Millwall vs Portsmouth | Tuesday 10th August 2021, 19:45
Millwall picked up a decent point in their opening game of the season away at QPR, winning the Expected Goals (xG) battle in a game with limited chances.
I think the Lions will go well this season under manager Gary Rowett. They have signed well over the summer whilst keeping the bulk of the squad together. Millwall finished 11th last term with a home record of W7-D10-L6. At the back end of last season they lost just three of 12 games, with defeats coming against play-off finishers Bournemouth and Swansea, plus Blackburn.
The Den is never an easy place to go and win games and with fans now back in the ground I am expecting the home support to make a difference. Last season Rowett took the EFL Cup seriously as the Lions beat Crawley and Cheltenham before losing at home to Premier League outfit Burnley.
Over these games, Millwall made very few changes to the side with an average of four per-game and Rowett has already said in the press that he will name a strong side with players still needing game time to help with fitness or embed the new signings.
Portsmouth started their season off with a win over Fleetwood, but the underlying performance metrics would suggest it was not a straightforward game. Fleetwood had 15 shots to Pompey’s nine, with the visitors winning the game by scoring from one of only two shots on-target. Alex Bass in goal for Pompey made four decent saves with Fleetwood being wasteful in front of goal.
Manager Danny Cowley admitted that his side were second best for the majority of the match and have an injury crisis in midfield with Ryan Tunnicliffe the only fit central midfielder, which means left back Connor Oligive will again play there or 17-year-old Harry Jewitt-White could be brought in.
Pompey are in need of reinforcements with the squad being a little short of numbers in the majority of positions. They are also likely to lose a few key players with Championship clubs interested in winger Ronan Curtis, who is expected to depart and therefore unlikely to play on Tuesday.
I think Cowley might see this as a chance to keep his key players fit for the weekend when they are at home to Crewe, rather than chase a cup upset in the EFL Cup. We can back Millwall on a -0.25 at 7/9 with VBet. I expect this to drop as team news for both sides are confirmed.
Sheffield United vs Carlisle | Tuesday 10th August 2021, 19:45
Sheffield United are in need of a victory here. The Blades were awful last season in the Premier League winning just seven games all season, whilst losing 29. Their pre-season preparations have been heavily impacted due to an outbreak of COVID in the squad.
After losing their opening match of the campaign, United face travelling to Swansea on Saturday off the back of two defeats if they don’t ease their way past League Two side Carlisle. This is a squad that is lacking confidence and self-belief after being relegated without much of a fight last season. If they had beaten Birmingham, a shock loss to Carlisle could easily have been shrugged off. Now don’t have that luxury.
Losing to Birmingham has probably limited manager Slavisa Jokanovic’s room for manoeuvre in terms of team selection, but I think it will be a reasonably strong team. The players who started on the bench at the weekend would be likely to start and that includes players like Rhian Brewster, Oliver McBurnie, Billy Sharp, Jayden Bogle, Luke Freeman and Chris Basham.
Carlisle played out a 0-0 draw with much-improved Colchester on Saturday. Although they certainly dominated the game, and were maybe a little unlucky not to win, a lack of cutting edge is hurting them. This, however, is a huge step up.
Losing one of your best centre backs and vice-captain to non-league is also going to hurt he Cumbrians, but they still have the nucleus of a decent squad. Their season last year was badly impacted by OVID and despite being in and around the top seven until January, they then ended the second half of the season with a record of W5-D9-L10 to finish 10th.
There are enough players in the squad to rotate for the trip to Bramall Lane, but I would expect manager Chris Beech to go with the majority of the his better players. Last season they made a few changes in this competition before losing 3-0 against Oldham. There is less pressure on Carlisle here to get a result or play their key players.
The Blades must get a result and the pressure is on the squad and manager to get the mindset right after last season and defeat at home to Carlisle is only going to add to the lingering self-doubt. The Blades should have far too much quality here and I am happy to take them on a -1 on the Asian Handicap at 99/100 with Bet365
Shrewsbury vs Lincoln | Tuesday 10th August 2021, 19:45
Lincoln should be challenging for the play-offs come the end of the season, whilst it looks like another tough season for Shrewsbury.
Lincoln are still trying to bed in a number of new players and manager Michael Appleton has confirmed that there will be four to five changes with new signing Teddy Bishop likely to start with Lewis Montsma and another new boy Hakeeb Adelakun also likely to get 70+ minutes. Man City loanee Lewis Fiorini is expected to be fit and get an opportunity.
The Imps do have a number of injuries with Dan N’Lundulu, Chris Maguire and Joe Walsh which means Appleton has little to choose from, so I think he will go a number of his first team with players looking to get minutes under their belt as they step up fitness, which means it should be a very competitive team.
Lincoln last season were excellent and finished the season with an away record of W13-D6-L4. Whilst the EFL Cup is a very different competition, winning games breeds confidence and Lincoln will know its important to get players up to speed with their fitness whilst looking to win games and create momentum.
Shrewsbury had a poor season last term. The were never in any real danger of being pulled into the relegation scrap but their home record was W5-D8-L10, whilst winning just one of their last nine games, failing to score in four of them. Their end of season woes continued into the summer with captain Ollie Norburn being stripped of the armband and now likely to be moved on along with teammate Aaron Pierre, who manager Steve Cotterill has questioned both players desire and fitness levels.
Last season Salop had the fourth-lowest xG in League One as they won just three of their last 15 games, scoring just eight goals. They are a team that will keep it tight at the back but never really threaten going forward. They lost their opening league game 1-0 managing just two shots on-target, generating 1.16 xG.
This is a small Shrews squad and to have two of your most senior players on their way-out won’t help matters. The fact that we can get Lincoln at 13/15 with BetVictor on +0 I think this looks a good bet. If it is a draw, we can our money back with only a Shrewsbury victory would see us lose.