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Middlesbrough v Coventry City
The tie is very much in the balance as the second leg at the Riverside Stadium approaches. When considering the semi-finals before they started it was generally felt that this would be the tie that might produce more entertainment and goals. Whilst the first leg wasn’t quite a bore draw, it was certainly cagey and short of real clear-cut chances.
The killer question is, will that pattern of play continue into the second leg? Research from previous Championship second legs suggests that usually, the second leg does see more goals on average, around 2.41 per 90 minutes. This is no surprise as the motivation for one or both sides obviously increases as the conclusion draws near.
Middlesbrough have the home advantage, and Boro have been a different beast at home under Michael Carrick. However, there is a slight question mark developing over Boro’s ability to be quite as convincing in their displays in the biggest games.
The only home matches that they haven’t won in their last ten were against Stoke when they were chasing down the second automatic promotion place, Burnley, and Coventry on the last day of the season.
Boro are heavily odds on to progress. Can Coventry draw an upset out of them again? The Middlesbrough vs Coventry Bet Builder tips for this match come to a tasty 4/1 choice.
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Can Akpom and Archer fire again?
This will obviously be the third time in a row that these two teams have met. This creates an interesting dynamic, especially in the way that Coventry have so far managed to effectively shackle the key Middlesbrough attackers.
Boro’s last 30 matches have seen them averaging over 9 shots per game, but against Coventry, they have only managed 8 across the two matches so far. 3 of those 8 have been from either Chuba Akpom or Cameron Archer, who usually average 2.3 and 1.8 shots per 90 minutes respectively.
Coventry’s back 3 and double-pivot have clearly done a good job restricting that area so far, but can Carrick come up with a tactical tweak that might unleash his most dangerous players?
Putting aside slight misgivings about Boro in the bigger games and just observing their overall home record, it is exceptionally impressive. They actually carry a +1.3xG differential over their last 10 home matches, which shows that they are carrying a much greater goalscoring threat than their opponents.
Middlesbrough team news
There is some good news ahead of this leg for Carrick in that Marcus Forss and Dael Fry look to be fit enough to bolster the squad.
Whilst neither may actually start the game, both are strong options to produce from the bench if required. Forss does add more of a goal threat than Isaiah Jones, so, depending on his level of fitness, may be deployed straight into the starting lineup.
Otherwise, Carrick is likely to name the same XI that started at the CBS Arena. Zack Steffen is in goal with Tommy Smith, Darragh Lenihan, Paddy McNair, and Ryan Giles as the regular back four. Hayden Hackney will continue, probably alongside Alex Mowatt, though both Matt Crooks and Daniel Barlaser could threaten that position. Akpom and Archer will be the forwards with Riley McGree and, probably, Marcus Forss to edge out Jones.
Coventry set up to beat the odds once more
At most stages of the season, it was unlikely that Mark Robins’ men would ever be in a position to try and secure a play-off position. Coming with that late run seems to have given the players and fans a lot of confidence.
The Sky Blues are unbeaten in nine away matches heading into this all-important one. Though there are more draws than wins in that run, a draw would at least be enough to take the tie into extra time and give them a real chance of progression.
Over their last 10 away games as well Coventry have been operating with a +0.3 xG differential, which is relatively rare in away form.
Mark Robins has plenty of reasons to be positive ahead of this clash and a progressive game plan to take the game to Middlesbrough cannot be ruled out, and, indeed, could be the way to go.
Coventry City team news
Gus Hamer took a knock in the opening leg but was able to complete the game. With the Dutchman being a real key player for this Coventry side the medical staff will do everything possible to get Hamer onto the pitch for this match, knowing that there is a bit of a gap til the play-off final.
There are potential replacements back to fitness in the form of Jamie Allen and also Ben Sheaf. Either of those players could also replace Josh Eccles if Robins wants to tweak it a little bit.
The goalkeeper, defence, and forwards are highly likely to remain the same as last time out though.
Middlesbrough v Coventry City Cheat Sheet
Gustavo Hamer could be a shrewd choice for those looking to delve into the fouls market of this second-leg clash. The Dutchman currently ranks second in terms of fouls committed amongst the Coventry side.
This game also boasts two of the most potent attacking threats in the division in Viktor Gyokeres and Chuba Akpom. Both rank top of the shooting charts for each side, and were the top two scorers in the regular season across the entire league.
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Middlesbrough v Coventry City bet builder tips
Middlesbriugh v Coventry City
As mentioned in the intro to this preview, the goal expectancy for second legs is certainly higher than for first legs. The bookmakers have taken this into account but there is a touch of value here given the form of Middlesbrough home matches.
Seven of Middlesbrough’s last ten home matches have gone over 2.5 goals. If either team gets an early goal here then this could really set up to be an end-to-end thriller.
Though neither side really showed their full hand in the last two encounters, there is a lot of attacking talent on the pitch. If Middlesbrough take the lead then Coventry will have to commit more people forwards, opening themselves up to the devastating Boro counter-attack.
However, we also know that Middlesbrough can find ways to break teams down at the Riverside and they have scored in every home game since Carrick took charge.
In the expectation that Hamer passes a late fitness test, he should be backed to commit a couple of fouls here.
It is the Dutchman’s running and pressing as well as his technical skill that has made him such a successful import from the Eredivisie for Coventry. His position further forward in the team of late allows him to take more shots, but also to press the opposition in their own half to try and win the ball back quickly.
It is these tactics that tend to be where a lot of fouls are conceded in the modern game because of the relative success-to-threat ratio. If a foul is committed then the threat is exceptionally low, but the potential gain to win possession close to the opponent’s goal is well worth it.
Hamer committed 3 fouls in the opening leg, and he also has a 4 and two other 3 foul matches in the last seven starts. In a game of such magnitude surely there is a good chance that this will see another committed performance from Hamer?
The way that both teams will want to attack this match and the battle in the midfield, not to mention the febrile atmosphere of a night match at a capacity-filled Riverside, points towards cards being brandished.
The average number of yellow cards distributed in a Championship playoff second leg is 5.7 with only two out of the last twelve second legs going under 3.5 cards.
There are plenty of candidates for cards on the pitch, with two of the highest-carded players in the league, Tommy Smith and Kyle McFadzean, likely to be playing the full 90 minutes. With the ball-carrying ability of the likes of Viktor Gyokeres, Ryan Giles, and Chuba Akpom there are also good opportunities for cards to be earned.
Referee David Coote is usually a Premier League referee and averages a high foul count of 22.5 per match, and his yellow card average is 3.2 per match. If this match is refereed in his usual manner then it feels likely that the over 3.5 card barrier will be breached.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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