EFL fan Tom Love (@TomLove_18) scans the odds ahead of Tuesday night's League Cup tie between Portsmouth and Birmingham at Fratton Park.
Portsmouth v Birmingham | Tuesday 6th August 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports
The majority of the EFL Cup first round games will be played next midweek but there is one tie taking place this Tuesday night as former Premier League pair Portsmouth and Birmingham lock horns.
In the early stages of the cups, managers tend to rotate their teams, giving players on the periphery a platform to perform. Larger scale sides aren’t usually devastated if they are dumped out of the tournament early on because it can give them full focus on the league, which is an unfortunate but largely fair way of thinking.
It therefore makes predicting starting XIs, motivation, formations and ultimately garnering a solid bet an arduous task.
Pompey are going off as the slightest of favourites here at 13/8 and that may surprise a few given they’re a division below Birmingham, and lost at Shrewsbury on Saturday. I actually tend to target teams in these kind of cup games that have lost somewhat surprisingly the Saturday prior as they’ll be eager to right that wrong as soon as possible.
Kenny Jackett has eluded to the fact that he wants his side to get some rhythm together before the Tranmere game this weekend, and despite outlining that the league pulls rank, his side will look to have control of the game and ultimately progress. Jackett will have to do so without new signing Ross McCrorie who was given his marching orders in Shropshire on debut. Ben Close or Andy Cannon can come in as suitable replacements.
Birmingham were involved in a one-sided game on Saturday as they beat Brentford. Although the result went Blues' way, it was the buzzing Bees that mostly made their mark, although the hosts lacked any sting in front of goal. Amazingly, the Blues recorded an xG for of just 0.01 and still managed to win courtesy of Kristian Pedersen’s quite remarkable 20-yard header.
Birmingham defended with grit and determination when withstanding some heavy pressure but they came back with three points. Having said that, if the fixture is played another 10 times Birmingham probably wouldn’t win posting such meek figures.
Pep Clotet is the man in the hot-seat at St Andrews now and he’s not a manager I’m overly keen on. His Oxford team lacked bite and I worry it could be another similar story with this Birmingham side that has a dearth of forward options. Isaac Vassell is likely to come in as the only natural number nine replacement for Lukas Jutkiewicz. Kevin Mrabti could also come into the fold to add something different going forward but overall Cotlet lacks options.
Pitman the hitman
Pompey striker Brett Pitman missed out on the starting XI at the New Meadow with new star signing John Marquis been given the go ahead almost instantly after his arrival from Doncaster. However, I’d expect the former Ipswich man to play from the start here and with a player with such pedigree he will have been frustrated at being left out and willing to prove a point.
If Pitman does start I think the 11/4 available with SkyBet on him scoring in 90 minutes could look value. The striker likes to score goals at Fratton Park much more so than on the road. He’s equally good in the air as he is with his feet and he finds space well in the box and is a confident finisher – what’s more, he is usually on penalty duty for the south coast side.
Play up Pompey
I don’t think there’s much between the two squads here so I have to favour the home side when it’s being priced up as a pick ‘em. I just feel Jackett will want the win more after a disappointing effort at the weekend whilst players could be playing for their place this coming Saturday against Tranmere.
Because of the nature of the odds it’s no surprise to see this clash being played off a scratch 0 start on the Asian Handicap and I’ll take Pompey on that line (23/25 Bet365). This bet effectively works the same as a Draw No Bet punt so our stakes our returned if it ends as a draw, whereas we pocket a full win should the hosts run out victorious in 90 minutes.