Hull City have responded promptly to last season’s capitulation in the Championship – EFL pundit Gab Sutton reckons the Tigers could return to that level on Tuesday night in his EFL Midweek Preview.
Brentford to win
Brentford v Cardiff City
Brentford were unable to take advantage of the weekend defeat for Watford when they drew 0-0 with Millwall.
Thomas Frank has recently switched from the 4-3-3 he had deployed in every game since the start of last season to a 3-1-4-2, with the alteration bringing mixed results.
The Bees thrashed Preston North End 5-0, with Mads Roerslev – a direct, attack-minded right-sider by trade – and Bryan Mbuemo – who had been used as a wide forward throughout his time with the West Londoners – deployed as wing-backs.
The duo did not have so much joy last time out, though, in the 0-0 draw with Millwall, as Ivan Toney endured a rare off-day.
Thomas Frank had attempted to address the reliance on Toney by pairing him with the energetic Marcus Forss, who had enjoyed an excellent loan spell at Wimbledon last season, but the Finnish front-man was not as clinical as his nationality would suggest – hitting the side-netting after an excellent solo run.
The advantage of the current system, though, is that it allows Christian Norgaard to rotate with Vitaly Janelt; Norgaard is a centre-back on paper, but he will carry the ball forward to distribute, with the German covering his place.
Brentford retain the defensive solidity they need with three centre-backs, especially when two of them are organiser Pontus Jansson and athlete Ethan Pinnock, whilst also having the tools to open teams up.
Tariqe Fosu and Mathias Jensen, as dual number eights, are more than capable of producing moments of quality in the final third but it is very difficult for opponents to keep them out of the game, whilst nullifying the pace of Roerslev and Mbuemo out wide.
Millwall might have been able to do that, but it looks more likely Brentford’s third performance with this system will be more reminiscent of the one at Deepdale, especially against a Cardiff side bound for another season of Championship football.
Being part of the elite six might not be all it’s cracked up to be based on recent events, but Brentford can guarantee themselves a minimum of a Play-Off berth with victory over Cardiff and I expect them to do that.Gabriel Sutton
Double Chance: Draw/QPR
Swansea City v Queens Park Rangers
Swansea came back from two down against Wycombe last time out to draw 2-2, but Steve Cooper wanted more – especially given that promotion rivals Watford were defeated.
There are some games in which the incisive final third work of Andre Ayew and Jamal Lowe, combined with solid defending, is enough to see Swansea to victory, but in others it is not.
Steve Cooper favours a 3-5-2 formation but, because Ayew wants to use his flair and technical ability by getting on the ball in deeper areas, Lowe can get isolated – and lacks the range of qualities required to hold defenders off for long periods.
What Swansea really need is a third forward to compliment the duo so that when Ayew drops to link play with the midfield, they still have another option in attack.
The likes of Yan Dhanda, Kasey Palmer and Viktor Gyokeres have all, at different points and in different ways, tried to become that third forward, but each of them struggled.
Instead of signing an alternative in January, Cooper added midfielder Conor Hourihane and although the Aston Villa loanee has undoubtedly brought quality, his arrival has not solved Swansea’s problem in terms of not having enough options ahead of the ball.
The setup could work if the South Wales outfit had very aggressive wing-backs who love to attack the flank, but Connor Roberts tends to veer into central areas while his left-sided counterpart, Jake Bidwell, offers little going forward.
Bidwell’s former employers are in resurgent mood, having accrued 32 points from 17 games since the start of February, the fifth-most in the Championship in that timeframe.
QPR have had to be careful with their spending in recent seasons to counter-balance the mistakes made in previous eras, but there is no doubting that it has helped Mark Warburton’s side being able to bring in some star quality.
The Rs had already improved from last season at the back, with the form of goalkeeper Seny Dieng – after a great season on loan at Doncaster last year – and Oxford recruit Rob Dickie at centre-back, but they had struggled to adjust to the loss of Ebere Eze and Jordan Hugill from the previous campaign.
Finding another Eze is easier said than done, so short-term it is great for the West Londoners being able to add attack-minded players who have won promotion from this level before in goalscoring midfielder Stefan Johansen and poacher Charlie Austin.
With Lyndon Dykes, Chris Willock and Ilias Chair also in good form lately, QPR have lots of options and could cause problems for Swansea.
Swansea City have won a trophy more recently than Spurs, and yet Spurs somehow get to join a European Super League. Surely this thing can only work if the Swans are included?
— Elis James (@elisjames) April 18, 2021
Swansea only scraped a point against bottom side Wycombe last time out and I’m not sure I’d have them as odds-on favourites for this one. Visitors QPR have been in excellent form over the last three months.Gabriel Sutton
Jimmy Keohane - Anytime Goalscorer
Rochdale v Blackpool
Rochdale have resurrected their survival hopes with back-to-back wins over Swindon and Accrington Stanley.
Dale secured a 3-1 win over the latter thanks to a fine opening strike from Jimmy Keohane, who seems to pose a direct goalscoring threat when played on the left.
The Lancashire outfit loaned Tolaji Bola in the first half of the season but the Arsenal loanee struggled, leaving Brian Barry-Murphy short of left-backs – or left wing-backs, having recently moved to a three-at-the-back system.
The right-footed Keohane has therefore filled in that position and, whereas on the right his game would be about hugging the touchline and using his technical quality to swing crosses in, on the left he has more opportunities to get into dangerous areas.
The Exeter academy graduate scored a brace at left-back in January’s 2-2 draw at Gillingham – in fact, he has scored six goals in 16 league starts from that position – curling a beautiful strike into the far corner last time out.
Keohane is vital to Rochdale’s chances of extending their third-tier stay to an eighth campaign, and of beating Blackpool, who look secure in the Play-Off places.
2⃣ goals in 2⃣ for @keojim 🤩
— Rochdale AFC (@officiallydale) April 17, 2021
Blackpool would have been heavy favourites earlier in the season, but Rochdale are showing signs of life in the League One dogfight. Brian Barry-Murphy’s side are fighting for their lives, whereas Blackpool’s fate will likely be decided in the post-season.Gabriel Sutton
Hull to win
Hull City v Sunderland
Hull took one step forward to the Championship at the weekend.
Grant McCann’s side came from behind to beat Fleetwood 2-1 while Sunderland, their only realistic challengers for automatic promotion, were defeated 1-0 at Blackpool.
Those results put the Tigers 11 points clear in the automatic promotion race, needing just six more points to mathematically guarantee an instant return to the second-tier.
Victory on Tuesday night would make it impossible for the Black Cats to catch the Humbersiders, putting them 13 points behind with four to play – and if that result is combined with defeat for Lincoln at Burton and failure to win for Blackpool at Rochdale, then promotion is mathematically rubber-stamped.
Hull were victorious last time out despite missing George Honeyman, arguably the best midfielder in League One, which is if nothing else an indication of their strength in depth.
Honeyman tended to play in the attacking midfield role in Grant McCann’s 4-2-3-1, but the Northern Irish boss still had the luxury of being able to start Dan Crowley – a Championship performer to a reasonable standard last season with Birmingham – in that position.
Crowley was subsequently replaced by Gavin White, who was a key man in 2018-19 at this level for Oxford, while Greg Docherty is excelling in midfield and Keane Lewis-Potter continues to star on the left of the attack.
Honeyman is “on the mend” according to McCann and will be “fine for Tuesday”, when he will face his former club, who have endured a drop in form.
Lee Johnson’s troops lost 1-0 at Blackpool last time out to complete a run of three consecutive defeats.
It might have been a game decided on fine margins – Aiden McGeady hit the post seconds before the only goal of the game – but the motivation of potentially securing promotion on Tuesday night is a massive carrot for the hosts.
Where was George Honeyman yesterday?
Will he be fit for Tuesday’s big game against his old club Sunderland?
WATCH Hull City head coach Grant McCann ⬇️
— BBC Humberside Sport (@HumbersideSport) April 18, 2021
Grant McCann has taken a lot of criticism at Hull and some still doubt him based on the capitulation in the second half of last season, but he has done an excellent job this year and he, more than anyone, deserves his moment in the sun on Tuesday night.Gabriel Sutton
Josh Kayode - Anytime Goalscorer
Bolton Wanderers v Carlisle United
Bolton remain in pole position for automatic promotion, but their chances were hit by a 2-1 loss at Grimsby last time out.
The Trotters deserved to lose at Blundell Park – the scoreline did not reflect the nature of their inferiority against the division’s bottom side – and Morecambe’s victory puts Ian Evatt’s side just one point clear of the Play-Off places.
Having been the hunters for much of the season – 19th as recently as January – Bolton are now the hunted.
Carlisle had hoped to be in the automatic promotion mix themselves at this stage but awful form over February and March means they needed a six-game unbeaten run to re-enter the Play-Off scramble.
The other positive for Chris Beech’s side from recent weeks is the return of Josh Kayode, with the Rotherham loanee having spent a period sidelined through injury.
Providing pace, power, persistence and predatory instincts in the penalty area, the Irishman is an asset to the Cumbrians and has made his presence felt from the bench in recent games.
Kayode has not yet managed a start ahead of Offrande Zanzala, Omari Patrick or Lewis Alessandra, but after managing 38 minutes of action last time out, it would be a surprise if he does not feature for a lengthy period of this game – and he could be handed a start.
The 20-year-old is highly rated at his parent club and could cause problems for Bolton, especially if he gets in behind opposing left-back Declan John to isolate veteran centre-back Alex Baptiste for a footrace.
🔵⚽️ For the many who have asked, we can neither confirm or deny rumours linking us to the #ESL.
A club spokesman said: “Let’s wait and see.” 😉🙃
— Carlisle United FC (@officialcufc) April 19, 2021
I’m a massive fan of Josh Kayode. The Rotherham loanee could start here for Carlisle and I’m expecting him to do damage.Gabriel Sutton
Colchester United v Southend United
The term “must-win game” is overused in football, but it likely applies to Southend.
Defeat to their closest relegation rivals would render Shrimper survival hopes unrealistic but even a draw would have them needing an extreme sequence of results.
With victory, though, Phil Brown’s side would need to gain a further four points on Colchester – or three points with a significant swing in goal difference – which would still be a stretch but within the realms of reasonable possibility.
For that reason, we could see a different Southend side to the one that has seen two or fewer goals scored in 15 of it’s last 16 games.
The coastal outfit has had massive problems in attack, where veteran defender Greg Halford and anchor man Timothee Dieng have often been preferred to natural forwards – a damning indictment of the poor form of Emile Acquah, Brandon Goodship, Simeon Akinola and others.
Southend have made up in part for these deficiencies by keeping a lot of clean sheets – 15 of them, in fact – but that solidity could wane as the SS2 outfit throw caution to the window.
If scores are level in the latter stages, we can expect the visitors to push forward with something approaching reckless abandon, which could open up the game for Colchester.
Hayden Mullins’ side have pace in dribbler Courtney Senior and athletic striker Michael Folivi who, whether from the bench or starting, could tear Southend apart in transition.
One of the best performances of the season in terms of chances created for sure. And one of the rare occasions where we have won and throughly deserved it!
First win under Mullins and Tisdale. Fantastic from @MichaelFolivi in particular
— TheLatestColU (@TheLatestColU) April 17, 2021
Southend have to win this one, which is why if they do not score before half-time, I expect them to throw caution to the wind after the interval – so we may see acres of space in which Colchester can counter-attack.Gabriel Sutton