Huddersfield vs Swansea | Saturday 20th February 2021, 15:00
Swansea’s quest for promotion to the Premier League remains on course with the Welsh club unbeaten in nine encounters and arriving at the weekend on the back of three straight Championship triumphs. Steve Cooper’s side edged out Nottingham Forest in midweek to move just four point off the second-tier summit with two games in-hand.
Cooper admitted the Swans dressing room was the liveliest it has been after a game this season following the dramatic midweek win. The fixture at the Liberty Stadium looked destined to end goalless until Connor Roberts headed home Jake Bidwell's cross three minutes from time and keep the contenders in an enviable position.
Swansea recorded their 16th clean sheet in 28 Championship outings on Wednesday and that ultra-strong rearguard should hold the Welsh side in good stead as they head to Huddersfield on Saturday. The Terriers are winless since late December (W0-D2-L6) with backline woes causing plenty of consternation around the John Smith’s Stadium.
Town head coach Carlos Corberan stubborn approach has irked Huddersfield supporters, and the side’s overall direction and process continues to provoke problems. Looking back over the past eight, 12 and 16 Championship contests, the Terriers rank inside the bottom-six for Expected Goals (xG) ratio, as well as xG open play ratio, highlighting their demise.
Richard Stearman, Jaden Brown and Rarmani Edmonds-Green could all return to the fold this weekend yet the returning defensive trio are unlikely to make a major impact on a team trending in the wrong direction. Town have W5-D1-L13 against the top-14 and Swansea should prove too savvy for Huddersfield when the duo cross swords on Saturday.
Ipswich vs Oxford | Saturday 20th February 2021, 15:00
Referee Darren Drysdale dominated the headlines after Ipswich’s 0-0 draw with Northampton in midweek but that hilarious incident shouldn’t detract from what was yet another insipid and lifeless effort from the Tractor Boys under Paul Lambert’s stewardship.
Town kicked off the new campaign in fantastic form results-wise but it hasn’t taken long for the wheels to come off. The Suffolk side have fallen five points adrift of the League One play-off places having accumulated an average of just 1.20 points per-game across their most recent 20 league tussles (W7-D3-L10).
Lambert’s post-match comments from the Cobblers clash were particularly worrisome – the Scot appearing to alleviate himself of blame from the current predicament – and Ipswich look like a team that should be easily opposed for the foreseeable, starting on Saturday.
The Tractor Boyes have managed a grand total of only one point from a possible 30 against the top-eight this term (W0-D1-L9), failing to even score in seven of those matches. Meanwhile, Hull, Peterborough, Portsmouth, Sunderland and Charlton have all been to Portman Road and left with maximum points and clean sheets in 2020/21.
That’s enough to encourage arguably League One’s most in-form side this weekend, Oxford. The U’s have steamed into automatic promotion contention following a fabulous run of results that includes nine triumphs from 10, as well as W10-D4-L2 over the team’s past 16 fixtures. The visitors have also posted W5-D2-L0 in their past seven away days.
Karl Robinson’s charges have had few problems up against the lesser lights in League One. Exclude the top-eight and Oxford have bagged W13-D2-L4, whilst underlying performance data metrics show the U’s as one of the elite teams in the division over the past four, eight, 12 and 16-game splits. An away win at 13/10 (Bet365) holds plenty of appeal.
Rochdale vs Plymouth | Saturday 20th February 2021, 15:00
A six-game losing streak before Christmas pushed newly-promoted Plymouth towards the bottom-four yet as we approach the end of February, the Pilgrims are in contention for a top-six finish. Argyle bounced back to form in style and have since totalled W6-D4-L1 with their only reverse in that run arriving against the aforementioned Oxford.
Ryan Lowe’s outfit are unbeaten in five games as guests (W3-D2-L0), scoring freely and keeping opposition outfits out to sit just four points off the play-off positions. Top goalscorer Luke Jephcott has been in tip-top nick, whilst the balance of Plymouth’s adventurous and aesthetically-pleasing 3-1-4-2 is as good as any in the division.
So I’m fully expecting Plymouth to cause out-of-sorts Rochdale problems at Spotland. The hosts have registered only six triumphs all season and come into this clash with a solitary success to their name in 11 (W1-D4-L6), including five defeats in their most recent seven.
Brian Barry-Murphy’s men have been a goal backers dream in League One and defensively Dale still look all over the place. The home side have managed four shutouts in 28 tussles, shipping two goals or more on 16 occasions, putting extra pressure on a forwardline that’s failed to deliver the goods in recent weeks.
Rochdale have been turned over in half of their 14 Spotland showdowns in 2020/21, posting one win of their own, and so I’m therefore keen to take in-form Plymouth on at odds-against quotes this weekend.
Huddersfield vs Swansea – Swansea to win (23/20 William Hill)
Ipswich vs Oxford – Oxford to win (13/10 Bet365)
Rochdale vs Plymouth – Plymouth to win (11/10 William Hill)