Tahith Chong and Juninho Bacuna is proving very fruitful for John Eustace’s side at the moment.
On a good run of form, and against poorly performing opposition, Birmingham City should feel hopeful of collecting another positive result on the road at the Riverside Stadium. Traditionally low-scorers on the road though, and against a managerless side who themselves tend to draw rather than win, the game up in North Yorkshire may prove to be goal-shy.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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