Sheffield Wednesday v Middlesbrough | Friday 19th October 2018, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Sixth in the table Sheffield Wednesday welcome a Middlesbrough side who sit fourth in the Championship standings heading into this round of fixtures.
In the 24 matches that both outfits have played in the league this season combined, only five defeats have been suffered. The Owls have yet to taste defeat playing at Hillsborough, whilst only once have Tony Pulis’ men had a loss on the road.
In games involving Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship, there has been an average of 3.1 goals, whereas for Middlesbrough it is a very low 1.7.
Whilst there is not much to separate these two, the goal line is the one clear difference between them. Something will have to give on Friday night in that regard.
Avoid the over/under approach
Both enter this contest on the back of contrasting outcomes prior to the international break. Middlesbrough suffered their first home loss of the campaign over Nottingham Forest, whereas Jos Luhukay’s team secured the points away at Bristol City.
Quite remarkably, those two goals Boro shipped at the Riverside made up a third of the goals they’ve conceded in the entire Championship campaign to date. By far this gives them the best defence record in the division.
On the flip side, only West Brom, Leeds, Sheffield United, Aston Villa and Brentford have scored more than Sheffield Wednesday. Something really is going to have to give in this match!
With that being the case, you’ll be arguing with yourselves for hours if you’re considering going down the goals route. We did consider Both Teams To Score being a play. This has happened, quite amazingly, in 92% of Sheff Wed’s games in the league so far.
However, Pulis is starting to work his defensive magic with the club this season, as 67% of the time they have earned a clean sheet, also in half of their away meetings. The first goal therefore will be key in this contest.
If Middlesbrough were to secure it, then they will look to do as they did at Ipswich a few weeks ago, and manage the game afterwards. It may be harder to achieve that against a free-scoring Sheffield Wednesday team, but if any side can do so, it is them.
However, Wednesday have rather frustratingly drew four of their six at home, proving that they can indeed be frustrated. Nine of 12 of Sheff Wed’s games have ended Over 2.5 Goals, whilst the same can be said in only 2/12 for Middlesbrough.
As much as you argue for one possibility, you can claim the other. We’ll swerve the over/under column.
A tactical first half
As can be the case following the international break, of which both teams saw players represent their countries, this may take some time to really get into gear. Less than half of the time have these sides been leading their matches at half time.
Pulis will be more than aware that the opposition play in some open matches, and that’ll make them a danger in attack. On the back of a disappointing home defeat, where defensively they looked shaky, the former Stoke boss will also look to make them harder to beat first and foremost.
Luhukay won’t set up his side any differently. This is an approach they will use when either facing top of the table and big rivals Sheffield United or bottom of the table Hull City. This is what makes them a tough outfit to face, and only three sides have managed to be victorious against them in the Championship, but none at Hillsborough.
For all that Middlesbrough are strong defensively, they are not big scorers. Pulis is clearly not entirely sure who his best striker at the club is. This is something he will probably try to explore in the January transfer window.
Britt Assombalonga has found himself in and out of the side, whilst Jordan Hugill is yet to fire on all cylinders so far. Martin Braithwaite tried to leave before the previous window closed, and he is another that Pulis is seemingly not 100% convinced with at present. With that being the case, they need to be especially strong at the back.
Boro are scoring on average 1.17 goals per game, conceding only 0.50.
Interestingly, the average minutes that these teams score and concede suggests it should be a close first half. For scoring, Sheffield Wednesday’s is 47 minutes, whilst for Middlesbrough it is 43. On conceding, Sheffield Wednesday is 49 and Middlesbrough is 44.
Based on these numbers, we don’t expect many goals in the first half. We’ll play it relatively safe and suggest the Half Time Draw, and considering we can get odds-against quotes of 11/10 (Bet365), this is difficult to ignore.
Midfield maestro loves a tackle
Only four players have collected at least five yellow cards in Sky Bet Championship matches this season. Two of which are represented by the two teams on show on Friday night.
Barry Bannan is one of those, and he recently served his one-match suspension. The Scottish international however is an injury concern after being forced off in the Bristol City match. He did not appear for Scotland too, so there is certainly a doubt after his participation. Therefore, we’ll not look to explore any disciplinary markets involving him.
However, the other man in question is Boro central midfielder Adam Clayton. He returned from a ban in the last game when making the bench, Pulis deciding not to break up a winning team. Nevertheless, after the Nottingham Forest loss, the former Huddersfield and Leeds man is very likely to be restored to the midfield trio here.
What is also quite taking is that of those five bookings, Clayton has earned four of those in away matches. You know the score, he is one of those type to make those clever, needed fouls around the halfway line to prevent counter attacks a lot of the time.
Sheff Wed will attack in numbers and at speed, so you can just see this sort of situation playing out again. Clayton is already halfway to the 10 bookings he earned in the league last season, and he is not holding back if the early months of the campaign are anything to go by.
After not starting the last game, and then having the international break, he’ll be itching to get back involved, perhaps too keen at times. Therefore, we’ll have a little play on Clayton To Be Shown A Card. This is available at 15/8 (Bet365).
Considering Clayton has started 10 league games and been booked in five of those, there is every chance that statistic will be increased.
Reach renowned for the spectacular
There is an injury concern over Steven Fletcher heading into this game, so Luhukay may have a decision to make as to who starts in attack. It could be that the former Wolves and Sunderland man drops out anyway, as Lucas Joao netted twice off the bench in the Bristol City clash.
That makes Joao their top scorer with five, but he has never been the most consistent of scorers for the Owls.
One man who has been making a lot of headlines in a Sheffield Wednesday shirt is Adam Reach. He has netted three times this season, making him their joint-second top scorer in the league.
Reach netted a goal of the season contender in the home draw to Leeds when making an appearance on a Friday night Sky Sports match back in late September. He then backed that up a few days later with another stunner in the home draw with West Brom.
Reach seems to love it under the lights at Hillsborough, and we believe he can net again. Given how Middlesbrough are clearly a team that are well-organised and give very little away, Wednesday could grow frustrated at times.
Trying to thread through balls into the box will be a challenge, whilst the likes of Daniel Ayala and Aden Flint will fancy their chances of heading clear any high balls into the area. The Owls will need to find other ways of testing Darren Randolph in the Boro goal.
With Reach having those wonder goals in the back of his mind, and the crowd chanting him to shoot whenever he gets the ball, he’ll surely have a pop when given the chance in this game.
Reach is a player that has no fixed position in the Luhukay setup, certainly when they are an offensive prospect. He is given free license to go in search of the ball and take up those pockets of space outside the box where he can manoeuvre space for himself to unleash that left foot wand of his.
Middlesbrough would rather allow shots from distance to come in on their goal from closer range, and they won’t be best placed to block such shots as they tend to defend their box on the road when coming under spells of pressure.
21/4 (888) is the price on offer for Adam Reach being an Anytime Goalscorer and this is a fun way to get involved in this match. It may take a moment of brilliance for this tight Boro defensive line to be penetrated.