EFL pundit Gab Sutton offers his best bets for the midweek action
Coventry to win
Coventry City v Luton Town
Coventry and Luton faced one another in League Two as recently as 2017-18, so it is a credit to these clubs that they are now playing Championship football.
It is difficult for both to be competitive at this level with a squad of players that have come a long way very quickly, so Mark Robins and Nathan Jones are doing excellent jobs to maximize their resources and keep both competitive.
Luton produced another competitive display at the weekend and were unlucky to lose 2-0 at Swansea because, between the 2nd minute opener they conceded and the 89th minute clincher, the Hatters were arguably the better side.
George Moncur struck the woodwork from distance, Luke Berry missed a sitter, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall was an all-action force in midfield while winger Jordan Clark was at his creative best.
And yet, it feels as though the Bedfordshire outfit are missing a reliable goalscoring presence.
They have only scored more than once in all competitions against Derby, Wycombe and twice against Norwich – who had to field a weakened, youthful XI on both occasions – so they do need to be more clinical.
That criticism could not be levelled at Coventry, who comfortably beat Rotherham 3-1 last time out.
The Sky Blues came up to this level as a possession side, but their best performances – including Saturday – have come when Mark Robins has paired Maxime Biamou with Tyler Walker up top and gone more direct.
That is normally because Biamou has the physicality and aerial prowess to flick balls on, utilizing Walker’s pace and movement – but roles were reversed for the opener, which Biamou struck home with real authority.
Those two can cause problems for Luton in this clash of resurgent former FA Cup winners.
Everyone's favourite part clip on a Sunday…
— Coventry City (@Coventry_City) December 6, 2020
Luton might have the better of the middle third, but with that dangerous duo of Maxime Biamou and Tyler Walker, Coventry may be more dangerous once they get into advanced areas.Gabriel Sutton
Huddersfield to win and Under 3.5 goals
Huddersfield Town v Sheffield Wednesday
Huddersfield are one of the most unpredictable sides in the Championship.
On the one hand, they can give away clear cut chances because they push full-backs/wing-backs Pipa and Harry Toffolo high up the pitch.
Equally, they can be one of the most entertaining sides in the division for the same reason.
Toffolo’s left-sided partnership with Josh Koroma has been a key feature of their play to date and the duo enjoyed arguably the best performances of their respective campaigns in the 2-0 win over QPR last time out.
Toffolo had been brought to the Terriers by his former Lincoln boss Danny Cowley and often, when an equivalent manager leaves, it can be difficult for a player to re-establish themselves under a coach who doesn’t know them.
In Toffolo’s case, though, he has built on strong performances under Cowley and, if anything, the more expansive style of football under Carlos Corberán suits him better.
The former Norwich academy graduate loves to attack the flank with gusto – and has quality too – which means Town always carry a threat on the overlap, which frees up space for Koroma.
The wide forward had a tough first season after signing from Leyton Orient – it was always likely to be difficult jumping up three divisions – and in 2019-20, Koroma made similar runs to the ones he’s making now: direct, inward from the left channel.
Corberán though has elevated the technical aspect of Koroma’s game another level, as we saw with his fine curler for the opener on Saturday and inch-perfect through ball for Carel Eiting’s strike, so he and Toffolo can certainly cause problems.
Sheffield Wednesday boss Tony Pulis, therefore, will devise a specific strategy to nullify Toffolo and Koroma, congesting space down their right flank.
That, in turn, will free up space in other areas and it’s important Huddersfield utilize them, whether that be through Pipa’s attacking runs, Eiting’s midfield class, Lewis O’Brien’s selfless movement, Fraizer Campbell’s graft or Isaac Mbenza’s pace.
— Huddersfield Town (@htafc) December 6, 2020
Sheffield Wednesday’s evening will be all about keeping Toffolo and Koroma quiet. Huddersfield’s evening will be all about finding alternative routes to goal.Gabriel Sutton
Cardiff to win to nil
Stoke City v Cardiff City
Cardiff continued their excellent form with their most impressive victory of the season on Saturday.
Another outstanding centre-forward’s display from Kieffer Moore gave the Bluebirds a vital 1-0 win over Watford.
The combination of Moore’s aerial prowess, intelligence, mobility and finishing ability and Harry Wilson’s accuracy of deliveries, especially from set pieces, makes Cardiff a huge threat – especially with aggressive centre-back Sean Morrison often in the box causing problems too.
At Vicarage Road, Moore rifled home from a melee following Wilson’s corner gave Neil Harris’ side the first half lead and, after the interval, we saw heroic defending from Leandro Bacuna, Curtis Nelson, Joe Bennett and Morrison, who led the defence with real authority.
Moore’s individual threat has been obvious from the start of the campaign but, collectively, Cardiff have taken some time to re-establish the defensive foundations that were so important to their form in the second half of last season.
After three consecutive wins to nil, though, we can safely declare the capital club back to their sturdy best.
They are capable of another shut-out at Stoke, who have also secured three consecutive clean sheets.
The difference is, though, that while Cardiff have scored eight in their last three, Michael O’Neill’s side have bagged only twice.
A key problem facing O’Neill is the absence of a complete centre-forward like Moore: Sam Vokes, for example, has the same target man qualities as the Cardiff striker but none of his mobility, while Jacob Brown is quick and persistent but not somebody who can play back to goal.
Moore could be the difference maker once again.
📊 Kieffer Moore for Cardiff:
Goal Every 155 Minutes
WhoScored Rating of 7.66
and he was only £2m. 😍
So good to finally have that striker Cardiff have needed for years. 🔵 pic.twitter.com/EYhs2KPTox
— The Grange End (@TheGrangeEnd) December 5, 2020
I would put Kieffer Moore right up there with Toney and Armstrong as one of the best strikers in the Championship. He can transform an ordinary team performance into a good one, almost single-handedly.Gabriel Sutton
Bournemouth to win
Swansea City v Bournemouth
One thing Jason Tindall has done superbly since taking the number one gig at Bournemouth is adjusting to absentees.
Arnaut Danjuma missed the clash with Coventry earlier in the season and the former assistant to Eddie Howe switched from the 3-4-3 – which had incorporated Danjuma in a left-sided forward role – to a 3-5-2.
The latter formation allowed Tindall to pair Dominic Solanke up top with Sam Surridge, whose height, aerial prowess and running power made him the perfect foil for his technical strike-partner.
Bournemouth won 3-1 that evening and, in a similar situation on Friday night, Tindall again went to 3-5-2 and was rewarded with a resounding 4-0 victory, with Solanke and Surridge both getting on the scoresheet.
A lot of teams are worried about what will happen when they lose their most aesthetically pleasing individual – Reading, Norwich and Watford can struggle without Ovie Ejaria, Emi Buendia and Ismaïla Sarr respectively – which is a problem given the volume of games.
The Cherries, though, have a strategy that is proven to deliver excellent results in the absence of Danjuma and that is a massive plus for them.
The star individual for Swansea, though, was present at the weekend – Andre Ayew assisted Connor Roberts’ early strike and, with a late drive, settled a 2-0 win over Luton.
Steve Cooper’s side, though, gave their opponents some presentable openings and if they replicate that display against a team with more individual quality, the outcome might be different.
What a way to start the weekend 😎 pic.twitter.com/XSEA0lVnMn
— AFC Bournemouth 🍒 (@afcbournemouth) December 4, 2020
Bournemouth have a ready-made formula that allows them to play well without their most eye-catching individual and I think that’s a massive feather in their cap.Gabriel Sutton
Newport to win
Grimsby Town v Newport County
It may be painful to say about a club that has such a proud history in English football, but truthfully Grimsby feel like a circus.
Manager Ian Holloway stated that Bilel Mohsni had departed the club, only for the defender to take to social media to say that as far as he knew, he was still there.
There are additional rumours that one player, reportedly Max Wright, had been told by Majority Shareholder John Fenty to take a part-time job.
There is a lack of order and transparency throughout the club which is affecting the players, with the Mariners just two points above the relegation zone.
One of Town’s more recent defeats was 4-1 to Exeter, when Holloway named a conservative midfield trio of Elliott Hewitt, Danny Rose and Harry Clifton.
If Grimsby can get carved open at will with that combination, it is difficult to know what more can be done to stabilize things defensively.
The Mariners have conceded 24 goals in 14 games, while leaders Newport County have shipped only 13 goals in 15.
Michael Flynn has very quickly settled on a back-three of Swansea loanee Brandon Cooper, midfielder turned defender Matty Dolan and stalwart Mickey Demetriou, which has given them some defensive stability.
The wing-back system is helped by Newport having lots of direct, attacking options for those positions in Liam Shephard and Ryan Haynes – and Flynn’s strategy also allows him to incorporate more quality in deeper areas as well as two strikers.
Josh Sheehan and Scott Twine bring control and creativity respectively behind the athletic Tristan Abrahams and persistent poacher Padraig Amond, who bagged in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Morecambe.
I feel incredibly sorry for the younger generation of #gtfc fans who've never experienced us as a 'proper team (or club)'. Successful, respected, competing season upon season with some huge clubs. If we are to see any type of good times return, we must have change at the top now.
— Chris Kelly (@ccalciok) December 6, 2020
I don’t see meaningful change happening at Grimsby Town until there’s a takeover. You simply cannot have a Majority Shareholder who is emotionally detached from the football club and expect progress.Gabriel Sutton
Both Teams To Score
Scunthorpe United v Colchester United
Had Scunthorpe United fans been told, back in mid-November, that they would take 13 points from the next six games, they would have questioned the sanity of the news bearer.
The Iron had been deep in relegation trouble yet now, while an EFL exit remains an outside possibility, it is not feared to anywhere near the same extent.
The return of captain Jordan Clarke and technical forward Kevin Van Veen is one factor behind improved results, but the duo have only started three league games, so clearly players who have been available all season have raised their games too.
The front-three of direct runner Abo Eisa, the assured John McAtee and the lanky Ryan Loft have combined efficiently in recent games – especially the 5-2 win at Harrogate.
Alex Gilliead, from the right of a midfield three and Mason O’Malley, from left-back have provided a high standard of deliveries, which has certainly helped the attacking trio while Harrison McGahey is forming an impressive centre-back pairing with Manny Onariase.
The timing of this fixture is less than ideal, therefore, for Colchester.
The U’s, though, got their Play-Off push back on track with a midweek 2-1 victory over Grimsby, which saw 16-year-old Junior Tchamadeu impress on his debut.
Chairman Robbie Cowling has invested a lot of money into the youth setup and the club values it’s academy very highly, not just for intrinsic pride but also for sustainability.
The 2019 sales of Frankie Kent, Sammie Szmodics and Kane Vincent-Young played a big part in helping the club through the current pandemic and absence of fans, some of whom returned on Tuesday.
Those in attendance will have been heartened by Tchamadeu’s all-action display at right-back, while Noah Chilvers has been another breakout star this term with regular starts, having been on the fringes during 2019-20.
Luke Norris’ return up top, meanwhile, means ColU now have two natural finishers in the XI, with early season hot-streaker Jevani Brown dropping into a number 10 role that will have been more familiar to him for much of the former Cambridge man’s career.
Both teams have the wherewithal to do damage going forward.
Good solid performance and win for the super Iron and against a good side too. Mason o malley was fantastic day today and cracking cross for lofty goal and so please for him to get two goals in two games will give more confidence get more goals in the season UTI @SUFCOfficial
— Dobbseldred (@Dobbseldred1) December 5, 2020
I think I’m as surprised as anyone at the recent turnaround from Scunthorpe – three weeks ago I certainly didn’t expect to see them 2nd in the form table but all credit to Neil Cox for keeping that belief during those testing times.Gabriel Sutton