Nottingham Forest v Middlesbrough
We’re now very much entering the thick Christmas period in the EFL and every Championship side will return to action either on Tuesday or Wednesday. One advantage Nottingham Forest hold is that they played on Friday, meaning they’ve had longer to prepare than Middlesbrough. However, Boro go into this following a much-needed win, whilst Forest conceded late to draw at Millwall.
Sabri Lamouchi surprised practically everyone with his team selection at Millwall when deciding to field a 3-5-2 formation. Even more of a shock was to see Joe Lolley and Lewis Grabban named among the substitutes. The former Rennes boss clearly has an eye on the Xmas schedule and wants to get rest into certain players when possible.
He himself acknowledged it was a mistake to play this formation as they were heavily second-best at half-time and should have been even further behind than they were. The fact that Grabban scored within mere moments of coming off the bench proves how much of an impact he has. He will be restored to the starting eleven on this occasion, and a return to their usual formation is anticipated.
Middlesbrough are enduring something of an injury crisis and Jonathan Woodgate can only wish he even had the choice of resting certain players. Whilst he welcomes back Paddy McNair and Marvin Johnson from suspension for the trip to the City Ground, it looks as if he’ll have to do without key striker Britt Assombalonga through injury, and possibly for a period of time.
Woodgate has been under intense pressure it would appear following a bad run of results. However, Chairman Steve Gibson hasn’t been making any such noise and Boro have now won two of their last three, losing just one in five and two of eight. When everyone is fully-fit they should start to climb the table.
Knowing this is the Christmas period we know that neither side will be firing on all cylinders in one respect knowing that players will have to start playing through knocks etc. I would not be shocked to see this be a very close encounter, even if the two teams are at opposite ends of the table.
Under 2.5 Goals will be our fairly confident play. 11/19 of Forest’s matches has done so, and 13/20 for Middlesbrough, too. Lamouchi’s team has seen their home games average a very low 1.875, whilst Woodgate has only seen his team score eight away goals, three of which came in one single game.
Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Under 2.50 goals at 1.800
Leeds United v Hull City
We have a Yorkshire Derby on the midweek Championship card and it is a game which promises so much, and let us all hope that it can deliver. A relentless Leeds United take to the field once again after winning another big derby on Saturday against Huddersfield Town, and square-off versus a Hull City side who resumed winning ways at home to Stoke City last time out.
Whilst Leeds eventually got the job done in a fairly professional manner against an injury-hit Huddersfield on Saturday lunchtime, they were troubled. The absence of the suspended Kalvin Phillips made them weaker in the midfield, but usual centre back Ben White did a decent enough job as stand-in. Danny Cowley’s team especially threatened on set pieces, but Leeds overall just had too much class on the day.
Marcelo Bielsa is getting a fine tune out of his team. He himself won’t admit it but they are already starting to look quite menacing as we start to approach the halfway point of the campaign. Of course, there is still a long way to go, but they and West Brom already looked Premier League teams in waiting.
Grant McCann by all accounts has done a good job since taking the job over the summer, having previously been in charge of Doncaster Rovers. They find themselves in mid-table, highlighting a lack of consistency, but they’re more than capable. Wins over Fulham, Nottingham Forest and Preston proves that, but losses to Barnsley and Huddersfield suggests there is still work to be done.
Hull have been the definition of inconsistency away from home as they have a won three, drew three and lost three record. The fact of the matter is they’ll need a display similar to that when winning 3-0 at Fulham, and then more, if they’re to triumph at Elland Road. Leeds are likely to dominate the ball, but McCann won’t be upset knowing his team will likely have to rely on counter attacks knowing they’ve got the pacey Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki in their ranks.
These two sit in positions one and two in terms of the Expected Goals (xG) tally in the league. Both teams therefore create plenty of chances and I’m expecting that to continue here. Playing on the break will suit Hull well, whilst Leeds are always a threat, especially at home. Hull’s games are averaging around three goals, and whilst Leeds is closer to two, three of their last five contained Over 2.5 Goals. That will be our selection knowing the offensive strengths of the two teams on show.
Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Over 2.50 goals at 1.620
Wigan v West Brom
A game featuring clubs with contrasting emotions at this moment in take play one another on Wednesday night as struggling Wigan Athletic entertain top of the table West Bromwich Albion. Wigan suffered yet another agonising late defeat at the weekend when going down to Luton, whilst West Brom smashed Swansea 5-1 in front of the TV cameras.
As mentioned, Wigan are shooting themselves in the foot far too often in terms of conceding late goals. No other team in the Championship has let in more goals than the Latics have done from the 76th-minute onwards. To make matters worse for Paul Cook, his side are now eight without victory and have slipped into the relegation places.
Some comfort will come for Wigan knowing that they are at home in this one. Well, that could have been said more comfortable about a month or so ago as they’ve now lost their last three at the DW Stadium, having won three in a row prior to that. Still, 13 of their 16 points won this season came in home games, so this is their best chance of causing a shock.
WBA however are the definition of momentum at this moment in time. When they play, they win. The Baggies have won six matches in succession and have tasted just one league defeat all season, which came away at Leeds United. Slaven Bilic now very much knows the squad he has at his disposal and they can seemingly do no wrong at present.
There is however something quite interesting about WBA this season. To determine that, we have to compare their home and away form in relation to goals. Eight of their ten home league games has featured Over 2.5 Goals, but that is in stark contrast to them on the road as only two of ten has done so. Bilic therefore clearly sets up his team differently at home compared to away, and whilst they won 5-1 on Sunday against Swansea at home, don’t necessarily expect them to wallop Wigan away.
The DW still remains a tough place to go and Wigan are a wounded animal right now. They’ll have had a day extra to prepare compared to their superior opponents, and the unpredictable nature of this league means I’ll swerve any outright line. I will however happily take on Under 2.5 Goals as we’re bound to get some good value considering West Brom just won 5-1. We just cannot ignore their away numbers, and they will respect Wigan enough to again repeat these tactics as they look for yet another win. Wigan only have nine home league goals this season anyway, so they aren’t the most clinical despite their reliance for home points.
Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Under 2.50 goals 1.980
Preview by: @JamesOR1.
Entering the thick Christmas period in the EFL, who will be getting their campaign on a great note? Go put your Wigan v West Brom, Leeds United v Hull City, and Nottingham Forest v Middlesbrough punts to test, visit VOdds trading platform!