Blackpool v Bristol City
Bristol City have actually kept two clean sheets in a row coming into this fixture. This is very unlike them, but there are a lot of reasons to believe that both teams will score in this fixture.
First of all, despite keeping a clean sheet against Cardiff last week, The Bluebirds had some big chances, especially in the first half, that could easily have been taken to change that fact. Also, when you look deeper into the xG numbers, Bristol City have conceded a far higher xG in their two away games than their home games so far.
It is likely that The Robins will continue to play quite an attacking lineup. Tommy Conway has been something of a revelation as a goal threat and alongside Andreas Weimann, who cannot be dropped, and Nakhi Wells, have formed a dangerous triumvirate that I suspect Nigel Pearson will want to continue to accommodate. With Chris Martin and now the returning Antoine Semenyo in reserve as well, City are well stocked to be a big threat throughout the 90+ minutes.
However, this does mean that the balance is difficult to address to keep it tight defensively. Alex Scott is another big talent that Pearson obviously wants to keep in his side and he is doing so at right wing-back at the moment. That does make them slightly weak defensively down that side and it wouldn’t surprise me if Michael Appleton targeted Scott if he does play there.
Blackpool have actually had the second highest average total xG in the division across their matches so far at 2.33 (second to Millwall’s 2.37). Though the totals aren’t especially high, a pattern across the Championship in the early days of this season, it does show that goals are likely in Blackpool games at the moment. They both score and concede over an expected goal per game right now and that is a pattern that is a positive one for a both teams to score bet.
Cardiff v Preston
As much as Preston’s remarkable run of one goal total in their five matches cannot continue, as a fixture this just screams a lack of goals. Cardiff at home so far have been watertight, only conceding a ridiculous 0.15xG against Norwich and Birmingham at home so far.
Steve Morison has done a good job in completely remodelling this side in less than twelve months. The style is noticeably different to Mick McCarthy’s style and probably to most Cardiff sides in the last decade. However, even though they are more technically capable and more aesthetically pleasing they have managed to retain that organised and obstinate side to them which makes them difficult to beat, especially at home.
There is a slight problem in that Jamilu Collins has sustained a serious injury but they appear to be on their way to replacing him for the season as well. Deploying an athletic and busy three-man central midfield has made it difficult for opposition teams to get a stranglehold in that department and Preston will find it equally tough, despite usually using a similar tactic themselves.
Another reason why I see goals difficult to come by here is that tactical log-jam mentioned above. With players involved in battles all over the pitch, but especially in that stodgy midfield, it will be tough in open play for one team to be dominant but also for clear cut chances to be created.
Obviously, no forwards are in-form for Preston. Troy Parrott is being preferred in that central forward slot and his play is good but has yet to find form in front of goal. Emil Riis may well get a chance back in the first team but clearly Ryan Lowe trusts the Irish Tottenham loanee more in his all-round game at the moment,
It was tough to choose between under 2.5 goals and BTTS No for this fixture. 1-1 is a real possibility but the price differential between the two markets meant that BTTS No feels like a better bet. Either one of these sides could easily draw a blank for this bet to land at 1.8 rather than 1.67 of Under 2.5 goals.
Huddersfield v West Brom
This match pits two sides together at the opposite ends of the early xG and xPts data. Huddersfield are rooted to the bottom of the expected points table, The Terriers are conceding a higher average number and quality of chances than any other team in the league at this early stage. This is obviously diametrically opposed to their play last season as they were very tight at the back and well organised in depriving the opposition of chances.
West Brom, on the other hand, come into this fixture off the back of an important 5-goal thrashing of Hull City and, the statistics suggested that a result like that was on the cards. The Baggies have been one of the better performers at the beginning of the season and just lacked the results to back that up. They have now won the xG battle in four of their five matches including against Middlesbrough (the only team to have done that) and away at Blackburn.
Steve Bruce’s men are strong in all areas of the pitch, apart from, potentially, centre forward where criticism of Karlan Grant has been fairly widespread. The chances are being created though in both open play and set pieces where the signings of Jed Wallace and John Swift have improved things and with Okay Yokuslu getting up to speed they have that added quality and solidity in midfield as well.
Huddersfield do still have the vast majority of the players that helped them to that excellent play-off position last season but perhaps a sprinkle of stardust has been lost that has been difficult to replace. Danel Sinani is showing back at Norwich what he brought to Huddersfield last year, Harry Toffolo’s attacking outlet on the left is missed and Levi Colwill is a miss in central defence. However, probably the biggest miss in the entire division is Lewis O’Brien to this team. He was an all-round dynamic presence in the centre, driving the team forward with his forward runs and pressing and he is obviously very difficult to replace.
Add to this the inevitable hangover of a failed play-off campaign and a change of manager from Carlos Corberan to Danny Schofield and it is easy to see why it has been a difficult start to the campaign. It is a difficult time to be hosting one of the best sides in the division then and I suspect that Huddersfield will be happy with a point from this fixture.
I think that this is going to be a game for John Swift to deliver for West Brom. He will be needed to try and pick holes in the Huddersfield defence and I think that they will be able to control the match and win the xG battle again. Conversion into a win is never inevitable but at around even money I think it is a decent bet.
Middlesbrough v Swansea
Backing a side that are yet to win a match in the league this season at odds on may appear to be total madness. However, there are plenty of reasons to believe that the Boro slump could break in this match.
First of all, generally speaking, the Boro performances have been much more positive than the results. They have won the xG battle in four of their five matches, only their opening home game vs West Brom did they lose it, and as a result they actually sit top of the form table in expected points.
It is quite the achievement to sit top of the expected points table whilst actually sitting in the relegation of the embryonic Championship table but really does emphasise the point that Middlesbrough are not a poor side. They are able to create higher degrees of chances than their opponents on a regular basis, but thus far have been unable to put enough of them away, or stop them from going in.
Boro have made more strides in improving both of those aspects in the transfer market this week. Rodrigo Muniz has come in from Fulham to play a big role in the forward line and yesterday Matt Clarke was confirmed on a permanent signing from Brighton to play left central defence. I think that both signings improve the first team, and make them even stronger as an aerial threat from set pieces as well.
Swansea have had no such impetus and I am concerned about them generally, as well as in this match specifically. By no means are they a bad side but in this match I can see Chris Wilder and the Boro tactical team being able to do a number on them. You know what you are going to get with Russell Martin’s Swans to a certain extent and a few teams have already demonstrated this season how you can get at them.
I am really confident that Middlesbrough will again win the xG battle here, it then just becomes a case of whether or not that will translate into a win. I will put faith in the probability of Muniz, fellow newbie Matthew Hoppe, Marcus Forss and Duncan Watmore starting to convert these chances and Matt Clarke having an effect of reducing the chances at the other end to lead Boro to a much needed victory.
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