Oxford vs Blackpool | Tuesday 18th May 2021, 18:00 | Sky Sports
For me, the best game of the whole play-off campaign could be this – two sides in great form with contrasting styles should be a real interesting watch.
There is always one side that makes a charge of the top-six late and this season it was Oxford. They recorded three successive wins to sneak into the top six at the expense of Portsmouth and Charlton, whilst the visitors posted four victories in a row to claim third position.
Oxford started the season slowly and the hangover of last season's play-off defeat was hard to shake off. At the end of November, it was W3-D1-L8. However, nine wins from 10 fixtures during the turn of the year catapulted Karl Robinson's side back into contention, and a strong end to the season as they won six from their last seven scoring 24 goals saw them finish sixth.
They shipped 56 goals and whilst a return of 77 strikes at the other end of the pitch was the third-best in the division, I do have my concerns about them going into the playoffs. Whilst 0.91 goals conceded at home is the sixth best in the league, a home xGA of 1.5 would suggest that they have ridden their luck at times.
Only 1 side conceded more shots in the box, no side conceded more touches in the box and they sit in the bottom-four for shots conceded.
Matty Taylor is the club's leading marksman ending the campaign with 18 goals and he should have chances to score especially as they sit second for shots and shots on target at home which has seen them with a home xG of 1.61 and the second most home goals scored with 1.7.
Blackpool endured a difficult start to the season with just seven points being collected from nine games, losing six games by the end of October. Yet they only lost 12 games all season, so lost a further six defeats over 37 games.
In mid-January they drew with Hull in a game they should have won (2.59 vs 0.68 xG), since that game they have a record of W15-D7-L3. Over that run they have beaten Sunderland twice, Peterborough, Oxford, Charlton and Portsmouth.
A lot has been made of their defensive record and it is impressive with 22 clean sheets and their underlying data is excellent with the second-fewest goals conceded on the road, second-lowest xGA, second-fewest shots conceded, and no side has faced fewer shots on target. Going forward its still impressive with 1.3 goals scored per-game and the second-best xG ratio.
It’s an intriguing match-up and I can see both sides getting off plenty of shots, so I am keen to look at goal kicks for both sides. The play-offs are generally tight games with huge pressure. Both Championship games had 20 shots in each game but only two goals in total which for me says that players are willing to shoot but often with limited composure.
Oxford will attack and allow space for Blackpool to do the same. This season at home Oxford have seen the opposition take an average of 8.35 goals kicks, whilst their own keeper takes 7.35 per game. Blackpool on the road see 7.55 for themselves and 8.35 for the opposition.
The visitors have seen their hosts take 6 or more in every away game this season, whilst they have taken 6 or more in 18 of 20 away games. Oxford have seen their visitors take 6 or more goal kicks in 18 of 20 and the two games that they failed were the opening two home games where Oxford were struggling for form.
In their last eight home games, Oxford’s visitors have seen seven or more goal kicks in seven games. Blackpool have seen their hosts take seven or more goals kicks in 10 of their last 11 away days, so both sides are attacking and shooting/crossing which is given their opponents goals kicks.
We can take both sides to have over 6.5 goals kicks each at 21/20 with Bet365 and I think that is good value.
The second bet that I want to get on is Blackpool to score 1.5+ goals. I mentioned in my League One play-off preview that Oxford have an awful record this season when playing the top six with W1-D3-L6, failing to score in seven versus the top half. They have only kept six cleans sheets and two of those were against Ipswich who struggled for goals all season.
Its one win versus the top nine and against the top six they conceded 1.5+ in five of eight games with just one clean sheet. It's too short to tip up but 7/12 on Blackpool finding the net is almost appealing. Instead, I am going to take the 5/2 on the visitors finding the net twice with Bet365.