Barnsley v Luton

It has been a tough start to Championship life for newly promoted Barnsley and Luton. Whilst Barnsley won first time up over a fancied Fulham at home, they’ve followed it up with two away defeats and a home draw to another fellow promoted club in Charlton. Fans were especially critical of their midweek display in defeat to Birmingham, and a big reaction is required.

Luton may have won some friends with their performances, manager Graeme Jones insists that he is fully aware that this is a results based business, and a victory is required pretty quickly. Three losses in succession, albeit against strong opposition, leaves the Hatters in the relegation spots after four games. Jones himself says that the trip to Barnsley is already a must-win encounter.

As mentioned, both sides negotiated their way out of League One last season, and whilst Luton were the champions, Barnsley actually earned four points out of their two respective league meetings. Interestingly, the away side has actually been the winning in this head-to-head battle in seven of the last ten affairs, although this does go all the way back to 2002. Nevertheless, being the away side could suit Luton on this occasion.

Something Jones will want his team to improve upon is their output in the final third. They’re only averaging three shots on target per game, so they’ve done quite well to score five goals so far on that basis. Also, they’re making some defensive errors which are ultimately going punished, with new goalkeeper Simon Sluga being the subject for a few of those. Still, they performed well in the first half at Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday night, and scoring the first goal could be key for them.

Another concern for Luton is that they’re conceded an average of 16.5 shots against them so far, which is among the highest in the league. Whilst that doesn’t look good, it doesn’t take into account the Expected Goals figure, and it could be just that the nature of how they play leads to quite open encounters. Barnsley are conceding 14 shots per match on average, so they’re not far behind. Playing too openly tends to suit the away side, which is where Luton could benefit on Saturday.

Luton do have a few injury concerns, but Barnsley are also sweating on the fitness of key striker Cauley Woodrow, too. I don’t feel as though Luton have necessarily earned the results that their performances have warranted so far, whilst Barnsley have plenty of questions to answer themselves. All of Luton’s games have been tight, with all defeats being via a one-goal margin, so they’re not far off at all.

I like Luton with a +0.25 Asian handicap. They’re happy to put the pressure on themselves as this being a game they need a win from, and they just need a little bit of luck to fall for them. I’m happy to swerve Barnsley at the prices.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Luton +0.25 at 1.930

Hull City v Bristol City

Hull City suffered a midweek home loss to Blackburn Rovers on Tuesday night, which was certainly a poor result in a very winnable fixture. Whilst they had their moments going forward, boss Grant McCann ultimately felt that they didn’t work the opposition goalkeeper enough to warrant anything from the game. Hull would only have one shot on target across the 90 minutes, that was a missed penalty, and although they also hit the woodwork, they need to go more at the KCOM Stadium.

Bristol City on the other hand are seemingly starting to find their groove this season. Their campaign opened with a home loss to Leeds United, which served as something of a reality to check to Lee Johnson and his players. They’ve reacted since then in the transfer market, with players coming in and going out, and they’ve now achieved back-to-back victories. Winning away at Derby is no mean feat, so the players travel to Humberside on Saturday full of confidence, hoping to make it three wins in a row for the first time since February.

There is something which does stand out quite significantly when looking at the numbers for these two games. Both Hull and Bristol City have conceded plenty of chances across their opening matches of the season. Bristol City it is 16 on average, and 15 for Hull. Also, we notice that both teams have averaged possession numbers of just below 45% so far. Could that be both prefer to play on the counter attack? McCann and Johnson certainly want them to be playing more keep ball and control games better, so maybe they are a work in progress in that regard. Hull are under new management plus Bristol have some new players that they’re integrated into a 3-4-1-2 formation.

Quite simply, this game could go either way on the goal front. Hull are averaging 14.5 shots on average in the league, yet that number drastically drops to 3.5 in relation to efforts on target. Bristol City’s is only at 9.5, and then drops to 3.5 for their on target strikes. You’d like to think these numbers will gradually improve, and ultimately this is a game where both teams will feel as though they can win. Hull looking to bounce back after defeat, whilst Bristol City are on a real high right now. An early goal would really set this up nicely.

I’ve taken the plunge and backed Over 2.5 goals on this occasion. Although last season’s head-to-heads finished 1-0 and 1-1, the year before it was 5-5 and 2-3. There are vulnerabilities to both sides at this early stage of the campaign which leads me to think this could be quite an open contest. Neither are likely to sit back too early, even if leading, and this should be an entertaining watch for the crowd in attendance.

Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Over 2.50 goals at 1.910

Swansea v Birmingham

Sunday’s televised encounter presents Swansea City, who’ve made a great start to life under Steve Cooper, versus a Birmingham side managed by former Swans coach Pep Clotet, who oversaw his second win as Blues boss in midweek.

Swansea are one of the form sides in this albeit very early part to the new campaign and they are yet to taste defeat. They’ve managed to score three goals in their last three matches in succession, and winning away at an improved QPR on Wednesday night will continue to serve as another confidence-booster to the Welsh outfit.

Birmingham are experiencing a period of transition at the football club. Certainly on the pitch. Clotet has looked to adopt a new style of play, and another new formation was enlisted for the Barnsley game, with a 5-3-2 shape looking likely to be the way forward for the near future at least. Whilst winning at home to promoted opposition might not catch the eye from the outside, it was the manner of the performance which should encourage Birmingham fans. They’re making progress, but a trip to Swansea presents a new challenge entirely.

I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised to see the odds on offer for the selection I am going for in this game. Swansea are the team to be with right now. Their style of play has been set in stone for what seems like years now, and Cooper has made a few minor tweaks to try and take them to a level where Graham Potter intended to do. Swans will experience a defeat at some stage, but they’re firmly on the up right now, and the only thing which may stop them is tiredness. They’ve got a small squad, but so do Birmingham, so this shouldn’t serve as a disadvantage on Sunday afternoon. The extra day of rest will help, too.

Swansea -0.50 is the play on this occasion. They are ultimately playing the brand of football which Birmingham are aspiring to be like. This weekend’s visitors are probably a little way off playing at that kind of level on a consistent basis. Whilst they won last time out, creating chances has been a bit of a problem for them, and they’re likely to be second best in possession for long periods at the Liberty Stadium. Swansea may only have one clean sheet from five to their name, but Birmingham have played three times away, losing twice ‘to nil’ and then getting incredibly lucky to open the campaign with a 1-0 triumph at Brentford.

If Swansea play anything like they have been doing, then they really should have too much for Birmingham, who are likely to be a bit hit-and-miss in the coming weeks as they look to settle down into Clotet’s methods and tactics.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Swansea -0.50 at 1.940

Preview by: @JamesOR1.

Don’t miss out James O’Rourke’s picks for Swansea v Birmingham, Hull City v Bristol City and Barnsley v Luton. Place your bets through Eastbridge’s Skype betting service or through VOdds!

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