Robins to slip up on their travels once again
It’s been a forgettable season for both of these clubs and the underachieving pair will be understandably keen to finish the campaign and potentially press the reset button over the summer. Nevertheless, Stoke are finally showing signs of life and Michael O’Neill’s job may have been saved by their recent upturn in form. The Potters have won three of their last four matches, beating Millwall, Sheffield United and West Brom. They’ve also managed to keep back-to-back clean sheets on their own patch for the first time since early October.
The January signing of Lewis Baker appears to be a masterstroke and he continues to provide a much-needed spark in the final third. Jacob Brown is also enjoying his best season in front of goal and Josh Maja’s performance levels have also improved in recent weeks.
Bristol City produced yet another underwhelming display seven days ago as they failed to capitalise on their man advantage at home to Peterborough. Nigel Pearson’s side have picked up just a single away victory since the beginning of October and have conceded 2+ goals in 14 of their last 15 matches on the road.
The visitors are aiming to do the double over their hosts for the first time since 1907, however, on current form, they may have to wait a little longer in order to achieve that feat.
Another stalemate at St. Andrews
Games between these near-neighbours are rarely one-sided affairs and each of the last five meetings between these sides have ended all-square. With Birmingham struggling for firepower and Coventry seemingly unreliable on their travels, another draw could be on the cards on Friday afternoon.
Brum predictably lost against Nottingham Forest last weekend, however, Lee Bowyer’s side have now failed to find the net in four of their last five outings. They did beat West Brom at this venue a fortnight ago and have managed to keep three clean sheets in their last five at St. Andrews. The hosts have been tough to predict this season on their own patch and with a 7-5-8 record in front of their own fans, they have been the archetypal mixed bag.
Coventry completed the double over Premier League-bound Fulham last weekend and Mark Robins will be hoping that his side can build on their superb display in West London. It was their first victory in five, and they cannot necessarily be trusted to follow it up. They’ve only won back-to-back games once since September and are yet to pick up consecutive away victories this season.
Entertaining 90 minutes at the Vitality
Although they’ve played a couple of extra games, Huddersfield managed to cut the gap to just four points with a victory on Monday night. Bournemouth are still firmly in the driving seat, however, the Cherries aren’t playing particularly well and the nerves may begin to jangle if they aren’t able to take all three points from this Good Friday clash with Middlesbrough.
Scott Parker’s side have failed to score in each of their last two and they were comprehensively outplayed by Sheffield United at Bramall Lane last weekend. Nevertheless, they are strong at home and haven’t been defeated here since late January. They have netted 12 times in their last six home matches and they also have an excellent recent record against the Teessiders.
Although they managed to keep the Blades off the scoresheet last weekend, clean sheets have been few and far between for Parker’s men in recent weeks and Derby are the only side to draw a blank at this venue so far in 2022. Middlesbrough have failed to score in each of their last two matches, however, they’ve found the net in six of their last seven on the road and should find a way past Bournemouth’s shaky defence.
Blades to boost play-off hopes
Sheffield United were the better side against Bournemouth last weekend, however, Paul Heckingbottom’s men had to settle for yet another goalless draw. The Blades are fairly imperious at the back, however, they often struggle to take their chances and with the majority of their strikers currently on the treatment table, the rest of the squad will surely have been working on their finishing in training this week.
Nevertheless, they’ve won five of their last seven at this venue and have kept clean sheets in 10 of their last 12 outings at Bramall Lane and their defence is rarely breached in South Yorkshire.
Although Barnsley’s dip in form has given Reading some much-needed breathing space, the Royals still aren’t safe from relegation and will be keen to avoid yet another defeat on Friday afternoon. The Berkshire side’s fantastic run of form was ended by Cardiff last weekend and they’ve failed to win eight of their last nine away games.
Hull’s curious home hoodoo to continue
Hull’s recent form is baffling. Shota Arveladze’s side have lost six consecutive home matches and have failed to score in five of those encounters. However, on the road, they’re unbeaten in six and have kept clean sheets in five of those contests. Last weekend, they left the Riverside Stadium with maximum points, however, they cannot seem to recreate those performances in front of their own fans.
They’ve been priced up as the favourites for this contest, however, it’s difficult to put your faith in a team with a 5-3-12 record on their own patch.
Steve Morison was pleased with his side’s response to their derby defeat, and Cardiff will be hoping to build on their 2-1 victory at the Majeski. The Bluebirds have been far better at home since the former striker replaced Mick McCarthy, however, they may not need to be at their best in order to secure something from this tie. They’ve won three of their last five on the road and should be able to extend Hull’s winless run at the MKM.
Swans to push the Tykes closer to the trap door
Swansea fans have been frustrated by their side’s inability to turn their possession into points this season, however, Russell Martin’s side are now reaping the rewards for their hard work on the training ground. They are unbeaten in their last five matches and have kept clean sheets in three of their last four outings. Although the goals of Joel Piroe will make the majority of headlines this season, the selfless play of Michael Obafemi, the craft of Jamie Paterson and the recent addition of the stylish Hannes Wolf have enabled the Swans to be far more accomplished in the final third.
The hosts have suffered just five home defeats this campaign and have an excellent record when hosting bottom half opposition.
Barnsley’s form is beginning to tail off and Poya Asbarghi has been unable to turn the tide over the last few weeks. At Oakwell, they’re a match for anyone, however, they have struggled on their travels and have lost four of their last five. They’ve conceded eight times in their last three and the hosts could easily fill their boots here.
Baggies and Seasiders to share the points
West Brom produced one of their most disappointing displays of the campaign last weekend as they fell to a 3-1 home defeat to mid-table Stoke. The Baggies have improved under Steve Bruce, however, they struggle to do it on a consistent basis. Over the last few weeks, they’ve beaten the top two, yet have dropped points to Bristol City, Birmingham and Stoke. They’ll be looking to get back to winning ways against Blackpool on Friday, however, with the play-offs out of reach, Bruce must find a way to motivate his talented squad.
Blackpool bounced back from a disappointing seven days by taking a point off Blackburn. The Seasiders were much improved at Ewood Park and showed plenty of attacking intent in the second half. Some fans have called for Neil Critchley to utilise his squad and give some of the fringe players a chance to impress, however, the former Liverpool youth coach has been very loyal to his first-choice XI, despite some shaky performances. On an average day, the Lancashire side are incredibly tough to beat and they may be able to squeeze a point out of this fixture.
Low-scoring affair at Deepdale
Preston have got their eye on a top half finish this season and Ryan Lowe has done a superb job since arriving at the beginning of December. Their home form has been very impressive and they’ve suffered just a single defeat at this venue since November. They’ve also managed to keep Huddersfield and Nottingham Forest off the scoresheet and have beaten high-flying Bournemouth. In Cameron Archer and Emil Riis, they have a lively forward line, who have the ability to stretch the opposition’s defence, however, they also have plenty of experience in the squad with the likes of Patrick Bauer, Alan Browne and Daniel Johnson all playing significant roles this season.
Millwall’s play-off ambitions are slim, but the Lions will still fancy their chances of gatecrashing the top six. They will need to improve their form on the road, having amassed just two wins in their last eight away from the Den. They’ve also failed to score in four of their last seven, and they could struggle to find a way past the watertight hosts.
Posh and Rovers to notch at the Weston Homes
Peterborough are heading to League One, however, Grant McCann’s side appear to be going down with a bit of fight. Posh have avoided defeat in three of their last four and they’ve managed to find the net six of their last seven. They managed to take a point off Bristol City last weekend, despite going down to ten men and they will feel confident of nicking something from this tie.
Blackburn are clinging onto their hopes of reaching the play-offs, however, they were second best against Blackpool last weekend. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of individual within their squad and Tony Mowbray may opt to draft John Buckley back into the XI here. The visitors ended their barren away run recently and they’ve now netted in three of their last four.