CHAMPIONSHIP fan Matthew Kirby (@M_Kirby95) oversees Saturday's action, picking out his best bets.
Luton v Reading | Saturday 4th July 2020, 15:00
Luton’s revival under Nathan Jones continued as they picked up a point at leaders Leeds on Tuesday. It’s moved them within four of safety and renewed hope ahead of an important run of games. That starts with this match against Reading, before games against Barnsley and Huddersfield, which could well decide their fate.
The Royals are in 16th but sitting six points above the drop might still be a precarious position, although some of their players may think differently meaning they could be complacent. Mark Bowen’s men haven’t won since the return. Held to a draw against Stoke after conceding in stoppage time was the closest they’ve been, but defeats against Derby and Brentford won’t ease the burden.
Part of the Royals' problem is the lack of clear-cut chances they create. Their three Expected Goals tallies since the restart are 0.64xG v Stoke, 0.94xG v Derby and 0.51xG v Brentford. That should benefit Luton here. Although the hosts have similar low figures, they’ve managed to pick up five points from those games – 0.29xG v Leeds (drew 1-1), 1.00xG v Swansea (won 1-0), 0.23xG v Preston (drew 1-1).
Nathan Jones went with five at the back against Leeds, but you’d imagine he’d revert to his much-loved diamond here giving Martin Cranie and Dan Potts the freedom to get forward from full-back. Their balls into the box to supply James Collins or Danny Hylton will be one way to get at this Reading defence. The nimble Callum McManaman could conjure up a bit of magic, while there’s Harry Cornick and Isaiah Brown too.
Using Bet365 Bet Builder tool, you can put together Luton Double Chance and Under 4 Goals at 4/5, which on the Expected Goals (xG) data looks good considering the Hatters have only lost at home to two bottom-half sides. But if you throw Over 7 Corners into the mix, which has landed in all 19 of Luton’s home games and 16/19 Reading away games, then it boosts the price to a much more appealing 11/10.
Stoke v Barnsley | Saturday 4th July 2020, 15:00
Hull’s last-gasp winner on Thursday saw them climb out of the relegation zone at the expense of Stoke meaning these two kick-off in 22nd and 23rd respectively.
Michael O’Neill lamented his side following an abject 3-0 defeat at Wigan where they were completely outplayed. He called it the worst performance since he took over and said: “It was a really poor performance; a poor attitude to the game, a poor appetite for the game. We were second best all over the pitch.”
There are problems, and they’re there for all to see. Some players are hiding, while you’ll even see statues win races against some they’re that slow. In simple terms, the club continues in free fall.
Gerhard Struber has found a tune out of this Barnsley side. Funnily enough, it was the Tykes 4-2 against Stoke at Oakwell that saw them dispense of caretaker Adam Murray. Since the Austrian arrived, Barnsley have W10-D5-L11, so 35 points have given them a fighting chance. Not only that but since the restart, they’re unbeaten (W2, D1) and that’s without conceding.
The likes of Cauley Woodrow, Jacob Brown and Alex Mowatt must be licking their lips at the prospect of playing this rudderless Stoke side. Brown has partnered Woodrow upfront in the last couple of games and was on the scoresheet on Tuesday.
That was a game where he had three shots, two on target, while against Millwall he also tested the goalkeeper. When you look back on his data before lockdown, he had five shots, two on target at Reading and against struggling Hull, he had seven shots with two more on target.
Look out for team news because only Betfair and Paddy Power price these up. Unlike some firms, they don’t void the bet if the player doesn’t start, so team news is important. Brown is 13/10 for a shot on target, 15/2 for 2+ shots on target and 11/10 for 2+ shots. All of those could be worth looking at.
It’s no surprise that there has been money for the Yorkshire club over the last few days. There’s still some 5/2 knocking around for the Tykes, which will interest many given Stoke’s rotten run since the return. While the 7/5 on the Betfair in the Draw No Bet market could be worth a go.
There’s plenty riding on this game, so it might be worth dipping into the cards markets. Barnsley have picked up the second-most yellows (86) and although Stoke have the second-fewest (53), they’re going to have to battle.
Andy Woolmer is the man in charge. His card stats are quite interesting. Before lockdown, he was usually a two to three cards ref, but in his two games back, he’s shown 11 yellows and a red.
The Potters average 12.5 fouls while the Tykes average 13.2 fouls, so there’s plenty of chance for him to get involved. Plus in Stoke’s last home game, Nick Powell’s frustration was for all to see when he got dismissed for two silly fouls.
Stoke alone are 11/10 for 20+ Booking Points with Sky Bet, which given they’re low on confidence is worth playing, but given the magnitude of this clash the 13/8 on 20+ booking points each team is worth taking.