GW 9 – Ones to Watch
Ally: For my first pick this week I’m delving into arguably the most competitive league in Europe, namely the English Championship. The vast majority of teams in it have, at some point, featured in England’s top division and are looking to return there as soon as possible. One such team is West Bromich Albion, who face struggling Reading at the Hawthorns. The Baggies are far and away the league’s top scorers with 27 goals in their eleven games so far and they’ve won their last four home league matches. They have only failed to score once at home in all competitions this season, that was at the hands of Premier League outfit Crystal Palace. Reading, meanwhile, may only have lost once on their travels so far this season, but more importantly in the Ultimate Goals, they have conceded in each of those five games and I fancy the home side’s goal-scoring prowess to extend that run.
My second tip comes from north of the border, this time in Scotland’s Championship where Queen of the South have a home game against Alloa Athletic. The hosts sit in mid table, but currently boast Europe’s top marksman in leading scorer Stephen Dobbie, who has already netted an incredible 21 goals (more than a lot of teams have managed in total so far!) in just thirteen games. While they’ve only won one home league game this season, the fact that was a superb 5-0 demolition of current leaders Ayr United demands closer inspection and as visitors Alloa currently occupy ninth place, I’m hoping that the home side will rediscover some of that form in front of goal.
Steve: It’s straight to League One for this weekends tie between Portsmouth and Gillingham. The hosts currently sit top of the table and have scored in all but one of their fixtures so far this season, whereas their opposition are struggling to get out of the relegation places, having failed to keep a clean sheet in all competitions since their opening day victory at Accrington Stanley. On paper, this should be routine home win for the Hampshire side.
In years gone by, this next one would have been considered an absolute banker, but right now…… I’m not so sure. I’m talking Manchester United versus Newcastle United. Watching Jose Mourinho in his pre-match news conference, you get the feeling that you’re listening to a man who expects to be scouring the job adverts very soon….along with a rather healthy pay day I may add. I wouldn’t normally tip a mid-table side with no wins from their last four games in all competitions, but this is Mourinho and Man Utd, surely they will start to deliver very soon and this weekend brings a great opportunity to do so. They host a winless Newcastle side who have lost six of their eight games this season, including a Carabao Cup defeat at a very average Championship side, Nottingham Forest. This should be the week The Red Devils get back on the winning track.
Matt: I’m sticking to the top leagues either side of the border this weekend, which isn’t my normal tactic in this section, but there’s a couple of games that i believe are well worthy of a ‘tip’.
England first of all, where Tottenham Hotspur meet Cardiff City at Wembley Stadium. Now whilst i may be tipping Spurs here, this perhaps isn’t quite the straightforward home win it might appear at first glance. Not only do the North Londoners have five first team regulars on the sidelines, they also put a heck of a lot of energy into their midweek Champions League outing against Barcelona, when Lionel Messi gave a masterclass of a performance in his sides 4-2 victory. I very much doubt Neil Warnock will set up his Bluebirds team with quite the same attacking intent as the Spaniards, indeed i firmly expect him to go there with the intention of frustrating Spurs for as long as possible. I don’t see City holding out for 90 minutes though and with Harry Kane around you just know that a goal is always on the cards. I don’t necessarily see a goal-fest here, but it’s hard to see Cardiff ending the dismal run of form they’re currently in (five straight defeats), no matter how badly they need points. Spurs need a victory too, anything less will have to be classed as a missed opportunity and they simply cannot afford to lose ground on pacesetters Manchester City and Liverpool.
In the Scottish Premiership, i’m backing Hibernian in their match against Hamilton Academical. Again, this might not be a fixture which rains goals, given that Accies haven’t conceded more than once in any away game this season (including Celtic), but Hibs’ home form seems to be consistently good year on year and with leaders (and hated rivals!) Hearts away at Rangers on Sunday, this is a glorious chance to close the gap to a mere 2 points. With Hamilton losing 2-0 at home to rock bottom Dundee FC last weekend, confidence in their camp might be understandably low and i would expect the Hibees to come out on the front foot straight from the off. Good luck!