February 20, 2020

EFL Championship Match Previews – 22nd February Saturday

Bristol City v West Brom

Bristol City against West Bromwich Albion is a game which does certainly catch the eye on the weekend Championship fixture card, and it is a match which could go either way. Whilst WBA do sit top of the table, Bristol City are firmly involved in the promotion picture themselves, and can definitely beat anyone at this level on their day.

Slaven Bilic however will be more than happy with how his side have bounced back after an indifferent run of form which saw them fail to win in seven league games. Since then, they’ve gone unbeaten in four, winning three, and were only minutes away from making it four until Nottingham Forest equalised late last Saturday. Bilic was happy with the performance, and a repeat will possibly see them return to winning ways.

Lee Johnson on the other hand is looking to rally his troops having suffered a narrow away loss to Leeds United last time out. This team have been defined as quite ‘streaky’ for a while now, and they’ll be eager to avoid making it three defeats in four, having recently lost at home to Birmingham City. Their home record has been patchy recently, so that is an area of concern and one they need to really improve upon.

The first thing which does spring to mind in this game is that it is one both will clearly play to win. West Brom do play different away compared to games at The Hawthorns, and only two away losses all season proves that they’re doing something right. Only in defeat at Leeds back in October have they not scored in an away match, so Bristol City will need a sterling defensive effort to produce a shutout.

WBA however have conceded in six of their last nine on the road, so they’re certainly not impenetrable in that regard. They not only top the league table, but also the both teams to score tally in the Championship, which suggests they’re often involved in end-to-end encounters. Their games average marginally shy of three goals, whilst Bristol City’s four of the last five at home in the league featured over 2.5 goals.

I do think Over 2.5 Goals has to be the play here. The last three head-to-head encounters featured at least five goals every time, and there is no lack of goal threat on show. WBA aren’t known for keeping as many clean sheets as you’d expect, whilst Johnson will set up his team to really have a go in this one.

Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Over 2.50 at 1.850

Swansea v Huddersfield

Swansea City find themselves very much at risk of drifting into mid-table insignificance following a sudden drop in form which has seen them win just one of their previous seven in Championship action. They’ve drew three of their last four, and the worry for Steve Cooper and Swansea fans is that they’re dropping points in games you’d wouldn’t necessarily expect them to do so.

Huddersfield Town are a team that, on paper at least, Swansea would probably expect to defeat. Most definitely three points will be aimed for as they look to get their campaign back on track, but this is anything but a ‘home banker’ considering that the Terriers are fighting for their lives at the wrong end of the table. They’ve been a little inconsistent recently, but have certainly been harder to beat under Danny Cowley.

One area which will be a big worry for Cooper is their end product in front of goal. Considering they boast plenty of offensive talent in terms of creativity and a goal threat, they’ve only 41 league goals this season. Going into this round of matches, that is a number bettered by only six other sides at this level, including Huddersfield. Swansea are sixth in the league for average shots on goal, so it really is a case of not taking their chances.

That will afford plenty of hope and optimistic for Huddersfield as they travel to Wales this weekend. They’ve only three goals fewer than Swansea, and that is despite them having the third-worst average shots on goal count in the division. They don’t need many chances to score, and motivation is no issue considering teams around them at the bottom are starting to pick up points. They have struggled on the road of late, but only when losing at Bristol City in November have they really been beaten heavily away from home.

Swansea are vulnerable at the moment, and there is no doubt about that. The 4-4 draw at Hull last Friday typifies them to a degree as defensively they looked far from convincing, which is a surprise considering they’ve ten clean sheets this season, including three of their last five at home. Huddersfield deserve respect here though, and getting them a +0.75 handicap appears about right. The Swans have won four of their last 19 overall, whilst Huddersfield are always in games and never far from turning defeats into draws or draws into wins.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Huddersfield +0.75 at 1.710

Leeds v Reading

There was certainly plenty of relief around Elland Road last Saturday when Leeds United resumed winning ways against Bristol City. A 1-0 success was only their third win in their last 13 in all competitions, but it opened up a three-point gap ahead of third-placed Fulham. Marcelo Bielsa will be hoping they can put a run together as we enter a critical period in the Championship season.

Standing in their way however on Saturday will be none other than Reading, who had a successful visit to Yorkshire last weekend when beating Sheffield Wednesday 3-0. A much tougher assignment awaits them, but they have been very tough to beat of late. In fact, The Royals have lost only three times since their 3-2 loss to Birmingham City on December 7th.

Certainly the key to success for Leeds this season is putting the ball in the back of the net. So often they’ve dropped points due to a lack of consistency in front of goal, when failing to put opponents to bed when leading or when falling behind against the run of play despite dominating. Their style is clear for all to see, and Bielsa will not be budging from his methods.

Reading are starting to build an identity of their own under Mark Bowen. He was a somewhat surprising name to replace Jose Gomes, but to his credit he has done pretty well. They do remain in the FA Cup as well, and they’re starting to ease clear of relegation trouble and now have a mid-table position. Motivation shouldn’t be doubted this weekend however, as teams love to pit their wits against the Godfather that is Bielsa.

In some senses, there is not a great deal between Leeds and Reading. Leeds are a team which generally have the edge in most categories. They have seven more goals and have conceded seven goals fewer. The earlier season meeting also saw them emerge with a 1-0 success. Another close game is anticipated on Saturday, and it is likely to be a case of Leeds doing enough to come out on top.

Reading however deserve plenty of respect and they are just the sort of team that will capitalise some The Whites struggle in front of goal. Playing on the break they possess some dangerous individuals, whilst playing this formation with a three-man defence can certainly frustrate opponents. Only twice since losing to Birmingham in December have they conceded more than once in a match, so Leeds may have to be patient.

Leeds are short odds to win, which comes as no shock, but this will be tight and I’m happy to put forward an Under 2.5 Goals recommendation at very appealing odds. Leeds have only seen ten of their 33 league encounters this season beat the 2.5 line, which is the lowest of any one team at this level. Both teams have seen an average of 2.36 goals in their league encounters this season, so the maths alone suggests 2.5 won’t be easily beat.

Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Under 2.50 at 2.300

Preview by:@JamesOR1.

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