CHAMPIONSHIP football returns on Friday night as struggling Bristol City welcome Nottingham Forest to Ashton Gate in front of the live television cameras. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) picks out his favourite bets.
Bristol City v Nottingham Forest | Saturday 19.45 | Sky Sports 1
Bristol City won League One at a canter last season and with a record points haul. With previous third tier champions finishing 8th, 5th, 2nd, 10th, 9th, 22nd and 7th in the past seven seasons, we understandably expected the Robins to continue that mantle this term.
Ten games into life back in the Championship and Steve Cotterill’s troops are rock bottom with the joint-worst defence and only one win to their name. Already the accusations are flying about suggesting the City squad isn’t strong enough but I’d reject that notion in a heartbeat – the players don’t suddenly become ‘not good enough’ in 10 fixtures.
Cotterill’s 3-5-2 formation has also come under the spotlight but arguably it’s their inability to defend against quick and quality counter-attacks that needs addressing. The rumour mill reckons the Robins boss will abandon his favoured system for a 4-4-2 following the loan addition of winger Elliott Bennett but a lack of full-backs makes such a move a bit of a risk.
Before the international break, City were inches away from climbing off the foot of the table before a stoppage-time leveller to fellow-promoted strugglers MK Dons and that means the hosts have now managed just W0-D2-L3 when hosting league action at Ashton Gate. Again, it’s a divisional-low points tally and slowly excuses and reasoning behind the Robins’ poor form start diminishing.
There’s no doubt the Championship is a tougher beast than in recent years but I’m not convinced Bristol City are the worst team in the league, especially going on their first 10 performances. However, saying all that, could we possibly trust them to deliver at odds as short as 6/5 on Friday night? No.
Nottingham Forest head to the west country with a remarkably strong head-to-head record with the Robins – losing just twice in 33 meetings – and although the Tricky Trees are unbeaten in their last four away matches (W2-D2-L0), they haven’t quite accumulated as many points as their displays have deserved.
Dougie Freedman’s troops were edged out 1-0 by Hull at the City Ground a fortnight ago when proving more than a match for the recently relegated club whilst Middlesbrough were fortunate to escape with all three points in their previous outing.
The visitors have a fair few selection issues – 11 players are said to be unavailable including suspended centre-half Matt Mills – but even so, the Tricky Trees are tough operators on the road.
Forest’s cautious approach features two holding players in a 4-5-1 formation that swiftly moves into a 4-3-3 when possession is turned in their favour. And with Bristol City struggling to cope with fast counters, you’d expect Freedman to outline such scenarios in the build-up to this encounter.
Since his appointment, the Tricky Trees manager has overseen W4-D6-L4 in his 14 league away days and with City so short in the betting, we’re able to have a dabble on the visitors with a +0.25 Asian Handicap start trading at attractive 15/16 odds with BetVictor.
This bet will ensure we make money should Forest avoid defeat – a full pay-out if they win with half of that potential pay-out delivered should the match end all square.
But I’ll also have a play on Both Teams To Score at 8/11 with Boylesports. Goalscoring hasn’t proven a problem for the Robins – record signing Jonathan Kodjia has notched five in his last six – and City have netted in all bar two of their matches since promotion. Overall, 7/10 have delivered for BTTS backers this term.
I’ve mentioned Forest’s tendency for Both Teams To Score winners under Freedman a few times this season and following the successful play at Huddersfield in their most recent away outing, it’s a selection that’s now proven profitable in 10/14 (71%) away fixtures under his watch. We'll take it again on Friday night.
Bristol City v Nottingham Forest – Nottingham Forest +0.25 (15/16 BetVictor)
Bristol City v Nottingham Forest – Both Teams To Score (8/11 Boylesports)
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