The Big EFL Preview: Swansea To Shine In South Yorkshire?9 min read
Championship: Barnsley v Swansea
Swansea to win
Barnsley came into the Championship hoping to implement their high-pressing methods.
They did that to an extent under Daniel Stendel, who left over a disagreement with the board earlier this month; despite half-hour bursts of pressure in some games, they have generally been vulnerable and chaotic defensively, owing to a lack of experience in key areas.
Swansea are a possession-based side but the key for them will be to pick penetrating passes in behind, which is what most of the teams who have been successful against Barnsley have done.
A lot of Swans fans are hoping to see Kosovan magician Bersant Celina and physical forward Andre Ayew incorporated in central roles.
It may be difficult for head coach Steve Cooper to do that without sacrificing top goalscorer Borja Baston, because he does not favour wing-back systems, so we could see Celina and Ayew continuing to operate out wide in a fluid 4-2-3-1.
Those players still have the freedom to come inside at certain points and the good thing about Swansea’s system is that there are no set positions.
Once Barnsley’s press drops off, we can expect Matt Grimes to dictate play for the visitors, who are 17/20 to achieve victory.
Championship: Reading v Preston North End
Preston North End to win
This will be Mark Bowen’s first game in charge of Reading, after the Welshman made the switch from being Sporting Director to manager, replacing Jose Gomes.
Bowen has denied suggestions that he was involved in the decision to dismiss his predecessor and was vying to be appointed manager from an internal position.
Of course, the 55-year-old may well be being truthful in his comments, but there are still major question marks over the leadership at the club off the field and there is disgruntlement among the fanbase.
Preston North End, by contrast, are in fine form.
They entered the international break with an impressive 5-1 win over Barnsley, in which the pace of Tom Barkhuizen, the movement of Sean Maguire and the creativity of Daniel Johnson between the lines were all too much to handle.
With second-placed Nottingham Forest, one point and place above North End in 2nd, not in action until Sunday, Alex Neil’s side can spend Saturday night in the automatic promotion places with a victory, which they are 29/20 to attain.
League One: Wycombe v Sunderland
Sunderland to win Draw No Bet
Sunderland will be managed by caretaker gaffer James Fowler, after Jack Ross was dismissed just before the international break.
Fowler is unlikely to be in the running for the permanent job – it would be unfair to give the 38-year-old the pressure of leading them to promotion – but he can certainly play a crucial role in lifting supporters during this interim period.
Wycombe Wanderers, meanwhile, are likely to have an opportunity to build steadily at this level, if the proposed takeover from Rob Couhig has been voted through.
The Chairboys have accrued 23 points from their first 12 games and are already about half-way to accumulating the tally they will need to avoid relegation this season, which is fantastic.
Naturally, natives have assumed more optimistic ambitions, with a squad deeper in attacking quality than we have seen in previous seasons; energetic right-back Jack Grimmer, composed midfielder Dom Gape and powerful centre-back Anthony Stewart have all excelled too.
They are though short on midfielders: key ball-winner Curtis Thompson is suspended while creative maestro Alex Pattison is sidelined, so evergreen Chairboy Matt Bloomfield could start his first game in a month after injury.
Wycombe could have a hard time picking up Aiden McGeady, who brings a different level of technical proficiency to League One games so Sunderland, potentially rejuvenated, are an intriguing Draw No Bet selection at 9/10.
In the second of two videos which were shown at last night's Legacy Members meeting, @RCouhig gave a brief insight into how he would seek to run the club if his proposal to become a majority shareholder is approved. pic.twitter.com/LM3E8CJPzA
— W y c o m b e W a n d e r e r s (@wwfcofficial) October 16, 2019
League One: Fleetwood v Burton
Double Chance: Draw/Burton
Burton Albion have shown the potential to challenge for the top 10 in League One this season.
They boast the excellent coordination of movement between striker Liam Boyce who selflessly grafts in the channels, and wide forward Oliver Sarkic who drifts in from the right to produce striking moments of individual quality – like Marcus Harness last season.
The Brewers have the second-best away record in the division – they have taken 11 points from six games on the road – and could be underrated, even away to a high-flying Fleetwood side.
The Cod Army lost 1-0 at home to Ipswich before the international break and did not muster a single shot on target in that one.
Even in the prior 3-0 victory at Shrewsbury, they only managed two shots on target and benefited from an own goal, so the 4/6 available on Burton avoiding defeat could prove good value.
League Two: Bradford v Crawley
Crawley to score
Promotion contenders Bradford are overwhelming favourites for this match but Crawley Town, currently ninth in the League Two table, are not to be underestimated.
The Red Devils have taken 230 shots this season, the most in League Two, they average 1.67 Expected Goals For (xGF) per game, the best attacking shot data in the division, and are yet to fail to score in any league match since March.
With the tricky and creative Reece Grego-Cox starting to find form from the number 10 position, along with the energetic Bez Lubala from wide, Gabriele Cioffi’s side have various tools with which to hurt the Bantams.
The hosts have won five of their last seven, so it may be wrong to back against them in terms of the result.
However, the Bantams have only kept one clean sheet in their last nine games, so Crawley to score at least once at 2/5 looks a low-risk bet.
League Two: Walsall v Cheltenham
Cheltenham to win Draw No Bet
Walsall’s form picked up slightly over September, when they added the selfless Rory Gaffney to their attacking options.
After starting October with successive defeats, however, Darrell Clarke’s side are 19th in League Two, leaving fans in no doubt that 2019-20 will be at best a re-building season.
Clarke likes to establish a core of players he knows he can trust but, apart from his former Bristol Rovers technical defender James Clarke and spirited midfielder Stuart Sinclair, he is struggling to find that at Walsall.
Plus, without midfield controller Dan Guthrie and mobile forward Caolan Lavery, who have missed out through injury, there has been a lack of quality; no Saddlers player who did not work with Clarke at the Mem has scored more than one league goal.
Cheltenham Town, by contrast, have quashed the away struggles from the first 10 months of Michael Duff’s reign as manager.
Michael Duff fully deserving of the League Two manager of the month. Got the team playing the football the fans want to see, getting results that maybe weren’t expected, but most of all making us all believe again we can do it!!! #Uptheduff #ctfc go on duffo lad!!
— Dave (@Bigdee78Parker) October 11, 2019
The Robins have picked up seven points from the last nine available on the road, with victories coming at two of the bigger-budgeted clubs in Plymouth Argyle and Salford City.
Cheltenham can play out from the back, but they can also go long to experienced striker Luke Varney, with Ryan Broom often making well-timed darts into the box to score five goals already this season; they mix their game up very well.
The 23/20 on Cheltenham to win Draw No Bet pays out if we see an away win and refunds our stake if the clash ends all square.