Derby County v Bristol City
Three games into the Phillip Cocu era at Derby County and we’d seen a series of close games. A narrow opening day with at now managerless Huddersfield Town was been followed by consecutive draws to Swansea City and Stoke City respectively. For all that we have seen glimpses of what the Cocu Rams can produce, we are still essentially witnessing a team that remains a work in progress. This is of course understandable, but they are only going to get better as the season progresses.
Bristol City were given a bit of a lesson by Leeds United in their opening encounter, but they’ve responded quite well to that with an away point at Birmingham City and then a good home win over Queens Park Rangers on Saturday. Expectations at Ashton Gate this season are reasonably high after showing signs of gate-crashing the play-off picture in periods of the last few seasons. Lee Johnson however is laying his cards firmly on them being involved at the business end, so a trip to Derby is a good assessment of where they are right now.
I mentioned that Derby are still a work in progress and I think that is highlighted by the fact they’ve averaged only 51.6% across their first three league matches. Cocu will certainly expect that figure to increase quite considerably over the time, as he looks for his side to take real control in matches. That’s especially the case at Pride Park, but a concern for the Dutchman is that they are conceding 15.3 shots on average per game so far, which is among the highest in the division.
If the games turns too open, that will suit Derby in patches, but as the away side it could give quite a significant edge to Bristol City. They have plenty of threats on the break and playing in the 3-4-1-2 formation could also be quite handy in a game such as this. They will enter this clash on a high after their first win of the campaign over QPR, and they’ll travel without fear.
Bristol City had quite a poor record over the top sides in the division last season, but you’d like to think they’ll have learned a few lessons along the way. I just think this could be a good game tactically for The Robins to make their presence felt here. Perhaps further down the line Derby would be slight odds-on shots for a game like this, but now they’re not, so early in the season could be a time to catch them out a little bit. Bristol City are more than capable of going on a run, and that win over QPR could easily start an unbeaten spell. Four of the last six head-to-head encounters has finished in a draw.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Bristol City +0.50 at 1.740
Sheffield Wednesday v Luton Town
Lee Bullen suffered his first loss in his latest spell as caretaker manager of Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday when going down to ten men Millwall away from home. The performance arguably warranted more than they’ve got, so they’ll be eager to put that to bed and get back to winning ways on home soil.
That won’t be easy however against a Luton Town outfit who have entered the Championship with a clear intention of ‘giving it a go’. They’ve certainly embraced the offensive style of play that new boss Graeme Jones has implemented, leaving many neutrals quickly searching for highlights of their latest games! Luton should be an exciting team to follow this season.
You could argue that the presence is slightly on Bullen in the sense that he clearly wants the job, and you have to wonder why the club haven’t given him the gig already. Losing on Saturday was a minor blow to his claims, but another win will further strengthen his case. Regardless of the managerial situation, The Owls will also be disappointed when failing to win at Hillsborough, so they’ll go all-out for the victory on Tuesday night under the lights. Luton clearly only have one way of playing themselves, and that too is to go for the win, so an entertaining spectacle is anticipated in the Steel City.
The Hatters have witnessed an average of 4.00 goals across their three opening league encounters so far, a number which quite frankly could have, and should have, been a little higher based on chances at either end in those encounters. I think we’d be a little unlucky if this one ended low-scoring considering the likely approaches from both coaches on the night.
Wednesday have averaged 16.7 shots on goal on average in their first three games, but consider those numbers have drastically been boosted by playing against ten man Millwall for over 45 minutes at the weekend, a game which saw them fire over 20 attempts. Still, losing that game would have hurt with the man extra, and Bullen will have these players fired up for a reaction. I’ve built this game up to be something quite special, so I hope both teams don’t let me down for a few goals!
I think Over 2.5 goals is a worthy play on this occasion. I think games involving Luton are going to beat this line on several occasions this season purely based on their style. They’re still adjusting to the tweaks Jones has made since taking charge, so for now they could be a little vulnerable defensively, but a live wire going forward.
Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Over 2.50 Goals at 1.990
Fulham v Millwall
Some of the football Fulham were playing on Friday night in Huddersfield was a real joy to watch, and in a way it probably contributed to the downfall and eventual sacking of Terriers head coach Jan Siewart. The Huddersfield hierarchy witnessed a Fulham side, who were relegated alongside Huddersfield from the Premier League last season, look head and shoulders above their opponents. Nevertheless, it was a good win on the night for Scott Parker and already his side are looking like real promotion material.
Parker however won’t be looking to rest on his laurels and he’ll be quick to keep on drilling into his players the need for concentration across the 90-minutes. They’ve still been off producing a complete performance so far, meaning there is still areas to improve. This is to the fear of the rest of the league however, and on paper The Cottages have serious quality that could easily be gracing the top flight.
Millwall have started the campaign really positively, remaining unbeaten in league and cup. Neil Harris, like his opposite number Parker, also won’t already be thinking his side are the ‘real deal’ and they’ll need to produce an even greater heroic effort to get anything from Craven Cottage on Wednesday evening just to maintain their unbeaten start. Still, they travel across the capital in confident mood, believing they can cause a bit of an upset.
This will ultimately be a little bit of a contrast in styles without a doubt. That is mainly due to the sheer effectiveness of Fulham at retaining possession. They’ll dominate the ball on the night, and they’ll do that versus many in this league. Millwall undoubtedly will sit back in this one and play more on the break. This is their best chance of success, whilst a set piece goal wouldn’t go amiss.
Millwall have averaged only 37% possession across their first three Championship matches; the lowest in the league, but they remain unbeaten, proving that there is more than one way to win a game of football. You just feel as though the first goal is going to be so important in this encounter.
My fear for Millwall here though is if Fulham do just click into gear and take this game away from their London rivals. They will do that at times over the season and Parker will want to lay down a real marker, even at this early point in the campaign, to the rest of the second tier.
Fulham -0.75 is our selection on the basis that we expect them to gain the three points on the night, with half an eye on them potentially putting on a bit of a show. Millwall have only averaged 7.7 shots on goal in their first three league games; the joint-lowest in the Championship, and with Fulham’s offensive talent we fancy them to at least get 2+ goals.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Fulham -0.75 at 1.806
Preview by: @JamesOR1.
Don’t miss out James O’Rourke’s picks for Derby County v Bristol City, Sheffield Wednesday v Luton Town and Fulham v Millwall. Place your bets than through Eastbridge’s Skype betting service or through VOdds!