Wigan v Reading
This weekend encounter between Wigan and Reading is one that anyone with a connection to those respective clubs could look back on at the end of the season as a significant moment. That is because both sides are certainly battling relegation as things stand and know the importance of a win in this one.
Wigan are on a run of six without victory, which has included four losses, so confidence shouldn’t be so great within the ranks. However, the away draw at Millwall in midweek was seen as a step in the right direction from manager Paul Cook, considering how much they’ve struggled to pick up points away from home.
One positive for the Latics here is that they are back on home soil, which is definitely where they reserve their stronger results for. Having said that, they are on a run of consecutive losses at the DW Stadium, which is unlike them as they did win three in a row prior to that without conceding.
Reading head into this with two defeats in succession themselves, both 1-0 and both over in-form opponents in Brentford and Leeds. They were on a fine four-match unbeaten streak prior to that, including three wins, but losing tight games to good teams is no disgrace, even if confidence would have taken a hit.
A concern for Reading is that they themselves have struggled away, and they too seem to reserve their stronger football for home contests. Reading have just the one away win all season, which came around two months ago at Huddersfield. In their defence, they’ve endured some tough trips in relation to the league table, although losing at strugglers Middlesbrough doesn’t look good on reflection.
Given neither side are in the best of shape at present in relation to recent results, both will be wager to resume winning ways as soon as possible. I envisage quite a tactical contest in this one as they look to right the wrongs. Although Wigan has seen their last five feature over 2.5 goals and the same is said of three of Reading’s previous five, I think this’ll be much tighter.
I’m actually going to plump for Under 2.5 Goals on this occasion. The reality is that Wigan’s home games are averaging only just over two goals, with the Latics only scoring more than one on two occasions at the DW. Also, six of Reading’s eight away assignments finished below 2.5 goals, averaging exactly 2.00, so neither team are used to goals at home or away respectively.
Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Under 2.50 goals at 1.780
Stoke v Blackburn
Stoke suffered their first setback of the Michael O’Neill era when falling narrowly away at Cardiff in the week. They had enjoyed back-to-back victories to open his era, and whilst two wins in three is pretty good, they remain in the relegation places. They welcome Blackburn this weekend looking for a second succession home league triumph, which would go a long way to righting the wrongs of their trip to Wales on Tuesday.
Home form is undoubtedly going to be key for Stoke for the remainder of the season. For any side in trouble, as they are, it is vital that they make their own stadium something of a fortress moving forward. They’ve slowly started to do that and anything less than three points over Blackburn would be deemed a poor outcome.
Blackburn are a funny old side, but also a typical Championship outfit in many ways. They suit this league perfectly considering how unbelievably unpredictable they are. Without a doubt they have the capabilities of beating any team in this league, yet they can easily throw a wobbly, too.
What is pretty clear however is that Blackburn are strong at home, and they do struggle on the road. They’ve won three of their last four, but all of those wins came at Ewood Park. Whilst they have away wins at Hull and Reading to their name, every other away trip they’ve had has seen them lose, including their last four in succession.
One thing Stoke do at home is really have a go. They’re actually quite high up the table in relation to the amount of average shots they have on goal in home games, which is at 14.1. Considering Leeds top that tally with 15.9 it provides some kind of reflection. Away from home, only Derby and Huddersfield average less shots in comparison to Blackburn’s 9.1.
Those numbers are difficult to ignore, along with the fact Blackburn just cannot buy an away win at present. I do think we can fairly confidently plump for Stoke -0.50 on the Asian Handicap on this occasion. Personally I think this represents a good deal of value knowing that Stoke have improved under O’Neill, and have certainly become harder to beat. Blackburn have conceded ten in their last four away and I cannot trust them away from Ewood Park. Stoke need to win games like this.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Stoke -0.50 at 2.100
Preston v West Brom
Our final play of the weekend comes on Monday night and we have an intriguing battle in prospect at Deepdale as Preston take on West Brom. It was a rare bad night at the office for Preston on Wednesday when falling down 4-0 away at Hull, making it back-to-back defeats. They do still retain a play-off position prior to their rivals kicking a ball this weekend.
In their defence, Preston were missing a couple of key players in the Hull match and had to field over holding midfielder Ryan Ledson in an unfamiliar right back role, which is not ideal when your direct opponent is tricky winger Kamil Grosicki. Nevertheless, West Brom is arguably the perfect game to try and bounce back, in the sense that only your best will be enough.
West Brom are starting to look every inch like a side that will be competing in the Premier League next season. They’ll climbed back to the top of the standings following a run of four consecutive wins. They’ve shown different sides to themselves in that run, including dominant displays over Bristol City and Stoke, whilst edging close matches versus Sheffield Wednesday and Hull. Slaven Bilic is getting a fine tune out of this group of players and momentum is definitely on their side.
Despite holding an unbeaten home record, it is probably their home form which West Brom are most concerned about as they’ve drew four times here. That is being ultra-picky however, although they’ve looked a real side on the road this season. They’ve lost just once away, and it is no disgrace losing at Elland Road to Leeds. They’ve earned six wins, including at Nottingham Forest and Hull.
Preston will be hurting after that bad loss in the week, but they aren’t the sort of side you expect to go back into their shell, especially now they’re back on home soil. I feel they’ll look to have a go in this one and not make this a comfortable night for West Brom. As such, I take the view that this’ll be quite an open match with chances at either end.
The numbers reflect that this is likely to happen as well. Only two of Preston’s nine home Championship matches this season failed to finish over 2.5 goals, which again proved that they really do have a go. On the flip side, just two of West Brom’s away matches has featured a minimum of three goals, so something has to give on Monday.
Normally in cases such as this, I will lean towards goal. There is too much attacking talent on show in my mind to do that, and this top of the table encounter shouldn’t fail to deliver in relation to goals. Both will create chances, and hopefully they’ll take a few of them to allow our Over 2.5 Goals selection to sail in.
Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Over 2.50 at 1.860
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