2-1 on the season with his Matchbook Insights selections, Adrian Clarke returns with another two selections for the weekend ahead!
Opposites won’t attract goals at the Riverside
Boiling and ice-cold water merge to create something of the lukewarm variety and I fear that tenuous analogy is representative of what to expect when Middlesbrough host Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
Neil Warnock, head boy at the hot-tempered school of gaffers, takes on Chris Hughton, arguably the most chilled manager of them all.
Studying the teams these two polar opposites are developing it is hard to foresee a contest full of fireworks. They did battle four times between 2016 and 2019 in their previous posts at Cardiff City & Brighton & Hove Albion and those games served up a total of just six goals.
It’s fair to say that one of the main reasons they share a reputation for being two of the most accomplished EFL managers of modern times is their ability to build solid
Love him or loathe him 71-year-old ‘Colin’ knows his way around a Championship dressing room – and his improving young Boro side are currently unbeaten since the opening weekend.
Producing three clean sheets in their last four appearances and yet to concede more than once in a match, he seems to be building a familiar-looking platform that may even
culminate in an amazing ninth promotion.
Pattern-wise seven of Middlesbrough’s eight Championship outings in 2020-21 have ended with two goals or less. So for this season 1-1 (6.0) 1-0 (7.0) and 0-0 (8.0) are the shortest-priced correct score options for this encounter. If one of those lands it won’t be a big surprise.
Mild-mannered Hughton has only just rocked up at the two-time European champions, who were in dire straits under previous boss Sabri Lamouchi.
A 1-0 win and three consecutive 1-1 draws have steadied the ship quite nicely but with a squad full of new faces that signed up to play for Sabri, it may take time for him to work out who’s with him, and who wants out.
Like Saturday’s opponents, seven of their eight matches so far have failed to eclipse the two-goal barrier too, so the prospects of an end-to-end classic goal-fest are slim!
There is plenty of attacking talent available to each boss with respective spearheads Britt Assombalonga and Lyle Taylor blessed with great goal-getting ability. Right now, however, it’s the shape, structure and defensive habits of their teams that Warnock and Hughton are prioritizing.
This has the look of an even, rather cagey clash that could be decided by a solitary strike.
I’d lean towards Middlesbrough taking the spoils (2.5) but my main selection is Under 2.25 goals (1.83)
I just don’t see these two dugouts ‘opposites’ attracting a lorry load of goals.
Back Bournemouth to edge out Cocu’s strugglers
Choosing to follow in the footsteps of close pal Eddie Howe was a ballsy move by Jason Tindall but he’s settled into the manager’s hot seat at Bournemouth with impressive levels of self-assurance.
One of only two remaining unbeaten sides the Cherries currently lie second in the Championship, and deservedly so.
The Cherries have already met some of the division’s best and come out unscathed, with their rookie head coach displaying tactical nous aplenty.
Rotating his starting XI cleverly he’s brought fresh energy to a squad that’s by and large the same group that was playing (albeit bad) Premier League football last season. Arnaut Danjuma has scored in three home matches at the Vitality Stadium already, so he is one to consider for the goalscorers’ markets.
Dominic Solanke, Dan Gosling, Jefferson Lerma and Asmir Begovic are all in good nick too, and that’s without the gifted Josh King or David Brooks being fully fit yet.
Boasting three home clean sheets already, and match winners aplenty, Bournemouth look well set to challenge for promotion.
The same can’t be said for Derby County I’m afraid, who sit in 21 st place with just one win to their name so far.
Wayne Rooney (who netted that solitary winning goal at Carrow Road) should return from self-isolation for this one, but there are question marks over where he will play. Striker Martyn Waghorn has netted two in two, and the Rams’ forward line has looked sprightlier with Kamil Jozwiak and Tom Lawrence either side of him.
Using ‘Wazza’ in midfield feels like the best option, but Cocu’s propensity to make odd tactical decisions means that’s probably unlikely.
While Derby are playing marginally better football at the moment they have still only scored one goal from open play all season.
Three of their four goals have stemmed from stunning direct free kicks, and there’s only so long you can keep relying on individual magic to steal a point.
I have a hunch the Rams might score here, but Tindall’s men certainly have the quality to snare two or three at the other end.
I’ll take the hosts to win this one at (1.67) but a further angle is for Bournemouth to do so with both teams scoring. That comes out at a more attractive (4.0)
Derby owner Mel Morris insists Cocu is his man for the long haul, but I just don’t see it. With star man Rooney on standby to be handed his first manager’s job, the pressure is on.
- Boro vs Forest Under 2.25 Goals at 1.83
- Bournemouth to beat Derby at 1.67