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EFL Championship Preview and Best Bets

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Millwall v Coventry

Millwall or Draw – 1/3 (1.33)

I told you on the opening day that Millwall at home to Stoke was as close as a banker as I could find that day, and they duly won 2-0… well, this one isn’t too far away either.

Gary Rowett’s men have been largely flying under the radar in the past 12 months but their form, particularly at home, is worthy of respect.

That win over Rowett’s former club made it 25 points from their last 10 home matches at the Den and the clean sheet means they have conceded just 16 goals in 24  matches infront of their own fans.

They suffered a 2-0 defeat last Saturday at Sheffield United – coincidentally the only team with a better home defensive record in the Championship last season – but had a free midweek as they opted to bring forward their Carabao Cup First Round tie with Cambridge a week.

While the calculated gamble didn’t pay off as they lost that cup match, the additional minutes in the legs early in the season, and recovery time this week, should stand them in good stead when they host a Coventry side which were on the end of a bruising cup exit of their own this week.

The Sky Blues were dumped out of the Carabao Cup by winless Championship side Bristol City infront of just over 2,500 fans at the Pirelli Stadium on Wednesday night.

The visitors were 3-0 up before half-time and Jamie Allen’s goal just after the hour was a mere consolation as City added a fourth late-on to sail into the second round.

It was actually a first defeat of the season, as Mark Robins’ side had drawn 1-1 at Stoke and by the same scoreline at Sunderland. Viktor Gyokeres scored both their goals, opening the scoring at the Bet365 and then grabbing a point six minutes from time at the Stadium of Light. Robins furiously dismissed talk of the striker joining Everton this week, but it’s only his continued presence in the side which gives me any hope that Coventry will get anything on their visit to south east London. Gun to my head I fancy a 1-0 home win, but just I’m going to stay cautious here: Millwall or Draw in the Double Chance market is 1.33 and though it’s not going to make many people rich at that price, it is my banker of the day.

Wigan v Bristol City

Bristol City or Draw – 8/13 (1.62)

You should need no reminding that last season Bristol City were the BTTS kings of the Championship with 31 of their 46 games seeing both sides score, and they have continued in that rich vein of form in all three of their matches this season.

They led at both Hull on the opening day and at home to Sunderland last weekend before succumbing 2-1 and 3-2 respectively, something which will have irked boss Nigel Pearson no end.

The City players did show him the correct response as they romped to a 4-1 win at Coventry in the opening round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night with Pearson’s summer capture Kai Naismith opening the scoring and a Tommy Conway double giving them a 3-0 advantage on the road inside half an hour. The hosts pulled one back in the second half but Andy Weimann notched in stoppage time to seal the rout and make it three straight games in which the Austrian has scored – hot on the heels of last season’s 22-goal campaign.

Allowing five in their opening two games, after conceding 77 in 46 last season, is not a recipe for success for City, but I suspect they will have enough to get off zero points in the north west this weekend.

Wigan have had a solid start following their promotion from League 1, drawing 0-0 at home to local rivals Preston and then giving title favourites Norwich a scare in a 1-1 draw at Carrow Road last weekend.

They did slide out of the Carabao Cup courtesy of a 1-0 reverse at Fleetwood on Tuesday and it’s that lack of goals which is likely to concern Latics fans – until they realise they are facing the Robins, that is.

There are a couple of longer odds that jump out at me, notably the 6.0 on City to win and BTTS, while 2-1 to the visitors at 11.0 looks generous.

The 1.75 on BTTS is obviously worth your attention as it’s a City game but, with a nod to Wigan’s lack of goals so far this season, I’m picking Bristol City or Draw in the Double Chance market at 1.62, just incase it’s a stalemate or another City win.

Blackpool v Swansea

Swansea or Draw – 8/15 (1.53)

The clash of two sides dumped out of the Carabao Cup on penalties by lower-division opponents on Tuesday night.

The Swans scored 10 in their final five games on the road last season, claiming 10 points, and did everything but win against Rotherham on the opening day, coming from a goal down in the first 16 minutes and equalising through Harry Darling, only to spend nearly an hour failing to find a winner. As you might expect of a Russell Martin side they bossed the game, enjoying 74% of the possession and completing 523 passes to the Millers’ 126. They also mustered 14 shots and six corners but couldn’t turn their superiority into points.

There was a rude awakening in their second match, when they again enjoyed more than 70% of the ball, had the most shots, the most shots on target and won the most corners – only to lose 3-0 to Blackburn at home. Rovers were ruthless in punishing some naïve mistakes and the Swans lacked penetration in the final third, both things Martin was left to rue once again after a much-changed and even more youthful side allowed a 2-0 lead to slip in the final 20 minutes before a penalty shootout defeat at Oxford in midweek.

They have a young squad with plenty of talent, I’m giving Martin and the players the benefit of the doubt and backing them to bounce back against the Tangerines.

Blackpool rode their luck immensely in their opening-day 1-0 win over Reading, soaking up plenty of pressure after taking an early lead. They had no such luck as they went down 2-0 at Stoke last weekend, failing to register a single shot on target in the process.

They did manage five at least on Tuesday night but they failed to make any of them count against Barrow, tipped by many to struggle in League 2, and eventually went out on penalties at Bloomfield Road.

They’re back at home once again on Saturday but I’m leaning on the visitors to take at least a point. Swansea, Draw No Bet is very enticing at 2.2, but the 1.53 on Swansea and Draw, Double Chance, looks great value too so that’s where my money is going here.

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