Reading v Coventry | Tuesday 19th January 2021, 18:00 | Sky Sports
Your Championship action this midweek is split into two across Tuesday and Wednesday, and one of the early pieces of action on the Tuesday catches my eye as Coventry travel to Reading for a 6pm kick off. The ‘Mad Stat’ hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the Sky Blues in the past as they’re now five visits without winning, including four defeats and scoring only once overall.
However, that was then and this is now, and Mark Robins’ side have settled relatively well to life in the Championship considering last season ended with the whole points per game situation. Whilst they lost to Norwich City in the FA Cup last time out, prior to that they earned a solid away victory at Millwall, meaning they’ve won two of their last four away encounters.
Reading have been something of the surprise package in this season’s Championship so far. Veljko Paunovic entered the job after Mark Bowen’s sudden departure during pre-season, but The Royals haven’t used that as an excuse as at the halfway point of the campaign they find themselves in a play-off position. A much-changed XI was knocked out of the FA Cup to league rivals Luton in their most recent clash, but they’re three without defeat in league action.
Reading are understandably favourites heading into this meeting, and a quick glance at the league table affords a fairly decent reason as to why. That being said, I don’t think this will be as straightforward as we think it might be. Now I say this as Reading didn’t play at the weekend because of Covid cases in the Brentford ranks.
As mentioned, they heavily rotated for the Luton cup tie, and there is only really a handful of that team who have featured in the league in recent times on a consistent basis. Therefore, the main bulk of their first-choice side haven’t played a competitive game since January 2nd, and for me that makes them vulnerable.
Middlesbrough were odds-on favourites to beat Birmingham in the Saturday lunchtime game, and they too experienced something similar having been forced into mass changes for their FA Cup game with Brentford, and they looked a shadow of their usual standards when labouring to a disappointing 1-0 home loss at the weekend. I just don’t think it will be straightforward for Reading to switch it on again. Sure, they will be rested, but it can easily work the other way.
Coventry fielded practically their strongest possible team at Carrow Road, so that means they should be that little bit more at it than their Tuesday opponents, at least in the early stages. I’m not simply going to back a Coventry win, as Reading I suspect will improve as the game goes along, plus Coventry aren’t the most consistent, but I suspect this being a slow-burner, with Robins’ men likely to be happy to sit back early on.
The price on a 0-0 Half Time Score has slightly dropped in the last few days, so I’d like to jump on the 17/10 (Sporting Index) whilst I can.
Furthermore, Cov lead the league in half-time draws, with an incredible 15 of their 23 league battles so far being level after 45-minutes, so clearly they favour keeping things tight in the opening period. With Reading likely to be ring-rusty, I like the look of a HT stalemate.
Rotherham v Stoke | Tuesday 19th January 2021, 19:45
After running Premier League Everton close in the FA Cup recently, Rotherham look to back up that positive display in that extra-time setback into league action and were therefore delighted to ruin Wayne Rooney’s first official game as full-time Derby manager with a 1-0 away victory. This came courtesy of a very late Jamie Lindsay strike.
Another tough assignment awaits Paul Warne’s men on Tuesday evening as Stoke City make the almost 80-mile journey to the New York Stadium. Prior to Christmas it looked as though Stoke were starting to get their groove on, but they are on a rather alarming run of form in relation to a lack of victories. Since back-to-back wins in the first week of December against Wycombe and Middlesbrough respectively, Michael O’Neill’s side have won just once in 10 in all competitions.
An away draw at Ewood Park on Saturday could hardly be described as a bad result, and O’Neill was generally happy with their display despite the tough playing conditions. They remain just outside the play-off places, so are chasing a much-needed win from their trip to South Yorkshire.
Whilst everyone connected with Rotherham will no doubt be chuffed with a win and a clean sheet on Saturday, they will be the first to realise that they haven’t been the most consistent of outfits this season. That was only their second win in their previous 11 in all competitions, and the fact four of their five wins this season featuring clean sheets just highlights exactly what they need to do to create more winning opportunities.
However, after each of their past four wins they have backed it up with a defeat, so the numbers suggest they are very unlikely to make it back-to-back wins, something they last achieved in February 2020 when they were a League One club.
Sure, Stoke themselves aren’t in the best of form, but I just get the feeling that Rotherham are the perfect sort of opponent for them to face. Man-for-man, Stoke are superior in pretty much every department, and we all know Rotherham like to get the ball forward and out of shape they’re organised and dogged, and that is something Stoke have been described as too.
That being said, I don’t expect much of an entertaining contest, especially with conditions again likely to be tricky for both outfits.
Only twice this season have Stoke last away in the Championship, and they came to Swansea and Watford, who are both currently in the top-five places. It is seven without defeat away from home for The Potters, but that does include four 0-0’s. That suggests they like to keep things tight on the road, which is no bad thing.
Both teams rank in the bottom four in the league for shots on goal, and bottom five for efforts on target, so I’m expecting a low-scoring affair. With Stoke remaining hard to beat, I afford them the edge, especially as Rotherham struggle to go back-to-back.
Stoke Double Chance and Under 3 Goals is an attractive bet-builder opportunity at 6/5 (Bet365).
Reading v Coventry – 0-0 Half Time Score (17/10 Sporting Index)
Rotherham v Stoke – Stoke Double Chance and Under 3 Goals (6/5 Bet365)