FOOTBALL LEAGUE analyst Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) returns with his best bets from Tuesday night's Championship football.
Ipswich v Brentford | Tuesday 18th September 2018, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Brentford have made their best start to a second-tier season since 1934 – the last time the Bees won promotion to the top-flight – and Dean Smith’s talented troops look well worth supporting at 13/15 (Sportingbet) quotes on Tuesday night at Portman Road.
Saturday’s convincing 2-0 triumph at home to Wigan has catapulted Brentford into second spot, a result that could easily have been even more emphatic had the hosts finished a series of presentable opportunities. The capital club fired in 10 on-target efforts and generated 3.30 Expected Goals at Griffin Park.
Neal Maupay returned from suspension to bag a double, taking his tally to seven goals. The Frenchman has been involved in 10 goals overall – a remarkable return considering his three-game ban – and with Ollie Watkins, Said Benrahma and Sergi Canos all fit and firing, Smith has plentiful options.
No side comes close to the Bees in the xG stakes. Tuesday night’s travellers are posting average xG from open play figures of over 1.50 per-game and unsurprisingly they comfortably top the shots and shots on-target counts for the second-tier this season.
It’s not all been about the attack, mind. Brentford have reduced their first seven opponents to just 33 shots from inside the penalty area – a Championship best and seven better than their nearest competitor. Their average 0.56 xG conceded from open play is also amongst the front-runners in the division.
Opponents Ipswich have claimed a sole success in seven league meetings with the Bees and have kicked off their campaign without a victory from seven – it’s only the fourth time in the Tractor Boys’ history they’ve started so poorly, putting boss Paul Hurst under immediate pressure.
Saturday’s meek 2-0 reverse at Hull alarmed the former Shrewsbury manager and with Town sitting rock-bottom (W0-D3-L4), having conceded 11 goals and posting the second worst goal difference in the league, improvements have to be made if the Suffolk side are going to arrest their slide.
The hosts have drawn all three of their Portman Road outings thus far but performance data doesn’t shine too brightly on Ipswich. No side has landed fewer on-target efforts, returned a lower xG figure, or generated such a paltry 0.33 xG from open play per-game average after seven matches.
Hurst has suggested he may need to rest and rotate his team to get through their current clutch of games, whilst also searching for the magic formula. That might mean recalls for Trevoh Chalobah and Ellis Harrison but centre-back Toto Nsiala is suspended and injured trio Teddy Bishop, Andre Dozzell and Emyr Huws remain out.
West Brom v Bristol City | Tuesday 18th September 2018, 19:45 | Sky Sports
West Brom were fortunate to depart Birmingham with a point apiece on Friday night as goalkeeper Sam Johnstone saved a penalty and the Baggies failed to match the Blues’ aggression and intensity for the majority of the match.
Despite winning the shot count 16-12 at St Andrew’s, Albion were well beaten on the Expected Goals metric and will need a vast improvement if they’re enhance a recent record three wins and one defeat from their last five fixtures. That loss came away at Middlesbrough, and for the most part, WBA have impressed.
Boss Darren Moore has used only 18 players this season but the consistency in selection has put the Baggies on the right path, although Ahmed Hegazy could lose his place after an error-ridden effort last time out. Tosin Adarabioyo and Kieran Gibbs are hoping to earn recalls to the starting XI.
West Brom should be expected to put on a much better show for The Hawthorns faithful here with the top scorers in the Championship normally providing plenty of offensive threat through the likes of Dwight Gayle, Matt Phillips, Harvey Barnes and Jay Rodriguez.
The hosts 1.17 xG average per-game from open play is the second-best return in the division, while only three league rivals have fired in more attempts from inside the penalty area. With arguably the Championship’s most lethal forward line at their disposal, the Baggies should be expected to strike.
However, they remain a work in progress at the back. Friday night was littered by haphazard defensive play and so there could be real mileage in supporting Both Teams To Score for the seventh occasion in eight West Brom outings since suffering relegation from the Premier League.
The Baggies – chasing a third straight home success for the first time since February 2017 – welcome in-form Bristol City on Tuesday night as the Robins bid to extend their winning streak to five. Lee Johnson’s men have leapt from 19th after three fixtures to just one point off top spot.
City were 1-0 winners at home to Sheffield United at the weekend in a largely tame encounter with few clear-cut opportunities. Marley Watkins’ strike was the Robins’ ninth goal in their past four fixtures and came after Johnson opted to move away from his standard 4-4-2 system to match the Blades’ 3-5-2 formation.
The visitors haven’t been quite as prolific in the major performance data metrics but there’s plenty of firepower in their ranks and the Robins have scored in all bar one of their seven outings thus far, again suggesting a poke on BTTS could provide handy profit at a price not far off even-money.
Ipswich v Brentford – Brentford to win (13/15 Sportingbet)
West Brom v Bristol City – Both Teams To Score (13/15 Sportingbet)