Preston v Birmingham
It is simply a remarkable start to the season for Preston North End. The Lilywhites’ supporters have yet to experience that sinking feeling of an opponent putting the ball in the Preston net in the Championship, quite a remarkable feat.
It is even more remarkable when you consider that their xG against figures are not anywhere near the most impressive in the division. This means that they are conceding a relatively normal number of chances across their fixtures, just none have gone in yet. Nonetheless we cannot ignore how difficult teams have found it to breach the defences of Preston and if we are banking on a team to be able to do it then Birmingham City would not be the team I would select.
Blues have one of the poorest chance creation records in the league so far, albeit their xG is still higher than their actual goal total. This brings me neatly onto my next point, Blues’ goalscorers are not and have not been prolific for some time now. Scott Hogan notched against Norwich, in what was an improved performance from John Eustace’s men, but no other forward has managed to find the net yet.
Despite the improved performance against Norwich, Birmingham suffered a heartbreaking 93rd minute winner. The concern is how that will affect morale in the dressing room coming into this match. There is going to be a bit of a lift following the late transfer business bringing in Tahith Chong on a permanent deal, and Hannibal Mejbri and Emmanuel Longelo both on loan. Reinforcements were definitely needed at St. Andrews but no centre forward was brought in and though the three players brought in are talented, there is a real lack of first team minutes and experience in them.
The main concern about backing Preston to win is their own lack of goals. The fact that Emil Riis scored in midweek and now is confirmed to be staying at Deepdale for the next few months at least should bring some relief and positivity. Troy Parrott continues to play well but without the fortune of bagging a goal, this will turn around at some stage.
I simply make Preston to be a much better side than Birmingham at this moment in time.
Blackburn v Bristol City
Having observed Blackburn’s performance against Blackpool in midweek I am much happier to back them for goals scored than previously. Coming off the back of three blanks in front of goal I had expected a fairly lifeless performance going forward from Rovers but, helped by a very slick opening goal after 15 minutes, the interplay between Rovers’ four main attackers, as well as the technically gifted midfield, showed that they are certainly able to create chances.
Underlining the capacity of Rovers to score is the confirmation that Ben Brereton Diaz, the scorer of the aforementioned goal at Blackpool, will now remain with the Lancashire club until January at the earliest also will breathe some certainty and confidence into the club as a whole. Jon Dahl Tomasson may now see a playoff spot as a fairly realistic ambition for the team with the relatively even nature of The Championship this season.
Bristol City are, of course, probably considering the same thing. As I have mentioned on a few occasions in this column, The Robins are one of the most exciting teams in the league going forwards. They scored another two in midweek with Nakhi Wells and Antoine Semenyo scoring. The latter isn’t even able to start matches at the moment given the form of Wells, Tommy Conway and Andreas Weimann and when you consider that Chris Martin is always available off the bench for a different option as well, then you can see why City score so many goals and are so dangerous to play against.
Blackburn have a good home record stretching back into last season but they allowed Stoke City a number of chances in the opening half an hour last Saturday at Ewood Park. Their 4-2-4 formation can sometimes allow opposition wingbacks too much space and City do have the formation and the quality players in Jay Dasilva and either Mark Sykes or Adam Scott to exploit that.
I can certainly see goals in this game despite the tight nature of the quality of the teams being fairly equal, covering the 1-1 draw as a scoreline seems to be a sensible strategy here.
Millwall v Cardiff
Despite Steve Morison’s more modern and attractive style of play Cardiff City are the division’s team to avoid if you like goals and goal chances. They are averaging less than 1.5xG total in their matches at the moment which means that they are stingy both defensively and going forwards.
It is difficult to pinpoint where Cardiff can improve their goal output, especially in this game. Millwall haven’t been the watertight defensive unit that they have been used to in the last few years under Gary Rowett, but undoubtedly they will be striving to get back to basics to cut down on the chances that they are allowing.
Combine this with the worryingly low xG provided to the Cardiff forwards. Max Watters has had 1.2xG, Kion Etete 0.5xG and Mark Harris just 0.3xG so far this season, perhaps it is then understandable why none have troubled the scorers so far. Jaden Philogene-Bidace has 2 goals from 1.5xG though so there is a ray of positivity there.
Whilst the main thrust of the bet is being against Cardiff goals, The Bluebirds’ defensive record is good enough to be slightly concerned in the other direction as well. The Lions are averaging 1.04xG per match so it is not outside of the realms of possibility that they will have a tough day in front of goal and fail to register themselves. Neither Benik Afobe or Tom Bradshaw, Millwall’s expected goal getters, have registered a goal yet so there is a hurdle to be overcome there. Of course, this won’t last forever, Afobe “should” have already scored according to his 2.1xG generated.
However, it still feels more likely that one of the two teams don’t score in this fixture so backing the BTTS No (remember the “No” bit!) option is the recommendation here.
Norwich City v Coventry City
It came very, very late, but Onel Hernández’s goal at St. Andrew’s secured a fourth consecutive league win for Norwich City. After a shaky start, the Canaries have got themselves firmly back in the mix with their promotion rivals and sit second in the Championship table as September arrives. Dean Smith picked a 4-4-1-1 for their midweek match with Birmingham City, but has also made use of a 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 during this winning run. Kieran Dowell plays an important creative role in midfield and behind American frontman Josh Sargent. Chile International Marcelino Núñez is into this second month at the Norfolk outfit and is another notable part of the Norwich central unit. Sargent leads the way as the Canaries top league scorer with four goals, whilst Luxembourg International Danel Sinani has two from wide positions.
Opponents Coventry City finally got to play a home game at the Coventry Building Society Arena on Wednesday, succumbing to a 1-0 defeat to Preston North End. Much like their pitch, the Sky Blues are yet to get up to a good standard. They sit bottom of the pile with just a single point, albeit they have played three games less than the vast majority of others in the league. With Marcel Hilssner, Todd Kane, Liam Kelly and Callum O’Hare all absent through injury in their last game, Mark Robins is awaiting a return to full strength. The 3-4-1-2 that faced Preston including Manchester City loanee Callum Doyle in defence, although Nottingham Forest loanee Jonathan Panzo has been deployed there instead. There are hopes that Bristol City’s Kasey Palmer can add quality to midfield, whilst Martyn Waghorn, Viktor Gyokeres and Matt Godden recently formed a notable if unconventional frontline.
Chasing a fifth consecutive win and the opportunity to finish the weekend top, Norwich City will feel hopeful about beating Coventry City at Carrow Road. The Canaries are high on confidence, whilst the Sky Blues are waiting to restore theirs are a turbulent start both on and off the pitch. Dean Smith’s side are currently right up with the other promotion favourites, and they will be very keen to stay there.
Hull v Sheffield United
This is a straightforward case of believing that one of these teams is much better than the other. Hull have started the season with some good results and with Oscar Estupinan in superb goalscoring form, however, my main take from it is that is potentially a hot streak that can’t last.
The Tigers have lost the xG battle in two of their three home matches already. They are also in the bottom three over the last four games in expected points and the big problem there has been the chances that they have conceded as opposed to chances created.
Sheffield United are not the team to be conceding chances to at the moment. Oli McBurnie is leading the line again and even managed to break his long-standing drought and backed that up in their next match. With threats coming from all over the team, including Anel Ahmedhodzic at centre back, The Blades are looking very sharp indeed.
Paul Heckingbottom’s men also have done well in the early part of the season in putting away teams that they are expected to beat. When they are odds on they have won three matches out of three which is obviously a positive trend to follow. Even more so than most teams they appear to be a well-oiled machine that understand their jobs on the pitch really well. Also, United resisted the overtures of Club Brugge to take away one of their key assets in Sander Berge who looks set to play a massive part in a promotion push.
If The Blades are to achieve their goals then this is the type of game that they need to be taking all three points from.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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