Rotherham United v Bristol City
Whilst The Millers are a team that in the first section of the season have struggled to create chances, indeed they are 23rd in the Championship for total xG, 19.3xG created over the opening 21 matches, they are also the team that have been the most open in the division too.
It felt as though Bristol City lost their way halfway through the first part of the season. Where the strike force of Tommy Conway, Nakhi Wells, Andreas Weimann, and Antoine Semenyo, seemed to be able to supply and finish a constant stream of goals the production ground to a halt, but unfortunately for Nigel Pearson the defensive difficulties simply continued.
With the time presented to both clubs to reassess and prepare for the forthcoming matches there may be more predictability about the way they will look to approach the game. However, this is not Paul Warne’s Rotherham and so the extra time that Matt Taylor has been able to have with his players I think we should expect to see a Rotherham side that has slightly more enterprise going forwards. It wouldn’t surprise me to see that xG production improve in the second half of the season.
Meanwhile, Pearson could easily get a tune out of his attacking talent again. This makes supporting goals in this match an attractive proposition. Over 2.5 goals is odds against where I am seeing it as more likely than not, therefore I will happily take the perceived value on offer from the bookmakers.
Reading v Coventry City
These two teams had totally contrasting openings to the season. At one stage Reading were top whilst Coventry were bottom of the league. As the break for the World Cup began Coventry has just slipped above Reading as the clubs sit 12th and 13th in the table.
Whilst some of the change can be put down to Coventry actually being able to play their home matches, there is definitely a change of trajectory between the teams that isn’t reflected as much in the prices for this match as one might’ve expected.
There can be no doubt that Coventry provide the bigger goal threat. It is Reading’s Achilles’ Heel this season that they simply don’t give themselves the chance to score enough goals to win matches. Defensively they have remained, even during a long winless run, a solid side. The evidence for this is that they are sixth in the Championship for xG against, but the skew towards that defence means that Lucas Joao is often left isolated. When other forwards are brought on to chase the game it is often too late and too ineffective.
Meanwhile Viktor Gyokeres has cemented his reputation as one of the league’s most desired forward players. He leads Coventry’s scoring charts this season but is so effective because of his all-around play as well. The big Swedish international can hold the ball physically and technically, he has pace to trouble teams down the flanks and in behind and the ability to finish under pressure. The positive thing about Coventry coming into this section of the season is that Callum O’Hare would have been preparing with the rest of the squad and they can plan for him to cause havoc, a player that is so important for them that wasn’t available in the first part of the season.
Reading’s home advantage is what makes them favourites in this match. However, Coventry are good travellers and certainly won’t be overawed at the Select Car Leasing Stadium. Taking the Draw No Bet option means that gives us some extra security with our stake back in the event of a draw.
Middlesbrough v Luton Town
If there was a single team that would win the award for underperformance over the first part of the Championship season then it would probably be Boro.
Chris Wilder’s Middlesbrough looked like it totally fit on paper. There were some squad holes to fill but the expectations were that the board, chairman, and recruitment team would be able to deliver the right ones for Wilder. However, it became increasingly clear that not only were they not able to deliver on bringing in the top forward options that Wilder wanted, but also they were actually light in other areas, especially after the sale of Marcus Tavernier. The relevance of this information to the bet proposed here is that despite these problems the Boro still racked up the 2nd best expected goal difference in the league over the first part of the season,
Middlesbrough, therefore, are the team in the bottom half that I would look the most closely at being able to ‘do a Nottm Forest’ and fly up the table in the second half of the season. Michael Carrick has made a positive start, Chuba Akpom is leading the line very capably at the moment and the discovery of Hayden Hackney from their Academy has filled a midfield hole for them. The roles have been simplified for the players and it appears to be reaping dividends.
Luton, so often the epitome of stability under Nathan Jones, have to deal with change now. Rob Edwards clearly has much to prove after his Watford tenure but let us not forget that he earned that move with a fantastic spell at Forest Green. The squad that was assembled for Jones is definitely fit for purpose but Edwards will probably have to adapt his formation and chance creation tactics as the squad doesn’t have the type of wingbacks on both sides to provide.
There is just enough of a concern heading into this game of the difference in performance levels when they turn it on will be enough for Middlesbrough to win the match, especially without knowing how Luton will look under Edwards.
Millwall v Wigan Athletic
For Millwall, their return to match action came last weekend, a game at the Stadium of Light where Sunderland ran away with a 3-0 win in the second half. The defeat was only the Lions second in the league since the 1st October, but it took them out of the play-off places on goal difference.
Gary Rowett’s look to respond this weekend with a game in familiar home comforts. Millwall’s home record of 22 points from 10 games is bettered only by the East Lancashire pair of Burnley and Blackburn Rovers. Rowett’s 4-2-3-1 is spearheaded by Tom Bradshaw, the trio behind including George Honeyman, impressive Dutch midfielder Zian Fleming and German forward Andreas Voglsammer.
Murray Wallace and Danny McNamara provide excellent support in their full-back roles, with the centre-back partnership of Jake Cooper and Leeds United loanee Charlie Cresswell both a threat in either penalty box.
The trip to the Den presents a challenging first test for the new Wigan Athletic manager. Former Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and Ivory Coast defender Kolo Touré was appointed at the end of November, having been working as part of Brendan Rodgers coaching staff at both Celtic and Leicester City. Little is known as to exactly what will come from the Latics under Touré, but a reaction is certainly need during a difficult campaign.
Wigan sit inside the Championship relegation zone, albeit only on goal difference at current. Forward players in Charlie Wyke and Callum Lang, tenacious midfielders in Max Power and Tom Naylor, as well as competent defenders in Jack Whatmough and Rarmani Edmonds-Green are all at Touré’s disposal and will need to be well used if Wigan are to achieve their seasonal targets.
For a first game in charge however, the task ahead for the new Wigan Athletic boss could not be much tougher. Millwall are a side firmly in the play-off mix who will be targeting a push for the Premier League come the end of the season. Games like this Saturday, up against a relegation battler, will be seen as expected victories by the Den faithful.
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Written by an Andy verified content writer
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