Championship: Hatters to come unstuck at Hillsborough

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THERE'S a full Football League card on the agenda this midweek. Here Tom Love (@TomLove_18) picks out his favourite fancies from Tuesday night's action.

Birmingham v Barnsley | Tuesday 20th August 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports

Both Birmingham and Barnsley have recorded a win, draw and a defeat each so far this season but I think there’s been a difference in quality between the pair.

Birmingham won on opening day at Brentford despite managing an Expected Goals (xG) tally of 0.01 from an outrageous 20-yard header from Kristian Pedersen. Quite frankly, the Blues were dominated by the Bees but managed to hold on for all three points. They then managed a draw at St Andrews against Bristol City but they lost the xG battle 1.36-0.62 and on another day could’ve lost.

Birmingham had a shocking performance in the EFL Cup at Portsmouth but an array of changes were made by gaffer Pep Clotet so we can’t read too much into that. However, their poor displays caught up with them as they were walloped 3-0 at Nottingham Forest this Saturday and the underlying data showed that is was a fair result.

I wasn’t a fan of the appointment of Garry Monk’s assistant in the first place; I’m not sure how he merits a job in a competitive second tier after a messy spell at Oxford. What’s more, Blues lost Che Adams in the summer and have struggled to create many goalscoring opportunities thus far. Former Arsenal youngster Dan Crowley has come in and they will be pinning their hopes on the ex-Willem II midfielder to be the creative fulcrum.

The Second City club have lost the xG battle 5.67-1.01 over the first three games so they can count themselves lucky for being as high as they are. I backed Blues for relegation ante-post and on the evidence so far I’m pretty pleased with how that bet is doing.

Visitors Barnsley were superb on opening day at Oakwell against well-fancied Fulham and were unlucky to only win 1-0. The Tykes did lose away in the Yorkshire derby against Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 but they were a tad unlucky after recording an xG for of 1.32. They then conceded a late penalty to Charlton which meant they lost a lead to draw 2-2.

However, Barnsley performances under Daniel Stendel have been excellent considering the overturn of key players in the summer. They always create good chances and they look simply overpriced here at 5/2.

Because of their bulbous odds we can get the visitors on side in the Asian Handicap markets with the Tykes given a quarter-goal (+0.25) start at even-money with BetVictor. This selection would see us profit should the away side avoid defeat with a full stakes win if they collect all three points and a half stakes win if the game ends all-square.

Sheffield Wednesday v Luton | Tuesday 20th August 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports

Championship new boys Luton have had a baptism of fire among entering the second flight. A kamikaze 3-3 draw in front of the Sky Sports cameras kicked things off but a pair of 2-1 defeats to Cardiff and West Brom may have hampered confidence.

That game against WBA saw the Town dominated on the data. A Grady Diangana double proved decisive but the Hatters gave up an xG of 1.82 and were kept to just 0.64.

I do worry for Luton this season and although I’d expect them to be competitive, their defences fails to inspire any confidence – those flaws were apparently on opening day. Goalkeeper Simon Sluga has made a number of high-profile mistakes and that in turn worries the defenders in front of him. They’ve now got a tough trip to Hillsborough night to follow.

Lee Bullen has thrown his hat firmly in the ring to become permanent Sheffield Wednesday manager. They won their first two games against Reading and Barnsley but it wasn’t a major surprise to see them narrowly lose last time out against Millwall; The Den is a very tough place to go.

Having said that, the Owls managed to keep the Lions down to just 0.15 xG and they themselves managed 1.00 xG themselves so they can feel a touch unfortunate, particularly having outshot the hosts 21-3.

Bullen has operated with a 4-5-1/4-3-3 with much needed pace coming in with Jacob Murphy and Kadeem Harris supporting Steven Fletcher up top. Wednesday have plenty of options in midfield with the likes of Sam Hutchinson, Barry Bannan, Kieran Lee and Mass Luongo, whilst up front they can bring in Jordan Rhodes, and the sizeable figure of Kosovan international Adthe Nuhui. Options are plentiful.

Hillsborough is one of the most atmospheric grounds in the league and I think they’ll be a force on home turf this season. The Owls have beaten two sides that are to a similar level to Luton already and I think they can make it three here. 93/100 quotes (Marathon) look fair enough for them to do so.

Best Bets

Birmingham v Barnsley – Barnsley +0.25 Asian Handicap (1/1 BetVictor)

Sheffield Wednesday v Luton – Sheffield Wednesday to win (93/100 Marathon)

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