Adrian Clarke landed the clean sweep last weekend and returns with two Championship selections.
It was lovely to see both my selections land last weekend, even if we did have to wait for an injury-time winner at Gillingham!
With the upcoming FA Cup 2nd round decimating the League 1 and League 2 cards, all eyes are on the Championship in my latest EFL Insights column…
GO LOW FOR BIRMINGHAM’S VISIT TO THE LION’S DEN
You have to rewind ten matches, all the way back to September 2014 for the last time Millwall and Birmingham City served up more than two goals in one of their meetings, so my eyes are instantly drawn towards south London this weekend.
Historical trends like that don’t always count for much (although it’s funny how often the narratives do continue) but nothing I have seen from either side in recent weeks would persuade me against opposing goals based on current form either.
Across their last eight outings, contests involving Birmingham City have averaged just 1.75 goals a game. That’s the second-lowest figure of all 24 teams in that same period.
During this timeframe, Millwall and Birmingham City have been involved in 5/8 matches apiece that went Under 2.5 goals too.
At the New Den, 70% of this season’s fixtures have featured two goals or less, and it’s a trend that has continued over a lengthy period. The exact same share (70%) went Under 2.5 in Millwall home games in 2020-21.
Stylistically you’d have expected this to be a bruising, physical affair. Both teams are not afraid to knock the ball long, powerful in the air and always uncompromising in their aggression. It just doesn’t have the feel of a pretty, tippy-tappy type of clash.
In fairness to Gary Rowett’s Millwall, they do usually score, but they have exceeded one goal in just 3 of 20 Championship fixtures to date. Pushing on for the elusive second has been a consistent issue for them.
Lee Bowyer’s Blues are the ones more likely to blank – it’s happened on 10 occasions – with just five of 20 games seeing them register two or more goals.
I’m a big fan of Millwall’s Jed Wallace (five goals and five assists) and Birmingham’s Scott Hogan has been among the goals of late, but both coaches do prioritize solidity at the back.
They are also set up nicely to negate one another’s aerial strengths at the top end of the field.
The market knows this won’t be a goal-fest so top prices are hard to come by, but even so, given the stats and formbook I am willing to take Under 2.0/2.5 goals at a price of around 1.75 with Matchbook.
If this one doesn’t finish 0-0, 1-1, 1-0 or 2-0 either way it will have bucked an awful lot of trends.
COVENTRY ARE GOOD ENOUGH TO HANDLE ISMAEL’S BAGGIES MACHINE
It’s been a very happy homecoming for Coventry City this season. After a two-year stint ground sharing at St Andrews the momentum-building Sky Blues are back in front of local supporters at the CBS Arena – and they are rather enjoying themselves.
Seven wins, two draws and just one defeat mean that Mark Robins’ side head into this weekend with the joint best home record in the Championship, sharing top spot with Fulham.
Revelling in a proper big-match atmosphere once again, they are this season’s surprise package with a keen eye on the play-offs.
A price of 3.25 for a Coventry win at home to West Bromwich Albion surprises me a little.
They are in sixth spot just a point behind their opponents in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off, and after 20 matches that is not in any way a fortuitous statistic.
Robins has constructed an impressive side that’s strong in every department of the pitch, and they are tactically savvy too. They may not win every week but rarely does the Sky Blues boss get out-thought by his opposite number.
Two standout players are playmaker Callum O’Hare, a former Aston Villa youngster that has created the most chances from open play in the Championship this term.
Another is 23-year-old striker Viktor Gyokeres who has nine goals to his name and is the division’s leading centre forward chance creator in open play too.
The Baggies make the short trip across to the East Midlands in mediocre form.
Across the last 10 matches, they are the 18th best Championship team. It’s only a blistering start to the campaign that keeps them in 4th place ahead of kick-off.
Valerian Ismael’s style of play is physical, packed with aggression and centred around playing the percentages. In essence, they press superbly and boom it long at every opportunity.
I don’t especially like watching it (West Brom have literally sent me to sleep on the sofa a couple of times this season!) but when they’re on song they are effective at what they do.
It’s just that with a talented group of players at his disposal it feels like there is more to give, and that what we are seeing right now is unnecessarily one-dimensional.
Many Championship opponents have worked out a way to contain their threats, knowing that a plan B is unlikely to transpire, and as a consequence, Albion have been dropping a lot of points.
I think the Sky Blues have a real shot at taking another scalp this weekend. They walloped Fulham 4-1, and have the potential to give West Brom a proper run for their money too.
Up against a visiting side that hasn’t kept a clean sheet against any Top 10 side this term – or won away from home since September 28 – I believe Coventry can be very competitive.
Robins inspired a 2-0 win against Ismael’s Barnsley in April, so he does have previous when it comes to taming his tactics too.
All things considered, I’m delighted to see Coventry City backable on a small handicap here, so my selection is for the hosts to prevail with a +0.0/0.5 handicap. (1.86)
With a whole host of final scores on our side, the only way we don’t make a profit is if the Baggies win, and I’m happy to take that chance.
Coventry City are not a side that should be under-estimated.
- Millwall v Birmingham City Under 2.0/2.25 (1.75)
- Coventry +0.0/0.5 v West Bromwich Albion (1.86)
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