FOOTBALL LEAGUE analyst Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) returns with his best bets from Saturday's depleted EFL coupon action.
Bolton v Swansea | Saturday 10th November 2018, 15:00
It’s a case of rinse and repeat with my first selection for this coming Saturday. It was particularly galling to see Swansea concede two penalties in the final 15 minutes of their match at Rotherham last weekend to sink our Under 2.5 Goals angle but I’ll be following a similar path when they travel to Bolton.
Graham Potter’s troops were outstanding for large swathes of that New York Stadium seven days ago and appeared to be heading for a third successive Championship victory, following back-to-back wins over Reading and Blackburn. The Welsh outfit monopolised possession and gave the Millers barely a sniff.
Daniel James and Bertrand Celina excelled either side of Oli McBurnie, although their eye-catching efforts weren’t matched by a clinical edge. Indeed, City paid the price for their profligacy in the final-third and Potter was well aware his team needed to show a killer instinct in the moments that mattered.
Even home boss Paul Warne admitted his team were fortunate to escape with three points, saying, “They were significantly better than us, virtually in every department for the majority of the game. We realised how good a side Swansea were and how difficult it was for us to even put a glove on them at times.”
Swansea’s loss means Potter’s posse have now won just twice in eight (W2-D3-L3) away days but if they continue to churn out performance levels of the last few weeks, I’m certain their fortunes will change. The Welsh club now boast a 62% Expected Goals from open play ratio, a figure only bettered by Leeds.
Only Middlesbrough (nine) have kept more clean sheets than Swansea (seven), or conceded more goals at this stage of the campaign. Three of the 13 goals leaked have arrived via the penalty spot and only three times have the visitors shipped more than one goal in a game since relegation.
However, I’m not going to pile into the Swans odds-against price and instead I’m playing a safer card and backing the visitors in the double chance market alongside Under 2.5 Goals. City have failed to score on five occasions already on their travels and only twice netted more than a solitary strike away from home.
On the road, Swansea’s matches are averaging only 1.38 goals per-game as five were settled by no more than one strike, including three goalless games. With nine of Bolton’s past 10 featuring no more than two goals, it’s difficult to see how Saturday’s meeting will produce goals galore.
Gab Sutton penned an excellent piece on Wanderers’ recent toils here and so I don’t need to go into too much depth on the Trotters’ plight. I did put Phil Parkinson’s men up to finish rock-bottom of the Championship in our ante-post previews and after an expectedly good start, results have taken a significant nosedive.
Bolton have W1-D3-L8 since the end of August, failing to score in eight of those 12 tussles. Meanwhile, no second-tier team has scored fewer goals (11) – three of those arrived via efforts from outside the penalty area – and the hosts have notched just twice in their past 13-and-a-half hours of league action.
Only Ipswich (0.36) are generating a worse Expected Goals from open play per-game figure than Wanderers (0.38), whilst 10 of their past 15 fixtures when welcoming top-10 clubs have resulted in defeat. The only obvious positive is a possible return for Sammy Ameobi after two months out injured.
Norwich v Millwall | Saturday 10th November 2018, 15:00
You have to go back to 1968 for the last time Millwall won away at Norwich, a 20-game streak that’s included 13 defeats for the Lions. Current boss Neil Harris spoke to the press this week about his burning desire to break that record this weekend but the capital club could be up against it at Carrow Road.
Norwich are the form team in the Championship. Having earned a sole success from their opening six matches (W1-D2-L3), pre-season pessimism surrounding Daniel Farke’s credentials was gathering pace. However, the Canaries have responded superbly, reeling out eight triumphs from 10 (W10-D1-L1).
Finnish forward Teemu Pukki returned to the team last weekend at Sheffield Wednesday with Jordan Rhodes ineligible and scored twice in a devastating second-half romp as the Norfolk giants ran out 4-0 winners at Hillsborough. City even had the luxury of missing an early penalty in South Yorkshire.
Norwich deserve credit for their fine recent form, as well as the cost-cutting off the field following a punishing relegation from the Premier League. Sporting director Stuart Webber has reduced the wage bill from £70m to £23m in 18 months, sold 20 players for a combined £78.6m and built a new squad worth just £14.2m.
Farke has stayed true to his principles of patient, passing football and the recent rewards will have pleased the German following heavy criticism over the past 12 months. Moritz Leitner is the key cog in the Canaries’ standard 4-2-3-1, running the show from midfield, whilst the emergence of Todd Cantwell has given the attack another dimension.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the hosts chalked up as big as 10/11 (Black Type) to extend their winning streak. The odds imply just a 52% chance for Norwich to win, and although I’m wary of backing a side after big victory, I just can’t turn down the odds, especially considering Millwall’s away struggles.
The Lions are winless on the road this term (W0-D2-L6) and failed to score in five of those fixtures. Performances have undoubtedly improved for Harris’ outfit over the past month with a 2-2 draw (after being 2-0 down) at Nottingham Forest sparking an overdue revival from the capital club.
Nevertheless, Millwall may find it hard to hurt a City side that’s giving up the third-fewest Expected Goals from open play per-game (0.62) in the division. The Lions are generating an average of just 0.64 per-game in the same metric, and failed to score in 14/31 (48%) road trips since returning to this level.
In 2018/19, the guests have leaked at least twice in nine of their 16 outings, including six of eight away tussles and Harris bemoaned his team’s composure and quality in key areas when losing 2-0 at Brentford last weekend.
Bolton v Swansea – Swansea double chance and Under 3 Goals (21/20 Bet365)
Norwich v Millwall – Norwich to win (10/11 Black Type)