Barnsley v Stoke
Though Barnsley’s mini-revival took a huge setback on Saturday with a 2-0 defeat at Derby, their recent home form gives us something to get behind in this clash.
The Tykes have won their last two at Oakwell, a sizeable turnaround because they still have the worst home record in the division despite the recent results. Even before the wins though, there were signs of improvement. They were conceding very few goals but scoring even fewer. The additions of Amine Bassi and Dominguos Quina have certainly made a difference and moved the team away from their old Valerian Ismael styled team to one more in the mould of current boss Poya Asbaghi.
Stoke arrive in poor form and are practically one of the first teams in the division with nothing to play for. The Potters did put in a good performance at Bournemouth in their last away game in defeat but the 1-0 home loss to Blackpool did the atmosphere at the Bet365 Stadium no good whatsoever. Of most concern at the moment is that Stoke actually lie bottom of the whole table for open play xG ratio over the last four matches. They have created only 0.2xG per 90 in open play which is a figure far, far below any other teams.
On current form Barnsley are the better side of the pair, though Stoke have ostensibly the better squad of players. The low chance creation numbers from both side suggest a low scoring encounter and Under 2.5 goals would be a logical choice. However, both sides have been over that mark recently so the safest option is to get the draw onside and lean towards the better odds of Barnsley as a double chance.
Bournemouth v Peterborough
Scott Parker and Adam Smith had exceptionally strong words for the officials during the match on Saturday as Emil Riis wrapped up all three points for Preston. Bournemouth had arguably done enough to deserve at least the points. The good news for the South Coast side is that they are continuing to perform well enough to make promotion highly likely.
The Cherries are creating chances in open play, a 1.18xG per 90 score that sees them third in the league on that measure. They aren’t water-tight at the back, as the Saturday match showed, but that could be a positive for this bet.
Peterborough arent much of an attacking force themselves though. Second bottom of the table to Stoke on open play chance creation of 0.4xG per 90 over the last four matches and Grant McCann certainly hasn’t had the immediate ‘bounce’ that all new managers hope to get. The Peterborough project already smacks of accepting relegation here and achieving promotion again. Whilst this is definitely not going to be the message in the dressing room it may well be the case subconsciously.
Bournemouth are very short to win the match, understandably so. However, both teams have plenty of history for their matches going over 2.5 goals. 87% of Bournemouth’s home matches and 72% of Peterborough’s away matches have done that already this season. Therefore backing a Bournemouth win with over 2.5 goals in the game is the recommended play.
Sheffield United v Middlesbrough
A clash here between promotion hopefuls but also the current top two in the performance data. This match could be pivotal in either team’s season, in situations such as this a draw becomes a big player in the result market as it wouldn’t be a disaster for either side.
However, we will not be backing the draw here. Of the teams Middlesbrough are the ones I would want to side with in this fixture. Their price is much more appealing but also they are the team with the highest expected points total across the whole competition over the last four games. With Wilder adding the depth to his forward options in January it has allowed him to rotate those players and keep a fresh attack. Though none of the forwards are in sparkling form it does present a problem to the opponents in terms of preparing who they will be up against and also it helps the high pressing game at the top of the pitch.
Sheffield United have an excellent home record, but have actually struggled to score goals at Brammall Lane of late. Casting aside a 4-0 win against Swansea, they required a last-gasp winner against Blackburn, only got one against Nottingham Forest and were kept to a 0-0 by Hull. Middlesbrough don’t have the meanest defence necessarily but in Dael Fry, Paddy McNair, and Anfernee Dijksteel they have the height and mobility to deal with Billy Sharp well and the system that can match up to United as well.
With the situation around the play-off race, the similar systems, and the potential for nerves in a big clash the chances of a low-scoring affair with a draw as a likely result puts me off a few different angles. Though Middlesbrough’s away form looks poor they have only been losing by very narrow margins and their mentality at the moment must be supremely confident with the FA Cup win over Spurs still fresh in their mind.
Swansea v Fulham
Two teams who like to pass the ball and dominate possession clash here. It will be interesting to observe tactically what will play out in this match. My suspicion is that this will give Fulham a rare opportunity to be slightly more transition-based in their play. This could be devastating with Kebano, Carvalho, and Wilson in the side with their pace and vision. Even if some rotation is performed by Marco Silva, Ivan Cavaleiro, Tom Cairney and Bobby Decordova-Reid are perfectly capable of performing similar roles for the Londoners.
Swansea under Russell Martin are no mystery to anybody. They will attempt to keep the ball, build play from the back and use positional overloads and rotations to break lines and create chances. The problem is in particular match up is that Fulham have a lot of talented, dedicated, and experienced players that have seen this style before, usually at a higher level, and have been able to combat it.
The Swans have been in good form though, especially at home. Back-to-back 3-1 wins adding to a narrow 1-0 success over Blackburn Rovers means that they should have no reason to fear playing Fulham. This home form also adds to doubts about backing an away victory.
It feels more sensible to back an overs on the goals strategy. Fulham are setting records everywhere for their goal return and although they’ve been steady rather than spectacular recently they very rarely fail to score in a Championship match. WIth Swansea’s Michael Obafemi finally making an impact and adding an extra dimension to their game it is easy to see Swans troubling the scorers as well. To add further fuel to the fire, both teams are averaging over a goal a game in non-penalty xG as well, symbolising that their attacking prowess is in decent shape.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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