Brentford v Stoke
It has most certainly been a stop-star start to the Championship season for Brentford. Much was expected of them, despite losing star striker Neal Maupay to Brighton, and his absence continues to be felt at Griffin Park. The Bees had hoped the fine win over Derby before the international break would spur them onto a run, but a 2-0 loss at Preston last weekend ended momentum. A big reaction is needed in front of their fans, but they’ll still believe that’s more than possible.
Stoke on the flip side have endured an even worse start to the campaign. They remain one of only two winless Championship clubs after seven games, alongside Huddersfield. Nathan Jones is adamant that there is light at the end of the tunnel after some improved showings in recent times. They were leading versus in-form Bristol City on Saturday, before Joe Allen’s red card changed the game. Even with ten men, they produced a valiant effort, but it again went without reward.
You’d like to think Stoke can get that elusive first victory sooner rather than later, but a trip to Brentford is far from easy for even the best of sides in this division. For all that Brentford remain a little out of sorts in comparison to last season, they still remain one of the more attractive and entertaining teams in the league. That is when they get it right, just as they did against Derby, but they must discover some consistency.
Brentford are probably quite glad Stoke are their next opponents considering Jones’ side have shipped 17 goals so far, the most of any side in the league. Worryingly, Brentford only have scored five goals, three of them in that one game over Derby. It isn’t for the want of trying however, and an early goal could work wonders, again as it did in the Derby fixture. Stoke have crumbled once a goal has gone against them, and they remain very vulnerable defensively.
Whilst Stoke struggle at the back, they’ve looked a little more like themselves going forward. They’ve actually only failed to score once in their opening seven, and that came against top of the table Leeds. Brentford have two clean sheets, both from their victories, which highlights how vital another shutout this weekend could be for them.
The reality is that goals are flowing in Stoke games this season. Each and every one of their seven Championship encounters has contained over 2.5 goals; averaging 3.40 exactly. Surprisingly to everyone is that Brentford’s are only averaging 1.60, by far the lowest in the league. Just one of their seven beat the 2.5 goal line, but a leaky Stoke defence could be the sort of opponent they need to increase that number.
Brentford aren’t themselves just yet, and Stoke certainly aren’t. I fancy this to contain goals, as opposed to a boring 0-0. Over 2.5 Goals will be the play. Both are under pressure to get a result and attack could be their best form of defence.
Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Over 2.50 goals at 1.900
Leeds v Derby
Leeds bounced back from their late home loss to Swansea prior to the international break when netting two late goals of their own to despatch local rivals Barnsley on Sunday. It maintained Leeds’ fine start to the season, which sees them sit proudly at the top of the table. Marcelo Bielsa’s side continue to catch the eye across the league, with many one again hoping this could be the year Leeds return to the Premier League.
Derby on the other hand have struggled to adapt to life post-Frank Lampard, who departed for Chelsea over the summer. Phillip Cocu has only managed to win one of his opening seven league contests, and that came on the opening day away at still winless Huddersfield. Four draws have proved frustrating, with their home form becoming a bit of a concern for the Rams faithful.
There is certainly some history to this game from last season following some off-the-field incidents such as ‘Spygate’, and that’ll add further spice to this encounter. I think the reality is that Derby aren’t in a better state than they were last season, with the likes of Harry Wilson and Mason Mount no longer on the books at Pride Park after their loan spells expired. This has increased the pressure on others in the side to step up, and combined with a new manager with new ideas and methods, it leaves Derby in a state of transition.
A trip to Elland Road therefore is perhaps the last place Derby would want to be going this weekend. Either that, or it could be the place to put in their best performance to really get their season going. Given their struggles at home, they may relish playing on the road, in a game where they are quite big underdogs.
For all that Leeds lead the way in the Championship, that have been asked some serious questions across almost all of those contests. Sure, they average 18.1 shots per game, the most in the league, and have the second-highest possession percentage number, but in terms of score they’ve only really gave Stoke a bit of a beating. Bristol City, Wigan and Barnsley were beaten by two-goal margins, but at Barnsley they needed two very late goals.
Teams are giving Leeds the respect they deserve, and it means they themselves are having to be patient in finding a way to break teams down. They’ll take risks at home, and could be vulnerable to counter attacks, proven by the fact they’ve kept only four clean sheets in their last 18 at home. They’ve also only one of their last six at home, that being 1-0 to out of sorts Brentford.
I do like the look of Derby +1.5 on the Asian Handicap this weekend. The only concern would be if Leeds scored an early goal, but they still have some more questions to answer when it comes to playing at home when the pressure and weight of expectation is upon them. Derby have some good players for this level, and they really should click at some point. Plus, given the natural rivalry between these two, I can see it being a lot tighter than the 1×2 odds suggest.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Derby +1.50 at 1.770
Wigan v Charlton
Three-from-bottom entertains fourth-from-top in the Championship on Saturday as Wigan look to gain their first victory since the opening day of the season over a Charlton side who have been the surprise package in the division. Lee Bowyer’s side however suffered a slightly surprising home setback to Birmingham City last weekend; their first league loss of the campaign.
Many have tipped Wigan to struggle this season given they only survived against relegation with a few games to spare last year. They’ve lost some key players and whilst they still have quite a competitive squad, I do have some concerns about their lack of goals. They’ve only got six to their name, and they’ve averaging just 10.3 shots per game, with only five teams in the second-tier managing fewer.
The Addicks are actually one of those teams, in fact, they average only 8.9 shots per game, which is the worst in the league. Consider that and the fact they sit third in the table with four wins from seven, and it highlights how clinical they are in front of goal. They did miss Lyle Taylor versus Birmingham and hopefully he can return to offer them a greater goal threat. Considering they don’t create many openings, they really need him on the pitch given his finishing qualities.
I must admit, the first thing I thought of focusing on this game was the likelihood of very few goals being scored. Charlton don’t concede many goals, and they are a well-organised team. Considering Wigan aren’t the biggest of scorers, I just think they may struggle to break their opponents down. An early goal of course would change matters, but Charlton will be keen to avoid back-to-back losses, plus Wigan are winless in their last seven in league and cup, losing five and failing to score in five of those, too.
I do think Under 2.5 goals is the percentage call in this one. These two teams are averaging only 3.3 and 3.6 shots on target respectively, which is again among the lowest in the division. Whilst this is a game both will realistically feel they can win, both know the margins are tight and plenty of respect should be shown. Wigan’s league games are averaging 2.70 goals, whilst for Charlton it is 2.40. It would therefore be a bit of surprise and go against the grain if this one was to be a fest of goals.
Charlton have actually scored exactly two goals in each of their three away games this season, winning two of them. Wigan has failed to score in their last three at home in league and cup. This is probably a game where a narrow advantage is afforded to the away side, plus they are in the better form. Paul Cook however always looks for his Wigan team to attack and be positive, but they’re ultimately struggling in the final third at the moment.
Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Under 2.50 at 1.950
Preview by: @JamesOR1.