With the third round of league fixtures in eight days ahead, fitness is of increasing importance – EFL pundit Gabriel Sutton discusses who has what it takes to thrive on Saturday in EFL Gameweek 8.
Swansea Draw no bet
Bristol City v Swansea City
Bristol City’s unbeaten start to the season came to an end on Tuesday with a 1-0 home defeat to Middlesbrough.
City could have had a penalty for the foul on Tyreeq Bakinson but Dean Holden felt his side, who failed to hit the target from a meagre seven attempts at goal, “were nowhere near the level we were at previously”.
There was yet more bad news for Holden, with centre-back Alfie Mawson forced off through injury and will here be replaced by Tomas Kalas, who has himself had an injury-interrupted 12 months.
Mawson would be a key asset against his former club, Swansea, who have seen their promotion hopes take a hit in their last two games, mustering a solitary point off Huddersfield and Coventry combined.
The defeat to the Terriers was somewhat unlucky, but Steve Cooper admitted to a lack of intensity in his side’s first half display in the 1-1 draw at Coventry.
The Swans wrestled back some control at the start of the second half, when midfielder Jay Fulton replaced striker Victor Gyökeres to a facilitate a switch from 3-4-3 to 3-5-2, though the tempo dropped again towards the end.
Cooper might go with a similar strategy here, with Andre Ayew and Jamal Lowe deployed as split-strikers to take advantage of the space behind opposing wing-backs – Jack Hunt and either Tommy Rowe or Josh Dasilva – who will get forward regularly.
Swansea should be stronger defensively with the experienced Ryan Bennett having made his debut, guiding young talents Ben Cabango and Marc Guehi, so if they use wide areas well they could have a productive afternoon at Ashton Gate.
Really disappointing from Swansea tonight.
Lovely goal to earn a point, but, other than Ryan Bennett’s display, there weren’t many other positives.
— Ian Mitchelmore (@IanMitchelmore) October 20, 2020
Both sides are hoping to get their promotion pushes back on track after disappointing outings on Tuesday, but I feel Swansea are a touch underrated here.Gabriel Sutton
Norwich to win and over 2.5 goals
Norwich City v Wycombe Wanderers
Norwich have lift off.
After a sticky start to their campaign affected by transfer uncertainty, the Canaries have secured successive victories over Rotherham and Birmingham, after the window’s closure.
It was a patchy display from the Yellows in the 2-1 win at Rotherham, but the 1-0 triumph over Birmingham was deserved, even if they were helped in both games by a red card prior to late winners.
A lot of the concerns around Daniel Farke’s side was a perceived lack of creativity in their central midfield pairing of Oliver Skipp and Lukas Rupp – but both players offer valuable qualities.
Skipp brings tenacity and a willingness to make bold runs high up the pitch, while Rupp can both guard against counter-attacks and pop up in shooting areas too.
It’s vital that both those players can get forward and break lines, because Emi Buendia and Todd Cantwell are dropping deeper than they have done previously.
It has taken Norwich a few games to refine and co-ordinate their patterns of play effectively, but they now seem to be getting there, so things look ominous for a Wycombe side still looking for a first point of their Championship campaign.
The Chairboys are hoping to welcome Dominic Gape back to their midfield which could eradicate some of the organisational issues they have had so far, though they can take heart from their defensive display on Tuesday.
Gareth Ainsworth’s side restricted Reading to just a solitary shot in the first hour of action and were unfortunate to fall to a 1-0 defeat – but it’s still hard to see where the threat will come from, especially without the physicality of Uche Ikpeazu, who has been out with a hamstring problem.
Ainsworth’s plan will be to stop attacking right-back Max Aarons from isolating left-back Joe Jacobson one-on-one, so Wycombe will gear themselves towards protecting their left side, meaning Norwich will have opportunities to switch the ball to the other flank.
Left-back Xavi Quintilla will not be able to outpace Jack Grimmer, but he is a fine technician and can deliver an excellent cross, so Wycombe must hope for a combination of aerial dominance from centre-back Anthony Stewart against Jordan Hugill and a shortage of yellow shirts in the box.
There are so many ways in which Norwich could hurt Wycombe though and, with the best will in the world, once Buendia and Cantwell start initiating some one-touch play beyond the halfway line, it will be very difficult to get near them.
Norwich midfielder Lukas Rupp completed 107 passes against Birmingham.
That’s the most by any player in a Championship game this season.
— The Second Tier (@secondtierpod) October 21, 2020
Wycombe are still waiting for their first point of the Championship season and it doesn’t get any easier for them; Norwich are finding form and could run away with this one.Gabriel Sutton
Bristol Rovers draw no bet
Accrington Stanley v Bristol Rovers
Stanley are scaling the lofty heights of seventh in League One after a 1-0 win over Fleetwood on Tuesday night.
Though improved after the interval, the Reds were fortuitous victors, having been very much on the back-foot throughout the first half and having survived close shaves in the second through excellent defending from Ross Sykes and goalkeeping from Toby Savin.
The East Lancashire outfit had been competitive in defeats to Oxford and Ipswich, so this was a reversal of fortunes for them while Bristol Rovers recorded a scrappy victory by the same scoreline.
Ben Garner, billed as a possession-based coach, has not yet delivered the free-flowing football hoped, but he is ingraining a strong mentality into this Gas side.
With attacking, direct wing-backs in Josh Hare and David Tutonda, as well as a quick, bulked up front-man in Brandon Hanlan, Rovers always have an out-ball which can mask the imperfections within their subtler passages of play.
Stanley, by contrast, put more pressure on themselves to refine their neat, short build-up play, because the wing-backs – especially Chelsea loanee Tariq Uwakwe on the left – like to come inside to create space for galloper Ross Sykes and the intelligent Cameron Burgess to overlap from wide centre-back roles.
There are benefits to that style when executed well, but Rovers’ ability, when under the cosh, to simply ping a brisk pass to Hare or Tutonda, or release Hanlan in behind, is a massive advantage.
It allows them to be effective while they are still in the process of discovering themselves as a team.
— Goodbrand Stats (@StatsChristian) October 20, 2020
Both sides are playing three at the back this season whilst getting good results, so the pace and power Bristol Rovers have in key areas could be the factor that separates them from Accrington Stanley.Gabriel Sutton
Wimbledon to win
Burton Albion v AFC Wimbledon
It looks a long old season ahead for Burton.
Jake Buxton, who only retired from playing in the summer, has thrown himself right into the proverbial deep end of senior management and now he finds his side bottom of League One, with just one win from his first seven league games in charge.
The rookie boss feels too many players are underperforming and wants more from his senior players, referring presumably to intelligent right-back Neal Eardley, midfielder turned centre-back John-Joe O’Toole, seasoned midfielder Stephen Quinn, hold-up front-man Kane Hemmings and unpredictable wide forward Lucas Akins.
AFC Wimbledon, meanwhile, can be aggrieved to have fallen to successive 1-0 defeats to Shrewsbury and Hull, because those displays held plenty of promise.
Glyn Hodges picked the right midfield blend for both games, with midfield controller Jaako Olsanen and ball-winner Alex Woodyard partnering the creative Ethan Chislett against Salop, with the more tenacious Callum Reilly replacing the latter at Hull.
If Chislett is available for the trip to the Pirelli Stadium, he will complete the equilibrium of that Wombles midfield with his ability to elude challenges and progress the ball.
Joe Pigott will win aerial duels for Wimbledon and Brighton loanee Ryan Longman provides lots of energy and good movement off him, so it feels as though the Londoners have a sense of cohesion.
That cohesion is something Burton, under Buxton, could be missing at this early stage.
🗣️REACTION | "I am pleased with how we played and if we keep playing like that we will pick-up more points than we lose," said Glyn after a late goal won it for visitors Shrewsbury. Watch the full interview >> https://t.co/WUt2dtf6lF #AFCW pic.twitter.com/6xdRQAoRJb
— AFC Wimbledon (@AFCWimbledon) October 17, 2020
It’s been a tough start to management for Burton boss Jake Buxton whilst AFC Wimbledon have produced some competitive displays lately; considering home advantage is a reduced factor, the 21/10 on the away win looks a very generous price.”Gabriel Sutton
Newport to win to nil
Bradford City v Newport County
Michael Flynn is a popular figure at Bradford, having played 91 times for the club, but he is even more popular as manager of Newport County.
They are on an incredible journey together and look serious contenders for promotion from League Two this season, having taken 16 points from their first seven games.
The injury to target man Ryan Taylor looked a blow on paper but Saikou Janneh has grabbed his opportunity; the Bristol City loanee is causing problems with his pace, strength, spring and goalscoring ability.
Keeping Janneh quiet will be the key priority, therefore, for Bradford City, who are hoping to elevate themselves into the promotion mix.
The Bantams could have a similar type of forward to Janneh in Wolves loanee Austin Samuels, who brings plenty of pace.
Many fans would argue Samuels should be starting alongside the lanky but tidy Clayton Donaldson up top, yet Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Walsall suggested the Wolves loanee is fourth in Stuart McCall’s pecking order – Lee Novak once again partnered his former Birmingham teammate in attack, while Kurtis Guthrie was the striker favoured from the bench.
Bradford produced a spirited second half performance that McCall felt merited more than a point, but they are missing that infusion of pace to complete their attacking play.
If Novak partners Donaldson again on Saturday, Newport’s three-man defence of Swansea loanee Brandon Cooper, midfielder turned libero Matty Dolan and stalwart Mickey Demetriou can squeeze up the pitch.
They will know that they can outnumber Bradford’s front two, and that if any one centre-back misses an individual duel, two others can sweep behind.
The Exiles can keep a clean sheet in West Yorkshire – and possibly nick the game at the other end.
— Exiles Analysis Man 🦸 (@ExilesAnalysis) October 21, 2020
Newport have just recorded successive 1-0 wins and there is no reason why they cannot get another clean sheet at Bradford, who could be short of pace up top.Gabriel Sutton
Leyton Orient to win
Stevenage v Leyton Orient
Leyton Orient bounced back from successive defeats with a 1-0 win at Tranmere on Tuesday night.
Ross Embleton was unhappy with the goals his side had conceded in losses to Walsall and Grimsby, but whatever he said to his players afterwards certainly worked, because Orient looked much sterner defensively at Prenton Park.
Left-sided centre-back Dan Happe, sent off recently at Barrow, delivered arguably his strongest display since the opening day win at Oldham, while Ousseynou Cisse pulled the strings in midfield.
A repeat of that performance level should prove fruitful at Stevenage, who suffered a 1-0 defeat at home to Newport in midweek.
Manager Alex Revell pointed out that his side hit the crossbar shortly before the early penalty their opponents converted, but still the Boro had 82 minutes to overturn that deficit and mustered just a solitary shot on target – though Danny Newton and Aramide Oteh came close.
With Oteh, Newton and Barnsley loanee Jack Aitchison, the Hertfordshire outfit can pose a counter-attacking threat but Orient have a very tenacious midfielder in Craig Clay and, in West Ham loanee Tunji Akinola, a right-back with plenty of pace in recovery.
For that reason, the East Londoners might have the tools to guard against Stevenage counter-attacks, while the combination of livewires Jordan Maguire-Drew and Ruel Sotiriou flanking poacher Danny Johnson will do damage to a lot of sides.
👊 "Defensively we were so much better; and we controlled the ball. It's very pleasing."
— Leyton Orient (@leytonorientfc) October 20, 2020
Leyton Orient looked re-organized at Tranmere last time out and Ross Embleton’s side have what it takes to inflict on Stevenage a fifth defeat in six league games.Gabriel Sutton