CHAMPIONSHIP fan Matthew Kirby (@M_Kirby95) oversees Friday night's EFL action, picking out his best bets as Coventry host Birmingham.
Coventry v Birmingham | Friday 20th November 2020, 19:45 | Sky Sports
There’s a West Midlands derby to get stuck into as club football returns after a hectic international break.
Although it’s at St Andrew’s, Birmingham will be the ‘visitors’ due to the ground share with Coventry, as they remain locked out of the Ricoh Arena.
Both sides went into the international break on the back of two defeats, although the Sky Blues did plenty of self-inflicted damage by conceding late penalties at both Nottingham Forest and Watford, which left them empty-handed.
Aitor Karanka’s men lost both home games. Conceding a late goal to newly-promoted Wycombe was a big blow, while they were completely outplayed and overpowered by Bournemouth.
Goals the way to go
It’s hard to ignore how the goals have flowed in Coventry home games this term. In the five games, 20 goals have been netted at both ends, so an average of four per.
Mark Robins likes his side to knock the ball around, but, at times, they can be far too open. He even admitted that they are too soft as well – not many managers are that honest!
Their Expected Goals for (xGF) is better than three sides in the top ten, including league leaders Reading at 11.4, but it’s defensively where they are vulnerable with the worst expected goals against (xGA) at 20.4xGA.
Birmingham’s metrics follow a similar trend with a worse xGA than xGF at 15.8xGA compared to 12.1xGF. That’s something that will need addressing for both.
The Blues last four have all seen both teams scoring and over 2.5 goals and that might be down to few absentees. Adam Clayton is out for the long-term, while Kristian Pedersen is still doubtful along with George Friend.
When you look at the shooting data for both of these, they both allow a lot of shots on their goal per game – Coventry ranks second (14.1) with Birmingham third not far behind at 13.9.
With that being the case, it’s no surprise that Robins’ side have conceded the most goal (23) either.
Meanwhile, it could pay to look for an aerial threat in this Birmingham side. That’s because four of the last five goals Coventry have conceded have come from set-pieces.
Gary Gardner already has a couple this term for the Blues and is 8/1 (Bet365) to score anytime, while Harlee Dean, who bagged against Stoke, and has had 10 shots is chalked up at 14/1 with several firms.
I’ll wait for team news to see who gets the nod for the Blues before pulling the trigger on either of those, but it’s something worth bearing in mind.
Back cards with Langford
It is a Midlands derby and you’ve got a card happy referee, who will probably miss quite a bit too.
Both sides rank highly for tackles per game at 15.5 and 15 respectively, while Karanka’s men rank fourth for fouls at 14.3 per game. So, that should lead to fouls, despite neither side ranking well for possession.
Oliver Langford is the man in the middle and no referee has shown more yellow cards than him in the Championship. That’s 38 cautions and one red in seven league games.
That’s an average of 5.4 yellows per game, while he also gives on average 25 fouls per game, which is plenty of opportunity. And when you see his one red card, you’ll see it was Birmingham’s Adam Clayton who was given his marching orders.
Most quotes are short enough in the cards markets, but using the Bet365 Bet Builder, you can get 11/8 on quite an appealing angle.
It’s over three cards in the match and both sides picking up a card in the second half. Given Langford’s rule with cards style and the ensuing derby battle, it’s a hard price to ignore.
Just for more detail, Langford’s dished out five or more cards on his last six Championship middles, including six yellows in each of his last three.
Birmingham’s Lukas Jutkiewicz and Ivan Šunjić has committed 51 fouls between this term – the latter has already served a one-game ban for accruing five yellows.
Coventry’s Gustavo Hamer is the one most likely to see a card – he’s committed 22 fouls for three yellows and a red. But team-mate Leo Skiri Østigård has managed to collect four cautions from 11 fouls – you could say cynical!
It might be a bit of a contrast of styles, but I’ll take the attacks to come out on top with Langford trying his best to be at the centre of attention.
Coventry v Birmingham – Both Teams To Score (17/20 William Hill)
Coventry v Birmingham – Over 3 Cards, Over 0 Second-Half Coventry Cards and Over 0 Second-Half Birmingham Cards (11/8 Bet365)