Ste Tudor goes around the grounds, to assess where the goals, assists and three points will come from in the second tier this week.
“Forest’s accelerated rise through the league is all-the-more impressive given that no other team has used as many players in 2021/22.”
Barnsley v Bournemouth – Cherries on top
Only Fulham and Blackburn have accrued more than the Cherries’ 47 points after taking a lead and that doesn’t bode well for Barnsley because only Cardiff have conceded first more regularly this season.
The Tykes are winless in ten, their misery compounded by a Covid outbreak in-camp that has cruelly added to an injury crisis and once again we can expect a cobbled-together eleven attempting to make a better fist of their relegation scrap.
Alas, Barnsley have only won twice at Oakwell all season while Bournemouth are the clean sheet kings of the Championship. It all adds up to an away win.
Fulham v Blackpool – Goals galore from the leaders
There are so many reasons to back a comprehensive home victory here.
Most persuasively and obviously, Marco Silva’s side are free-scoring their way to the title, five points ahead of Blackburn, a side they put seven past last November. They are averaging 2.7 goals per game with Aleksandar Mitrovic having a season of seasons, firing 27 in 26. They’ve found the net 22 times in their last four games for goodness sake.
Even so, the bet to plump for concerns the visitors troubling them at some point because the Tangerines have scored in 10 of their 12 aways while no team in the top half have been involved in more games featuring both teams scoring than Fulham.
Luton Town v Blackburn Rovers – A hatful at home
To what extent was Blackburn’s recent loss at Hull an outlier? Certainly, their response to being walloped by Fulham last November has been highly impressive, accumulating 29 points from a possible 36 since.
Dangerous on the counter but missing their 20-goal star man Ben Brereton Diaz, second-place Rovers will once again turn to Sam Gallagher to provide their chief threat and his return has been decent this season. In the ten previous games when he’s been drafted across from the right to lead the line, the 26-year-old has scored four times.
Discipline however is a real issue for Tony Mowbray’s side, racking up 69 yellows, a league high, while Luton’s Elijah Adebayo typically thrives at Kenilworth Road. The imposing striker has scored nine of his 11 league goals this term on home soil.
Middlesbrough v Coventry City – A cautionary tale
“There were so many things wrong.” That was Boro boss Chris Wilder’s assessment of his team’s 1-0 reverse at Blackburn last Monday, only their second defeat since he took charge back in November.
It was by no means an overly harsh response to a reactive performance and the Play-Off chasers must improve here against a Coventry side that last lost on their travels way back in October.
Averaging 2.3 cautions per game has not exactly helped Boro’s cause this season with midfielder Matt Crooks single-handedly responsible for eight of them though Coventry are no angels, going down to ten men on two occasions.
In what is a difficult game to call let’s instead focus on the disciplinary side though it’s worth paying attention to the end. The Sky Blues have scored seven times in added-on time in 2021/22 while the hosts have converted beyond the 90th minute twice in recent weeks.
Preston v Bristol City – Archery practice makes perfect
Bristol City’s inability to hold onto a lead must be a concern to Nigel Pearson. On 17 occasions the Robins have gone in front, yet they’ve only took maximum points nine times.
It is a cause – or effect, depending on your point of view – of a startling inconsistency that has seen City unable to string two victories together all campaign. Even just focusing on their January has them all over the place, with a pair of 3-2 wins at home followed immediately by defeats.
Regarding Preston, all eyes will be on Cameron Archer, the on-loan Aston Villa attacker who enjoyed a goal-scoring cameo at West Brom on Wednesday evening. His work in the channels stood out and the 20-year-old will be keen to impress the Deepdale crowd on his full debut.
Peterborough v Sheffield United – A frantic finish
The hosts are in woeful form having won just once in their last 12 whereas Sheffield United have lost just once in their last eight. An away victory beckons then with the Blades hoping to push into the top ten, their games in hand making them realistic play-off contenders.
Beyond backing an away win look out for late goals at London Road. Peterborough have conceded ten of their last 15 in the closing 15 minutes of games while 72% of the visitor’s concessions in 2021/22 have come in the second half.
Look out too for Posh striker Jonson Clarke-Harris and the Blades’ Billy Sharp making an impact from the bench. Between them, the opposing forwards have scored seven and created two assists after coming on as subs.
Derby County v Birmingham City – Mayhem in the Midlands
Expect the card count to be high at Pride Park with full-back Nathan Byrne and Brum’s Gary Gardner both in the top five for Championship offenders this season. Goals shouldn’t be a problem either as their last ten meetings have produced 3.4 per game.
Birmingham have gained a paltry three points all term after going behind – a league low – which should encourage Derby to go for the jugular early. Unfortunately, the Rams are hardly known for starting brightly, scoring nine of their last ten in the second period.
Pressure on the Rams to perform is a factor, now that their impossible dream of survival is becoming a barely plausible one, though the wealth of experience in Wayne Rooney’s side should handle that.
As for goal-scoring threats, Tom Lawrence has scored 30.8% of Derby’s haul this term while Scott Hogan has found the target three times in his last four games for Birmingham.
Cardiff City v Nottingham Forest – Grabbon and enjoy the ride
Only Fulham have picked up more points than Forest since Steve Cooper’s appointment at the City Ground last autumn and the feel-good vibes from three straight wins – not to mention a fantastic FA Cup dumping of Arsenal – should see them torment a defence that has shipped in six more than rock-bottom Barnsley.
Forest’s accelerated rise through the league is all-the-more impressive given that no other team has used as many players in 2021/22 and no other team has burned through as many managers. Yet somehow, amidst such chaos, Cooper has restored order.
Having Lewis Grabbon up front helps. The Jamaican international has scored every 152 league minutes this season.
Always on the front foot, Forest have averaged 6.2 shots on target per match in recent weeks. Back them to exceed six again.
Source: Betfair UK English Championship