Terriers to slip up in West Yorkshire
Huddersfield were well-backed on the opening weekend. But despite coming up against a beleaguered Derby County, the Terriers were unable to take advantage of their hosts’ selection issues.
Admittedly, Huddersfield had problems of their own with head coach Carlos Corberan being forced to self-isolate following a positive test for Covid-19. Lewis O’Brien, Harry Toffolo and summer signing Josh Ruffels were also ruled out of last weekend’s trip to Pride Park, and with uncertainty surrounding the exact date of their return, the hosts are unlikely to be afforded the chance to name their strongest XI once again this weekend.
The west Yorkshire side have been widely tipped for relegation this season and their 2021 form makes fairly grim reading. Since the turn of the year, they’ve recorded just three wins, and have a goal difference of -18. They’ve lost each of their last three opening home fixtures and they will be desperate to improve upon their dreadful record against Fulham.
The Cottagers have won 12 of their last 16 games against Huddersfield in the second tier, and despite dropping points last weekend, there is still plenty of confidence within the camp. The West Londoners spurned numerous chances against Middlesbrough six days ago, and their wastefulness in front of goal was duly punished. They have several match-winners within their squad and summer signing Harry Wilson is already off the mark for the campaign.
Stoke were the only odds-on winners of the opening weekend but, at 1.9310/11, Fulham look worthy of support this Saturday. They should have too much quality for their goal-shy hosts.
Points shared in South Yorkshire
Barnsley picked up an opening day point against Cardiff, and although the xG would suggest that they were second best, they did manage to produce some notable efforts throughout the 90 minutes. Markus Schopp has demanded improvement from his side in the final third, and after watching his side spurn multiple opportunities against Bolton in the Carabao Cup, he may opt to experiment with his line-up ahead of this match. Summer signings Obbi Oulare and Aaron Leya Iseka may be given the chance to impress on Saturday afternoon.
Coventry gave their long-suffering fans something to celebrate last weekend as they secured as last-gasp victory against Nottingham Forest. The Sky Blues benefited from a return to their home stadium and were also able to take advantage of the Tricky Trees’ baffling decision to sit back and invite pressure. Mark Robins’ men aren’t as effective on their travels, and they have a poor record at this ground. However, they are fairly difficult to beat and are unlikely to go down without a fight.
Six Championship fixtures finished all-square last weekend, and this could go the same way at 3.3512/5
Effective Blues to edge to victory
Lee Bowyer’s appointment at Birmingham has give the Blues a new lease of life and since arriving in B9, he’s averaged 1.92 points per game. They got off to the perfect start last weekend by recording a notable victory over much-fancied Sheffield United. They were aided by the Blades’ rustiness but they now appear to have a well-balanced squad which is easily capable of finishing in the top half. The arrival of Tahith Chong has given them some added impetus in the final third whilst Lukas Jutkiewicz continues to provide a formidable aerial presence.
Stoke had to work hard for their victory last weekend, taking the lead three times against Reading. Michael O’Neill’s men eventually managed to hold onto the lead, and were indebted to the set-piece quality of summer signing Mario Vrancic. Nick Powell and Jacob Brown both look extremely sharp, and they are likely to ask plenty of questions of Harlee Dean and Marc Roberts. However, they were caught out by the Royals on numerous occasions and they simply must improve at the back.
Bowyer has lost just a single home game since arriving from Charlton and his side look set to continue their superb run of form at 2.8415/8 on the Exchange.
Entertaining affair at Bloomfield Road
Blackpool left it late to secure a point at Ashton Gate on the opening weekend and, following a scintillating midweek display in the Carabao Cup, they will keen to continue their momentum in west Lancashire. With the fans back inside Bloomfield Road, there should be a terrific atmosphere for the visit of Cardiff.
Neil Critchley must decide whether to start wide-man Josh Bowler and striker Shayne Lavery for this tie, with the latter having netted twice so far this season. Kenny Dougall and Marvin Ekpitata both returned from injury in midweek, so the Seasiders come into this match with plenty of options.
Cardiff were the better side against Barnsley last weekend but the Bluebirds couldn’t make their dominance count and they will have been disappointed to have dropped points in front of their own fans. Mick McCarthy’s side pose a significant threat from set-pieces and the arrival of Ryan Giles is likely to make them even more effective from dead ball situations.
The Blackpool defence will have to keep their eye on the tireless Keiffer Moore and, if Richard Keogh is given the nod for the hosts, the Welsh international could enjoy a fruitful 90 minutes.
Both sides will be full of confidence in the final third and this could be an entertaining clash. BTTS is available at 1.9520/21 on the Exchange.
Keane Lewis-Potter to relish playing at the Kcom
Hull got their season off to the perfect start with a convincing 4-1 victory over Preston. The Tigers were helped by some hapless defending and poured forward at every opportunity with a real swagger. There is a quiet confidence surrounding Grant McCann’s men this season. Keane Lewis-Potter was the stand-out performer and Hull fans will be hoping that the lively 20-year old can put in a similar performance this weekend. He played in empty stadiums last season and should benefit from the return of the home supporters.
QPR picked up a point against Millwall last weekend and, although Mark Warburton’s men were far from fluent in the final third, they will be confident of picking up something from their trip to Humberside. Rob Dickie has scored twice so far, and Hull will have to make sure that the big defender isn’t afforded the time and space to stride forward and pick his spot. However, it’s the aforementioned Lewis-Potter who will provide the biggest danger and, at 13/5 on the Sportsbook, he looks worth backing to score anytime here.
Boro to build on last weekend’s point
Middlesbrough‘s much-changed XI was easily swept aside by Blackpool in the Carabao Cup but Neil Warnock will undoubtedly have his side ready for their opening home fixture. The Teessiders remained competitive throughout the 90 minutes despite conceding numerous chances to recently-relegated Fulham on Sunday afternoon.
Marc Bola‘s strike earned the visitors a share of the spoils and there were encouraging debut displays from both Uche Ikpeazu and Matt Crooks.
Bristol City were unable to protect their slender lead against Blackpool last weekend and Nigel Pearson was disappointed by his side’s inability to convert their chances. In Chris Martin, the Robins have a striker who can find the back of the net on a regular basis whilst Andy King and Matty James add some much needed nous to the midfield. Pearson’s men must start picking up maximum points soon, and having been handed a relatively straightforward start to the campaign, they cannot afford too many more slip-ups.
Boro are very wily and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Warnock’s men sneak all three points at 1.824/5 in front of the Riverside faithful.
Plenty of opportunities at the Den
Millwall were indebted to another moment of Jed Wallace magic on Saturday afternoon as they secured an opening day point against QPR. Admittedly, it was a poor game in which the Lions struggled to find a way past the R’s rearguard. With the additions of George Saville and Benik Afobe, Lions’ fans will be hoping for something different going forward. They’re still over-reliant on their talisman but they shouldn’t have too many problems unlocking the Blackburn defence.
Rovers produced the highest xG numbers of the weekend as they peppered the Swansea goal with numerous efforts. The Welshmen were architects of their own downfall during the first half and they were caught out by Rovers’ pace on numerous occasions. Tony Mowbray’s side are always entertaining to watch and, notwithstanding some curious tactical decisions, the Teessider knows that he has a squad who are capable of finding the back of the net. Millwall’s defence isn’t likely to be breached in the air but the pace of Tyrhys Dolan is likely to cause problems.
This could be another hugely entertaining 90 minutes for the travelling Blackburn fans and backing BTTS at 1.9720/21 on the Exchange could be a wise decision.
Cherries to secure first victory of the season
Nottingham Forest are generally viewed as a work in progress and with a number of new faces expected to arrive before the end of the month, they should improve significantly over the coming weeks.
Chris Hughton’s side went into last week’s clash with Coventry with a relatively inexperienced XI but they approached it with plenty of energy and determination during the first 60 minutes. Brennan Johnson and Alex Mighten are likely to excite the fans this season. They are lacking numbers at the back, though, and with the injuries mounting up, Bournemouth will be looking to take full advantage.
The Cherries were impressive against West Brom on the opening weekend and there appears to be plenty more to come from Scott Parker’s men. They created numerous opportunities and, with a number of key players yet to return to full fitness, they will surely get stronger as the season progresses. Despite this, the likes of Jaidon Anthony and Gavin Kilkenny have done more than enough to stake a claim for regular game-time. With Forest struggling at the back, the visitors’ pace is likely to make the difference here. Bournemouth are worth backing at 2.245/4.
Defensive woes at the Madejski
Reading competed admirably against Stoke last weekend but were unable to equalise for the third time. Vejlko Paunovic has been unable to make any additions this summer and his squad is beginning to look a little threadbare. Despite this, he can still name an experienced XI and there are a number of exciting prospects who will be hoping to make the step up in the coming weeks.
The Royals’ problems are likely to arrive later in the season when fixture congestion coupled with long-term injuries starts to take its toll. The likes of Josh Laurent, John Swift, Lucas Joao and Liam Moore are all experienced enough to hold their own at this level and they should be able to get on the score-sheet this weekend.
Preston‘s season began on a sour note with a 4-1 defeat to newly-promoted Hull City. Frankie McAvoy’s side looked shaky at the back and, although they kept a clean sheet against League Two opposition in the Carabao Cup, they simply cannot be trusted to keep the opposition at arm’s length here. They are also lacking creativity, although they possess enough individual quality in midfield to find the back of the net. The tireless running of Emil Riis will open up avenues and they should be able to contribute to a high-scoring contest.
At 1.8810/11 on the Exchange, BTTS looks the best option.
WBA to take advantage of Luton’s makeshift back-line
Although West Brom possess ample quality, they were unable to leave the Vitality with more than a point last weekend. Most pundits agreed that the Baggies were the better side and they should be able to continue where they left off here. Callum Robinson was excellent throughout and the arrival of Alex Mowatt, who is already familiar with Valerien Ismael’s favoured high-press, appears to be a savvy move.
Luton began their campaign with a convincing 3-0 victory over Peterborough and they couldn’t have asked for a simpler assignment. Posh weren’t at the races, and despite the Hatters naming a makeshift centre-back partnership, Darren Ferguson’s side were barely able to muster an effort on goal.
Luton have plenty of options going forward and Elijah Adebayo will always cause problems. However, Luton’s lack of numbers at the back could count against them here. WBA have plenty of pace and they could take advantage of the visitor’s makeshift back-line at 1.774/5
You can follow Jack Critchley on Twitter @jcritch7