August 29, 2019

EFL Championship Match Previews – 31st August Saturday

Brentford v Derby

It has been a disappointing start to the season for Brentford, of that there can be no doubt. For all that an away win over Middlesbrough was a great outcome for Thomas Frank’s Bees, a home loss to Birmingham and home draw to Hull are just the type of results which they need to be turning into wins to seriously push for the play-offs. Perhaps more amazingly, every one of their Championship games to date has ended below 2.5 goals. Or is it? For a while they’ve been the subject of very short odds for games beating lines, but 25/46 of their league contests last season actually ended below this amount, too. Losing Neal Maupay is hurting them in terms of scoring goals at the moment, so Frank will be hoping his new signings can gel quicker and some players return to full fitness, such as Said Benrahma.

Derby have been a little hit and miss in the opening weeks of the Phillip Cocu era, but that is perfectly understandable. He really hasn’t been in the building that long when you think about it, especially with the whole Frank Lampard to Chelsea saga dragging on. To a degree they are playing catch-up and it is always going to take time. Three draws from five signals they’re still coming to terms with the Dutchman’s methods, but there have certainly been flashes. He is possibly still searching for his best eleven too, with youngsters Lee Buchanan and Jason Knight starting their weekend home draw to West Brom.

The first thought when you think of Brentford and Derby playing one another is to believe goals should be on the agenda. Again, I ask, why should it? Sure, there is plenty of attacking talent on show, but Brentford have two league goals to their name this season. Derby have four more with six, but they’re still very much finding their feet. I can pretty confidently say we won’t see anything close to the best of Brentford or Derby for a little while yet. At least not on a consistent basis.

Brentford have been involved in close games this season, only conceding four in reply to the two they’ve scored. They are averaging 13.2 shots per game however, which is more high than low compared to the rest of the league. They’re only conceding 9.8 shots per game though, which is certainly one of the lower amounts. The only difference with Derby compared to Brentford is that the Rams are conceding 14 shots per game on average, which is high for the division. That will worry Cocu, but Brentford aren’t proving too deadly in front of goal right now.

I could be made to look a fool come full time but I have to back Under 2.5 Goals based on the numbers alone. Both will click into gear at some point but I think we’d be a little unlucky if this was to be a high-scoring affair.

Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Under 2.5 goals at 1.910

Luton v Huddersfield

The league table at this stage of the season ultimately dictates how well you have started, and it is fair to say that Huddersfield have had a bit of a stinker so far. Only themselves and Stoke have one solitary point to show from their opening five efforts, and they of course have already experienced a managerial change. Only Huddersfield and Stoke are winless so far, too, so there pressure continues to rise for these two clubs the longer than remains the case. Huddersfield have Mark Hudson in caretaker charge for now, although reports are gathering pace of a possible replacement being named in the coming days. Nevertheless, he has his own ideas, different to that of Jan Siewart, which includes a change of formation, personnel and tactics. These are no quick fixes, although we have seen an improvement of performance in recent times, yet results remain a problem.

Luton got their first win under their belts at the weekend over Barnsley. Both clubs were promoted out of League One last season and the Hatters were superior in every department on the day. That will come as welcome relief to Graeme Jones, who now has his first victory in charge of the Kenilworth Road club. The question now is if they can put a run of results together. It could be argued that facing Huddersfield at home is the perfect fixture for them to achieve that. This is the Championship of course, and anything goes.

Whilst that may be the case, it is fair that Luton are indeed the favourites to emerge with three points this weekend. After all, they are coming off a high at Barnsley, which Huddersfield have been in a slump for a couple of seasons now. They’d been losing games regularly in the Premier League, and that has continued following relegation. It is so tough to just switch into a winning setup, and confidence is no doubt low.

One thing we’ve seen from Luton’s league matches so far is that they are very entertaining. Four of the five contained over 2.5 goals with both teams scoring, with only Stoke’s Championship games witnessing more goals on average. I am going to swerve goals on this occasion however, as Huddersfield are struggling badly for goals themselves. Whilst the unpredictable nature of this league can, and will, surprise us at times, I don’t think we should overcomplicate matters regarding to our selection for this particular game.

I think we will play it safe however and keep Luton on side at -0.50 purely because Huddersfield are not backable at present. Luton contain a big goal threat, whilst Huddersfield are averaging only 2.40 shots on target per game, which simply isn’t enough. Things should improve eventually, but Luton at home are quite a formidable force, having gone unbeaten there last season.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Luton -0.50 at 2.200

Nottingham Forest v Preston

The Sabri Lamouchi era at Nottingham Forest is very much in full swing if an away victory at Fulham is anything to go by. Not many sides will go to Craven Cottage and come away with three points. Considering Forest are still determining their best starting eleven following a series of summer signings, that was even more encouraging, especially as Fulham have started to look quite menacingly recently. Whilst the Championship being the Championship could easily see Forest not back that up, it was still a notable result. The Reds only have one loss this season, on the opening day to West Brom, and they gone on from strength to strength.

Preston are a side that I have always retained a bit of a soft spot for over recent years especially. I like the way they play and Alex Neil’s teams always give it a right go. Whilst I feel they could be a bit of a dark-horse this season, they have been a little inconsistent in these opening weeks. They’ve impressed at home, where they are three for three, yet they’ve lost both times on the road, although both were close encounters. Neil will want them to shrug off their away-day hoodoo pretty quickly so they can kick on. A trip to the City Ground is never easy.

Well, I say coming away from Nottingham Forest with anything is tough, but Preston have won on their last two visits to the two-time European Cup winners. Preston are unbeaten in the last six head-to-head meetings, with Nottingham Forest winning only two of the past 11.

Forest I feel are in a good place at the moment. Considering they’ve also drawn away from home to Leeds and Charlton, who are both in the top-three. Lamouchi is starting to get a tune out of his squad and you feel they really should only improve the longer he works with them. Without a doubt they’ll be targeting maximum points from a home encounter with Preston, and whilst it’ll be tough, I do think they’ll do it.

As mentioned, I do like Preston and if this game was to be played a few months down the line I might pick a different outcome, but Nottingham Forest at -0.50 is our play. Preston do seem a little vulnerable away from home right now, and whilst they’ll shrug that off eventually, I fancy Forest to have a really good home record this year. They’ve only lost four at home in 2019, including to now Premier League side Aston Villa.

Tactically this will be a very interesting game and the early exchanges could reveal a lot, but I’ll just stick with Forest as home advantage could be the swaying factor in this one.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Nottingham Forest -0.50 at 2.220

Preview by: @JamesOR1.

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