EFL pundit Gab Sutton has found some tasty prices for the midweek action.
Bristol City to win
Bristol City v Huddersfield Town
Bristol City have re-built some confidence after two wins in their last three games in all competitions.
They lost 2-0 at leaders Norwich but, before that game, they beat Preston North End 2-0 and come into this one off the back of a 3-0 FA Cup victory over Millwall.
Dean Holden has moved Zak Vyner into midfield with reasonable results, as the centre-back by trade has applied the defensive qualities from his previous role whilst spraying the ball around nicely.
Next to Vyner has been Tyreeq Bakinson, who brings bags of energy and dynamism which allows Holden to deploy a narrow 4-2-2-2.
Kasey Palmer cuts inside from the left to create in the number 10 position, while on the right Antoine Semenyo – skilful, agile and exciting – loves to attack the fringes of the penalty box.
This could be a great time for City to play Huddersfield, who were without as many as seven players – experienced centre-backs Tommy Elphick, Richard Stearman and Christopher Schindler, anchor man Jonathan Hogg, classy midfielder Carel Eiting and key wide forward Josh Koroma – for Wednesday’s 1-0 home defeat to Millwall.
Carlos Corberán has added Richard Keogh for some defensive knowhow and will be hoping the defender is strong enough to return to this level after a long time on the sidelines, followed by a period in League One with MK Dons.
Huddersfield have made a lot of individual errors this season and without experienced figures playing to their best in key defensive areas, they could be vulnerable at the back.
While Fraizer Campbell is strong and instrustrial, Danny Ward is hardworking and Rolando Aarons is quick, Town could be short on technical quality at the other end, too.
He’s Antoine Semenyo and he is so wonderful,
When he scores a goal,
Oh it is beautiful
When he runs down your wing,
He is fast as lightning,,
It's frightening and it makes cider-heads sing,
Doh do doh dodo do doodododododo… –
— Jack Buchanan 💙 (@jackbuchanan172) January 23, 2021
Huddersfield are treading water somewhat until they get various key men back from injury, so Bristol City could be in a great position to boost their Play-Off hopes with victory.Gabriel Sutton
Watford to score under 0.5 goals
Millwall v Watford
Watford’s form under Xisco Muñoz could be unsustainable.
After a 2-1 victory at Stoke last time out, the Hornets have won four of their five league games under the Spaniard’s management – a return that has on paper put them back in the mix for the top two.
The Hertfordshire outfit, though, have averaged 8.8 shots per game under Muñoz which is the second-fewest in the division – and yet they are fifth top goalscorers in that timeframe.
Of course, it helps having the pace and quality of Ismaïla Sarr as well as the physicality and knowhow of Troy Deeney in attack, plus the talents of João Pedro and the crossing ability of Ken Sema.
There will be a lot of games, though, in which Watford struggle to feed those danger men because they do not have the numbers in central midfield in a rigid 4-4-2 setup.
There were occasions against Stoke when Sarr, who tore apart Liverpool on the right of a three-man attack last season, was on the left of a four-man midfield, stuck in his defensive third through worrying about the threat posed by Nathan Collins, a 19-year-old centre-back by trade.
For Watford’s form to continue, therefore, they must either change their approach or continue to be as clinical as they currently are – and it’s plausible that neither of those things happen against Millwall.
The Lions allayed any relegation fears with a crucial 1-0 win at Huddersfield last time out and it’s worth noting that when Gary Rowett’s side drew 1-1 at Bournemouth, another promotion contender, they created the better chances.
After Mahlon Romeo’s performances had dropped off through lack of competition, Dan McNamara has brought quality and graft at right wing-back, crossing for Scott Malone’s winner last time out.
Ben Thompson, a pressing and goalscoring number 10, has also made a positive impact since coming into the side, likewise Kenneth Zohore on return from injury.
Unlike Matt Smith and Tom Bradshaw, Zohore is both strong and reasonably mobile, making him the ideal player to lead the line for solid performances against higher-placed opposition.
In Jake Cooper, meanwhile, Millwall have one of the toughest centre-backs in the Championship.
Who’s the hardest player in the Championship? 🤔👊
— The Second Tier (@secondtierpod) January 18, 2021
Watford are not controlling games nor creating enough chances for my liking and I don’t expect them to maintain their rate of shot conversion. Millwall have kept nine clean sheets, which is the sixth-most in the Championship.Gabriel Sutton
Doncaster to win
Doncaster Rovers v AFC Wimbledon
Doncaster lost 4-0 at West Ham in the FA Cup 4th Round last time out but, given the gulf in levels between themselves and their illustrious opponents, it would be wrong to draw too many conclusions.
One positive was the performance of goalkeeper Ellery Balcombe, who has big gloves to fill after Josef Bursik was recalled by Stoke but looks capable of matching those levels.
One would expect Donny to be in a minor transitional period after losing instrumental midfielder Ben Whiteman to Preston North End, but they have won both league games since that move.
In the 2-1 win at Swindon, Taylor Richards dropped into a deeper role than usual with Elliot Simeos taking on the number 10 role.
In the 1-0 victory over Rochdale, Richards reclaimed his usual position but Man City loanee Matt Smith and homegrown talent Anthony Greaves came in and fared well, while full-backs such as Reece James and Brad Halliday have performed strongly in midfield too.
There are suggestions Doncaster could get one or two new players in before this game, possibly in midfield, but they appear to have internal solutions as well.
The South Yorkshire outfit can be confident of dictating play against Wimbledon, who have accrued just two points from their last nine league games – even if they ended a four-game losing streak with a 1-1 draw at Crewe last time out.
Glyn Hodges will be hoping George Dobson can add quality to a spirited but limited midfield, but the Sunderland loanee will need to make a huge impact if the Wombles are to arrest the slide.
Regret to inform you Brighton have another one fresh off the conveyor belt
— BA Analytics (@Blades_analytic) December 22, 2020
Doncaster seem to be coping with Whiteman’s exit better than anticipated and I would expect Taylor Richards to star against an out-of-form Wimbledon outfit.Gabriel Sutton
Blackpool to win
Wigan Athletic v Blackpool
Blackpool’s FA Cup adventure ended at Brighton last time out, but Neil Critchley could not have asked any more from his players, who were beaten by a wonder-strike and a cruelly deflected effort.
The next assignment for the Seasiders is to end a four-game winless streak in the league which, due to number of games played, has seen them drop to 16th.
Gary Madine, currently the FA Cup’s top scorer, has scored four goals in that competition: the same number the target man has hit in the league.
Critchley will hope the ex-Sheffield Wednesday man can help propel the Pool up the table, but Jerry Yates is the more popular choice to lead the line when they play 4-3-3 because the former Liverpool youth coach wants a central forward who can press freely which is not Madine’s game.
The 30-year-old is, though, a great option in a squad that now contains Kevin Stewart, who joins from Hull.
The midfielder started last season in the Championship strongly with the Tigers through his tenacity and ball-playing ability, but was affected severely by injuries from November onwards.
If Stewart can recapture those levels, he could be a dominant force in League One, especially against strugglers Wigan.
The Latics might be five games unbeaten but they have also won just one of their last six league games and no side above 12th has been faced in that sequence.
Blackpool won 4-0 at Wigan on the opening day of the 2010-11 Premier League season and will be hoping for another memorable short jaunt.
🗣 "He obviously knows me really well and knows what I'm good at and how I like to play."
Kevin Stewart on linking up with Neil Critchley again at Blackpool.
— Blackpool FC (@BlackpoolFC) January 24, 2021
Kevin Stewart looks a fantastic addition for Blackpool and I can see them ending a four-game winless streak against their West Lancashire neighbours.Gabriel Sutton
Alfie May to score anytime
Cheltenham Town v Oldham Athletic
Alfie May gave Cheltenham one of the most enthralling 22-minute periods in their history on Saturday teatime.
The former Doncaster forward put the Robins in front against Manchester City in the FA Cup last time out and the lead was held for half the second period, before their illustrious visitors ultimately found a way through.
Before the goal, Pep Guardiola had complained about the positioning of Ben Tozer’s long throw – Pep knows a creative threat when he sees one!
Tozer’s handled deliveries have been a huge feature of Cheltenham’s play this season, especially with fellow defender – 6’3” Will Boyle – making his presence felt in the opposition box, but the more diminutive May has natural poaching instincts.
The 27-year-old is Cheltenham’s top goalscorer this season with eight goals, despite having watched tall front-man Andy Williams and lively forward George Lloyd lead the line at certain points.
As we saw when he first joined Michael Duff’s side 12 months ago, May is capable of even stronger goalscoring form and after such a big confidence-booster on Saturday, he has a great opportunity to find his mojo against Oldham.
Harry Kewell’s side can be vulnerable defensively, having conceded 43 goals – the division’s joint-most – which speaks to a lack of experience and nous in key defensive areas.
Sido Jombati, a full-back for much of his career, may lack the physicality to be a dominant presence in the Latics penalty box, while Harry Clarke, on loan from Arsenal, is stepping into league football for the first time.
Neither are bad centre-backs individually, but rather at a similar level to Carl Piergianni, who excelled when partnered by the imposing figure of David Wheater last season but has struggled in the veteran’s absence.
Oldham’s treatment of Wheater, so important to them defensively, is a major bone of controversy among natives and if May can get ahead of a rear-guard led by Aymeric Laporte to find the net, there is no reason why he cannot thrive against a poor League Two back-line.
The League Two side lead Manchester City! 😳
Alfie May fires Cheltenham into the lead! 👏
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) January 23, 2021
Alfie May has not had things all his own way this season, but after that goal against Man City, I wouldn’t be surprised if Cheltenham’s top goalscorer rediscovers the kind of form he displayed in the final two months of last season.Gabriel Sutton
Newport draw no bet
Newport County v Carlisle United
Newport remain in the top three of League Two but to stay there, it’s vital they end a seven-game winless run.
Luckily for the Exiles, Cambridge and Morecambe are the only other contenders who have been in good form whilst they have been on this run so damage is relatively minimal if they can quickly rediscover that winning feeling.
Michael Flynn’s side must do so, though, without creative maestro Josh Sheehan, who remains suspended after his sending off against Salford.
Flynn has since deployed a midfield trio of versatile anchor man Scot Bennett, controller Matty Dolan and ball-winner Joss Labadie, who himself was dismissed in the 3-2 defeat at Oldham last time out – perhaps harshly.
Dolan is the closest thing Newport have to an alternative to Sheehan, but the ex-Middlesbrough man had been thriving in a half-back role, so switching the 27-year-old’s position meant a change from 3-4-1-2 to 4-3-3.
On the plus side, Flynn is not short of options up top, where the return to fitness of target man Ryan Taylor as well as the signings of clinical workhorse Jake Scrimshaw and lively Owen Windsor brings added competition for athlete Tristan Abrahams and persistent poacher Padraig Amond.
Those strikers are hoping to do damage to Carlisle, who missed two games through a frozen pitch and a power cut, then their last three for health reasons – those affected are wished a speedy recovery.
In footballing terms, Cumbrians have not played for 24 days or trained for 10 leading up to Monday and while the interlude may have given players an opportunity to build up individual fitness, it will be difficult for them to implement a clear game plan, refamiliarize themselves with the tactical side and rediscover the team synergy.
I like Michael Flynn. Top manager.
What a job he’s done with County.
— Jason Mohammad (@jasonmohammad) January 10, 2021
Newport might be winless in seven but they have played some tough games in that sequence and played 76 minutes of the defeat at Oldham with 10 men, so I’m happy to back Michael Flynn’s side to respond against what could be a rusty promotion rival.Gabriel Sutton