Luton Town v Bristol City
Luton Town look a strong play-off contender, and may be wondering about an outside shout of a finish in the automatic promotion places. The 4th place Hatters have suffered just two defeats since Boxing Day, winning nine of 14 league matches in that time. Rob Edwards truly looks a perfect fit for continuing the great work done under Nathan Jones at Kenilworth Road, regularly getting great use of the forward options at his disposal. Carlton Morris has three goals in his last four games, bringing his league total to a clear career-best 15 goals. Up top alongside him in a 3-4-1-2 is strike partner Elijah Adeboyo who is increasingly showing his complete forward qualities that tempted Luton to purchase him from Walsall back in 2021.
Luton’s hunt for a fourth win in five will come against Bristol City. 13th with 10 games left to play, the Robins beat Blackpool 2-0 on Saturday lunchtime to earn a first win in three league games. The game saw a spectacular opener by Andreas Weimann, playing in attacking midfield in a 4-2-3-1 behind Nakhi Wells, with highly-rated midfield talent Alex Scott scoring the second. The 19-year-old is a player who looks destined for top flight football next season.
A nine-point gap between themselves and the play-offs ultimately feels too big a gap for Bristol City to make up at this stage. Nigel Pearson’s side have lacked the consistent run of wins to disturb those top-ranked sides, and face tough opposition here away at Kenilworth Road. Only two sides, Burnley and West Bromwich Albion, have beaten the Hatters in Bedfordshire since the 3rd September. Bristol City, for all the ability they possess, are not to the level of those two sides, and likely won’t be to the same level as Luton Town on Wednesday night.
Blackburn v Reading
This bet is based mainly off the away record of the Royals. It has been mentioned in this column a few times that the Jekyll and Hyde nature of Reading’s results and performances is quite bizarre. Blackburn were beaten by Reading when they made the trip south earlier in the season, but there is every reason to believe that a reversal is likely here.
Dealing with Reading first, Paul Ince’s side haven’t scored an away goal in the Championship in 2023. In one way that might be seen as unlucky as they have totalled 2.3xG in that time, but never have they produced over 1xG of chances in one of those matches. Indeed, their last two away matches have barely seen them threaten the goal at all so the trend is getting worse.
What Reading fans won’t then want to see is Blackburn’s defensive record at home in the Championship, especially of late. No goals conceded in 2023, four 1-0 wins and a 0-0 draw in those matches tells you how Jon Dahl Tomasson has set Blackburn up to play at Ewood Park. Blackburn aren’t a team who will totally dominate you for 90 minutes, even at home, but they do not tend to allow you to have good chances either.
In a case such as this there was a strong tendency to back the under 2.5 goal line. However, that price was fairly restrictive and besides, Blackburn have shown more variety in their attack in recent weeks. Where before if Ben Brereton didn’t turn up and have an impact then it was tough to see where a goal would come from, there looks to be more strength in depth as the likes of Tyrhys Dolan, Sammie Szmodics, and Sam Gallagher have contributed goals for Rovers.
A narrow home win is the obvious outcome here and with the price differential it is favourable to back the Rovers to win this one.
Real Madrid v Liverpool
It’s going to take a performance for the ages for Liverpool to turn around their 5-2 deficit from the first leg, but this squad will believe it is possible, especially after the 7-0 thrashing the Reds recently dealt Manchester United. Jurgen Klopp and his players know they can score many goals and they know they need to play with urgency to get them.
We should expect Liverpool to beat Thibaut Courtois at some point in this game, then, as the visitors will throw everything they have at a Real Madrid back line that hasn’t been so solid this season, conceding in 28 of their 41 matches played.
But, we all know how deadly Real Madrid can be on the counter and how efficient Karim Benzema and Vinícius can be in front of goal in the Champions League. Liverpool will have to leave space in behind as they go in search of the goals they need to level this tie and, when they do that, Real Madrid have chances.
These are two teams who score a lot and concede a lot, with Real Madrid matches this season producing 2.76 goals on average and Liverpool games producing 2.92 goals on average. If these teams are producing that many goals in normal circumstances, goals are only more likely in a second leg such as this where the away team is the one that needs to push from minute one.
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