CHAMPIONSHIP fan Matthew Kirby (@M_Kirby95) oversees Tuesday night's action from the second-tier, picking out his best bets.
Cardiff v Stoke | Tuesday 26th November 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Neil Harris takes charge of his first home game and he’ll be looking to build on the second-half performance at Charlton that saw his side come from 2-0 down to earn a point. Despite not being awarded what looked a clear penalty at 1-0, Cardiff showed plenty of fight and spirit in that second half to battle back and take something from the English capital.
The Bluebirds have only lost once at home this season, but it was the defeat that ended Neil Warnock’s reign. They hit the woodwork a couple of times in the 1-0 loss against Bristol City in the Severnside Derby.
While Harris takes charge of his third Cardiff game, it’ll be his opposite numbers third game as Stoke boss. Michael O’Neill has won both games since taking over from Nathan Jones. The performances in those games will have satisfied the Northern Ireland gaffer, but will have left him with plenty of food for thought.
Saturday saw the Potters fight until the end and pick up a deserved three points against Wigan. Mame Biram Diouf, exiled under Jones, came off the bench to slot home a 93rd-minute winner. However, O’Neill has plenty of work to do with his defenders. Barnsley’s second goal was one simple long ball over the top, while a mix-up allowed Sam Morsy a gift to put the Latics ahead just a few days ago.
If that backline can be sorted out then you have to expect the Potters to climb the table, especially now players are being played in their correct positions, in a formation they understand.
O’Neill will have his fingers crossed around the fitness of Sam Clucas. The midfielder netted twice in the 4-2 win at Barnsley but picked up an injury that saw him miss Saturday’s win. But the visitors will be without James McClean, who picked up his fifth caution against Wigan, meaning he serves a one-match ban.
That’s a blow for Stoke. McClean was excellent on Saturday offering plenty of width down the left and getting some good deliveries into the box, so that could see a slight tweak to the system.
This has the feeling of two sides who struggle to keep clean sheets. Cardiff have just three, while Stoke have two. Delve deeper into the stats and you’ll see Cardiff are possibly fortunate not to have conceded more goals at home. The Bluebirds have shipped seven goals in eight at home, but it’s a 13.03 xGA showing they’ve ridden their luck at times.
While Stoke have scored nine away goals from 9.41 xGF, they’ve conceded 14 from 12.61 xGA – a number of those individual errors (see Preston away). Given those poor defensive showings, then both attacks could well profit, making Both Teams To Score (10/11 Bet365) an appealing angle in a game where both managers are still learning about their new players.
Something to note if you’re looking at Stoke goalscorers: The bookies have Scott Hogan and Sam Vokes as Stoke’s two most likely scorers – Hogan hasn’t been in the matchday 18 since O’Neill took over, while Vokes has been restricted to cameo appearances off the bench.
Millwall v Wigan | Tuesday 26th November 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Another new-ish manager is having plenty of joy – that’s Gary Rowett. He’s won three of four league games since taking over at The Den, including home wins over Stoke and Charlton.
Millwall will be looking up. They sit just five points off a play-off place and this looks a great chance to go and reduce it.
Rowett will have gone in and got his side well-drilled. While they don’t have any star names, he’ll eek every bit out of them. It’s Jed Wallace who’s the talisman. It was his free-kick that earned them three points at Swansea on Saturday taking him to three in four under Rowett.
Wallace is a player that will cause this Wigan defence problems – quick, agile and tricky. That’s what the Latics full-back’s struggled with at the weekend, so they could be in for a run around here.
The pressure mounts on Paul Cook. It’s just one win in seven and just one point from their last 15 available for the visitors. Wigan's gameplan at Stoke was simple – keep it tight, nick a goal and scrap for their lives. It very nearly saw them claim a point but for Mame Biram Diouf.
In the attacking third, the Latics were largely quiet. The goal was a gift, although Chey Dunkley should have done much better with his free header, other than that, they rarely tested Jack Butland.
Cook’s side haven’t won an away league game since winning at Elland Road against Leeds in April. Since then it’s seen 10 played with three draws and seven defeats, while they haven’t kept an away clean sheet in 30 matches – since beating Stoke 3-0 in August 2018.
This season alone Wigan have conceded 17 times on the road from just 9.59 xGA showing signs of vulnerability and a bit of misfortune. But failure to do the basics will see you punished, and that’s been the case.
With Wigan’s awful away record and Millwall only having lost once at home this season, then the 109/100 (Marathon) on a home win looks very generous. That’s slightly better than the 17/16 on the Lions -0.5 on the Asian Handicap, so that looks the play.
It might be worth following the talisman in this Millwall side too. As mentioned above, Wallace is in fine form with seven for the season, plus he’s the regular set-piece taker meaning penalties or free-kicks will be his. He's 10/3 (Unibet) to strike.