FOOTBALL LEAGUE fanatic Ben Levene (@benlevene96) is on duty to give his best bets from Wednesday's EFL fixtures.
Blackburn v Reading | Wednesday 22nd August 2018, 19:45
Three games into the season, Reading find themselves pointless and ahead of QPR on just goal difference. The Royals’ games have seen a cumulative five-goals, with Paul Clement’s side failing to score in their last two.
Low-scoring Reading games have been a theme since Clement took charge back in March. Six of 11 league games have seen under 2.5 goals. In fact, Reading have failed to score in five of their last six Championship matches including the backend of last season.
On their travels, Reading have failed to score in all five away matches under Clement, losing four of those.
Things defensively look better for Reading, though. On average they’ve allowed the lowest quality of chance against in the division this season, and along with Wednesday’s opponents, Blackburn, Reading are ranked inside the Championship’s top-five for preventing expected goals against.
Nonetheless, the trip to Ewood Park will be a tough task. No travelling side has won at Blackburn since Bury in the EFL trophy last October – the hosts are on a 22-game unbeaten run on their stomping ground.
Tony Mowbrary’s outfit have made an impressive start to the season. They’re unbeaten and have kept back-to-back clean sheets.
It’s difficult to see them getting beat, and with the above in mind, it makes sense to oppose goals. Blackburn double chance and under 2.5 goals is a respectable 89/100 with 188Bet.
If things weren’t bad enough for Reading, they are injury stricken across the park, with key players such as Chris Gunter and Sone Aluko absent.
Sheffield Wednesday v Millwall | Wednesday 22nd August, 19:45
Sat just a point above Reading, are Sheffield Wednesday. Jos Luhukay’s team have been conceding a worrying amount of chances whilst they’re also lacking going forwards. There is a heavy overreliance on Fernando Forestieri in the final third – he’s taken eight of their 25 shots so far this league campaign (32%).
The Owls have conceded the most shots-in-the-box and shots-on-target in the division this season and are yet to keep a clean sheet in the league. Moreover, no side has allowed more expected goals.
Opponents, Millwall, have shown no signs of second-season syndrome and the relentless Lions look as hungry as ever.
Neil Harris’ unit are unbeaten with five-points on the board, and benefit from an extra-days rest after Wednesday were given the run around at Griffin Park on Sunday.
The integral Barry Bannan played 90 minutes on that occasion, having played 86’ of the EFL Cup tie against Sunderland on Thursday night. If he isn’t 100%, it’s difficult to see how Wednesday will build attacks.
Adam Reach has been a shining light for the Owls since joining, but he is a doubt here.
Harris’ Lions are a dangerous animal and have momentum behind them. Their away form has been impressive since the turn of the year, too. Millwall boast a record of W7-D3-L1 on their last 11 travels.
They play with a real aggressiveness and intensity and can be backed at a massive 6/4 (Bet365).
Bolton v Birmingham | Wednesday 22nd August, 20:00
Bolton v Birmingham looks an even clash on paper, but it’s unlikely many will be using their red button to view this.
Both bosses are governing with limited resources and so like to operate with a safety-first approach.
Birmingham lack a real goalscorer. They’ve failed to score in three in all competitions, and the absence of cutting edge really showed against Swansea.
Bolton produce their best stuff aerially, and so crosses and set-pieces are a key part of their game. No side has registered fewer attempts from open play than Bolton so far this season.
Both meetings between these sides saw under 1.5 goals last season, and that could a feat we see achieved at the Macron this Wednesday.
Since the start of last season, seven of 24 Bolton home matches have seen under 1.5 goals (29%). However, games seeing one or less goals have become increasingly common at the Macron, with six of the last 14 seeing so (43%).
Under 1.5 goals has landed in four of Birmingham’s 14 league games under Garry Monk (29%). We’ve already discussed the negative approach and lack of attacking thrust with both sides, and so under 1.5 has legs at 9/5 (Unibet).
Given a low-scoring clash is expected, it makes sense to keep the draw on side. A staggering 10 of Bolton’s last 14 at home have seen under 2.5 goals (71%) – again, that’s testament to the way they set up. Birmingham’s last two have also seen under 2.5.
The game to end level in a game featuring under 2.5 is 5/2 with Betfair. That’s an attractive price.