Birmingham City v Watford
Whilst I haven’t been overly impressed with Watford so far this season, they have still emerged from three very tough matches with seven points. The start for Rob Edwards could barely have been better in terms of results as he gets used to how best to use his talented but huge squad.
The beauty of Watford at the moment is even when they lose a talented player such as Emmanuel Dennis, they can act straight away and bring in Keinan Davis who made such a massive impact for Nottingham Forest last season. With Davis, Ismaila Sarr and Joao Pedro as a forward line it is easy to see at least one of those taking or creating a chance. In behind that there is a great mix of experience, talent and physicality that will make things very difficult for their opponents to break down.
In this match I can’t see where Birmingham will be able to find the ways to break Watford down. Physicality is the main weapon of the Birmingham strike force with Troy Deeney, Scott Hogan and the likes of Lukas Jutkiewicz in reserve. There isn’t a great deal of depth in the Birmingham squad either so any change of plan will be difficult to achieve.
That’s not to say that there isn’t promise for Blues, Jordan James looks a real prospect in central midfield, but at 18 years old, it is asking a lot for him to run Championship matches against seasoned campaigners from the Premier League.
It is Birmingham’s performance, or lack thereof, in their previous match against Cardiff that most informs this selection though. With so little dynamism and creativity in their play Blues made it far too easy for Cardiff. If there is any hint of that same performance against Watford then they will be made to pay for it.
To get a Watford win at odds-against is pleasing. St. Andrews is not proving to be the most intimidating stadium for opponents to go to with it’s state of disrepair really not helping build an atmosphere of fervent support for the home side.
Burnley v Hull
Having seen Burnley twice now this season I have to say that they have been fairly unfortunate to not have more points than they have at the moment. They are still recruiting and welcoming players back from injury, as well as the usual familiarity issues that a club gets when bedding in a brand new manager in Vincent Kompany but the Belgian must be pleased with how the squad have taken to his ideas.
Between the boxes Burnley look really impressive. Josh Cullen is pulling the strings and their new wide players do well to maintain the width in their attack and increase the options on the pitch. However, Ashley Barnes hasn’t been in form at the top of the pitch, and Burnley have been profligate with their chances. Jay Rodriguez played half an hour from the bench against Watford and may well be ready for his first start of the season here.
Josh Brownhill was the man who all the chances fell to against Watford. He is probably worth a goalscorer bet, if that is your thing, because he’s already scored this season, had a great record at Bristol City and is clearly the midfielder tasked with getting forward and getting on the end of things in the box.
On the face of it, Hull have had a very good start to the season. However, I am still keen to take them on. I have not been convinced by their performances, each one of their goals have been very fortunate. Dodgy penalty, massive deflection, clearance bouncing off opponent into forward and a scruffy 2yd effort have been the methods of goals so far.
There is also the small matter of their last trip to Lancashire. At Preston they emerged with a creditable point but lost the xG battle that day almost 2 clear xG. In other words they were very fortunate to escape with anything from the match and I think we might see something similar on Tuesday night in Burnley.
Swansea City v Millwall
There are a few reasons to favour Millwall in this match, but the bookmakers have the odds slightly in Swansea’s favour. I think that Swansea have been somewhat overrated by the layers from preseason and though enthusiasm has waned, The Swans are probably a couple of ticks short for this match.
Millwall have been impressive tactically, in their performances and their results. No more evidence is required than last time out against Coventry. Despite suffering from an uncharacteristic sloppy set piece goal after two minutes and then conceding a second after 20 minutes The Lions showed great attitude and fortitude to get back into the game and then win it at the death.
There is still a slight question mark over their guile and creativity at the moment but even without that they are still a good bet here. They are exactly the right type of team required to go to Swansea equipped to get a result. We saw recently how Blackburn went to Wales and set up deep and compact to frustrate the ball-loving Swans and hit them on the counter attack. Gary Rowett is one of the more proficient tacticians in the Championship and I don’t doubt that he has a plan for this game.
With Benik Afobe, Tom Bradshaw and young Tyler Burey all able to run in behind and George Honeyman and George Saville able to play the right passes from deep they have the right ingredients to perform a counter-attacking display. Keeping it tight at the back will be key though.
Swansea did produce an improved performance against Blackpool. There was more purpose, energy and urgency on the ball, especially in the first half, but importantly, there was enough energy in the legs of Michael Obafemi, and, especially Olivier Ntcham, to score the goal at the death. That is likely to give them some confidence but even that level of performance needs to be stepped up against a better Millwall side.
Reading v Blackburn
After something of a promising start The Royals came crashing down to Earth on Saturday. Going away to a fellow relegation candidate in Rotherham, it should have been a time for Paul Ince’s men to show up and be counted. Instead they were shell-shocked and collapsed to a really disappointing result that was finished by half-time.
The manner of the defeat is what leads me to go against them here. The lack of organisation and the comments from the manager after the game lead me to question the reaction to such a loss. With such a small squad they cannot afford to have heads drop or carry players that aren’t fully focused. There is no rotation that Ince can perform to freshen things up, which isn’t ideal with the division’s form team coming to town.
Blackburn are 3 wins from 3 so confidence certainly won’t be an issue for Jon Dahl Tomasson’s men. They have proven already that they are able to play a strong tactical game and against West Brom they also demonstrated that they are not afraid to use some of the dark arts to wind the clock down and get themselves a win.
When you combine that attitude with a sprinkling of the quality that Ben Brereton Diaz provided on Sunday then you have a difficult combination to beat. There are some fitness doubts in defence ahead of this game for Blackburn but the manager seemed confident that at least Callum Brittain would be fine for this match, and perhaps Ash Phillips, the teenage sensation in central defence, would be ok too. Regardless, Daniel Ayala looks to be back to his best and prepared to marshall the back line whoever is in it.
Blackburn will not continue to win matches ad infinitum, that much is obvious, but this should be a good matchup for them. I am very much aware that their current record of scoring 6 goals from 1.6xG is unsustainable but judging this fixture on its merits I think that they are worthy of support at an odds against price.
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