Blackburn vs Norwich | Saturday 12th December 2020, 15:00
Traditionally, the Championship’s proven to be one of the most exciting, entertaining and dramatic divisions to follow across the globe but the 2020/21 renewal has been a turgid affair.
With 37% of the campaign completed, the league is averaging just 2.22 goals per-game, 62% of contests have featured fewer than three goals and a third of games have concluded with no more than a solitary strike. A quick scour of Saturday’s card could identify countless opportunities to oppose goals yet again, with defences firmly on top in the second-tier.
So we must give thanks and praise to the likes of Blackburn and Norwich for injecting a slice of revelry and merrymaking. Rovers and the Canaries are just two of six sides to produce positive Over 2.5 Goals figures in the Championship this season and the pair collide at Ewood Park on Saturday with goals firmly top of my agenda.
Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score takes my fancy at even-money (Bet365). To start with, the duo have combined to score in 26/34 (77%) league fixtures with 18 (53%) of those tussles rewarding BTTS backers. A further 19 (55%) collective contests have breached the Over 2.5 barrier with matches averaging a very healthy 2.65 goals per-game.
Blackburn drew a blank against Bristol City in midweek but Tony Mowbray’s men still managed to fire in 22 efforts at goal at Ashton Gate. Back at Ewood Park, I’d anticipate a similar offensive set-up against an injury-hit Norwich side, especially so with no divisional rival generating a higher Expected Goals (xG) return from open play than Rovers.
Mowbray’s man rank second in the league for shots attempted, efforts from inside the penalty area and xG output, and this weekend they welcome the team top of the pile for all three metrics, as well as the current league leaders. The Canaries have returned W9-D3-L1 over their past 13 league fixtures to take a three-point advantage at the summit.
Daniel Farke’s charges were savaged by injuries, without up to 14 unavailable players at times recentl,y but the treatment table is easing with the likes of Teemu Pukki, Emi Buendia, Todd Cantwell, Kieran Dowell and Jordan Hugill all returning to the fold to bolster Norwich’s attacking productivity, however they still appear short of bodies at the back.
The Norfolk giants have leaked in each of their past five outings, and have managed one shutout on their travels since the opening day of the season, an encouraging trend for those seeking a high-scoring showdown on Saturday. With that in mind, this could be one of the more enjoyable encounters from the Championship this season and I’ll be supporting goals.
Wigan vs Accrington | Saturday 12th December 2020, 15:00
Accrington boss John Coleman was rewarded for Stanley’s fine recent form with the League One manager of the month award for November and quickly dedicated to his team – both on and off the pitch. The Reds chief picked up the prize after orchestrating an impressive unbeaten run in response to their FA Cup exit and Covid outbreak.
The Crown Ground club suffered a first round defeat in their first game back after the club was forced to shutdown for two weeks when 17 players and two members of staff tested positive for coronavirus in October. But since, Accrington are unbeaten in eight games across all competitions, with 10 league points from a possible 12 picked up in November.
However, arguably more impressive has been Stanley’s league results across the campaign as a whole. Order the League One table via points per-game and plucky Accy sit third in the standings with a 2.00 points per-game return (W8-D2-L3), quite simply outstanding.
Coleman’s charges have collected W7-D2-L1 in their most recent 10 tussles in league football, and since early October now they’ve pocketed W9-D3-L2 when including cup competitions. The Reds are proving to be quite the side in both boxes, scoring in 16 of their overall 19 encounters, and keeping five of their past seven League One opponents quiet.
Accrington head to the DW Stadium on Saturday as firm 13/10 (Unibet) favourites and there’s argument to say no side should be larger than 11/10 when taking on rock-bottom Wigan right now. The Latics’ depressing plight has been well documented over the past six months and Athletic remain right in the mire on-and-off the field.
Last week’s fluky and fortunate 1-0 success at Sunderland raised spirits in the Wigan camp, but the Latics landed just one attempt at goal in that Stadium of Light showdown and enjoyed only 28% possession in a one-sided contest. And those sorts of statistics have been quite commonplace when viewing the campaign as a whole for Athletic.
Wigan are posting sub 30% Expected Goals (xG) ratio figures, managing the fewest shots from inside the box per-game and giving opponents plenty of opportunity in the final-third. The hosts have fired blanks in seven of their past 11 League One outings, returned W1-D4-L9 across all competitions since early October, whilst boss John Sheridan left last month.
The hosts have been operating with a threadbare squad that’s been stretched to breaking point for much of the season, leaving the management hanging on for January – and the opportunity to bring in much-needed bodies, assuming the long takeover saga is completed in the meantime. Amidst the uncertainty at the DW, I expect Accrington to thrive.
Southend vs Scunthorpe | Saturday 12th December 2020, 15:00
Another club in crisis is Southend, sitting at the foot of the EFL pyramid and already seven points adrift of survival. The beleaguered Shrimpers have scored only six goals in 15 League Two fixtures – that’s almost 23 hours of action – and have failed to trouble the scoresheet in eight of their most recent 10 outings.
The Essex outfit are averaging only 0.31 Expected Goals (xG) from open play – comfortably the worst across the top-four tiers – and have been beaten in 11 of those aforementioned 15 encounters, including six from seven at their Roots Hall home. Across all competitions, Southend’s wafer-thin squad have tabled a solitary success in 20.
Boss Mark Molesley can’t wait to finally see his side play in front of their own supporters on Saturday with 2,000 fans returning to Roots Hall and it’s bound to give the struggling side a lift. But evidence suggests Southend are still a level below their League Two counterparts and again, there’s an argument to suggest their opposition should not be above 11/10.
Scunthorpe are 13/10 (William Hill) shots to succeed and are worth supporting at the prices. The Iron have yet to face a side below them in the standings yet have taken top honours in three of four road trips against teams outside the top-10. And Neil Cox’s outfit are enjoying a recent uplift in performance levels and results after making a similarly sorry start.
Four points were posted across Scunny’s opening eight encounters, but with bodies returning from injury and a series of improving performances across the park has inspired a resurgence leading to a W4-D1-L2 return since mid-November in League Two. That turnaround has pulled the Iron clear of immediate danger and raised spirits.
It could (and should) have been more too. In midweek, Scunthorpe were beaten 1-0 at home to high-flying Colchester, although the Iron had 17 shots at goal with the visitors goalkeeper earning the Man of the Match award for his display.
Star striker Kevin Van Veen might be missing but Cox’s charges can still call upon the talented Alex Gilead, Abo Eisa, Ryan Loft and Ryan McAtee in forward areas – the latter trio rested and rotated in midweek – and there’s sufficient quality in the ranks to hurt a Southend backline that’s conceded twice or more in 11 of 15 league games thus far.
Blackburn vs Norwich – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (1/1 Bet365)
Wigan vs Accrington – Accrington to win (13/10 Unibet)
Southend vs Scunthorpe – Scunthorpe to win (13/10 William Hill)