GOTW: Stoke v Derby

Again, it’s too early to really jump to any conclusions about anything, although there are a couple of possible stories I’m keeping an eye on.

We enter Week Three with nine unbeaten teams, eight sides without a win, two 100% records and three clubs without a point – including one team I thought would struggle and one I thought might be an outside shot at promotion.

Or putting it another way, only the bottom three teams are one win away from a playoff spot.

The game of the week was about as one sided as you can get:

Now on to the Carabao Cup Hall Of Shame. Of the eight clubs that fell at the first hurdle, three were beaten by other Championship teams (Bristol City lost on penalties at QPR after leading with half an hour left) but four lost to clubs from League Two. The big surprise was Middlesbrough, who had to come from two goals behind at home to Crewe before losing on penalties, although there was a lot of flak for Huddersfield boss Jan Siewert after the Terriers lost at home to Lincoln.

Game of the week:

Stoke v Derby

In the Championship Stoke haven’t won at home since the start of March and haven’t won anywhere since April: under Nathan Jones, City have drawn almost exactly half of their games, winning just four of 24 outings. Since the start of last season – their first since relegation from the Premier League – the Potters have won less than a quarter of their league outings and although Jones can’t take the blame for all of that, he certainly seems to have not contributed much since he took over and could be one of the early candidates for replacement over the next couple of weeks.

Frank Lampard’s replacement Phillip Cocu has won two of his three games in charge of the Rams – which is admittedly both a small and unrepresentative sample size but he will be tested by forthcoming games against Bristol City and especially WBA, who will be looking for revenge for their playoff defeat.

HTH: Since 2000, Stoke have won four of their six home league matches against the Rams but haven’t won consecutive home games against Derby for 15 years. There hasn’t been a draw between them in the Potteries since October 1995.

Televised games: Huddersfield v Fulham (Friday, 19:45 GMT, Sky Sports Football/Main Event) and Reading v Cardiff (Sunday, noon, Sky Sports Football only). So that’s basically three of the teams that were relegated from the Premier League last season and one club that might be relegated from the Championship this season. Scintillating stuff and yet another indication of how predictable the matches selected by Sky Sports are.

There may not be a post next week due to my brother in law’s 50th, so in case there isn’t, see you in a couple of weeks.

GOTW: Preston v Wigan

Just a quick one this week as we’re only one game in.

Only one game ended in a draw last weekend, which just happened to be the first match of the EFL season:

Going into this week, we’ve got thirteen unbeaten teams, but only Barnsley, Millwall and Birmingham kept clean sheets. Brentford, Fulham and Preston failed to score in their first matches – it may be significant that of the latter trio, only Brentford (at Middlesbrough) are away this weekend. Arguably the surprise result last week was Charlton winning at Blackburn; the Addicks scored all three goals in a 2-1 win.

League Cup: Birmingham are already out of this season’s competition having lost 3-0 at Portsmouth. The Blues will be able to concentrate on the league until January. Everyone else plays next week.

Preston v Wigan

Lancashire derbies will be few and far between this season – the next one won’t be until the end of October – and as this is the only match up fitting my traditional ‘top six v bottom six’ parameter, it’s a bit of no-brainer.

The Lillywhites lost at Millwall last weekend for the first time since 2011 (when they were relegated) but are tough to beat at Deepdale even if they find it hard to win at home – Preston have only lost two of their last ten outings there, even though they’ve only won twice in the same period.

Wigan’s away form last season was awful: they beat Leeds in April but hadn’t won on the road in nineteen previous attempts after a victory at Stoke almost a year ago.

HTH: Only the fifth meeting between the Lancashire rivals at preston since the turn of the century – Wigan have failed to win the last three and were battered 4-0 in the corresponding fixture last season having gone two goals behind before Darron Gibson was sent off.

Only one televised game this weekend and it will come as no surprise to long term readers that it’s Leeds v Nottingham Forest (Saturday, Sky Sports Main Event, kick off 12:30pm) which those imaginative b*stards at Sky Sports normally schedule for Boxing Day afternoon.

Back next week…

 

Opening Weekend 2019/20

The fixtures for the new season were released this morning, here are the opening weekend’s games:

Friday August 2nd

Luton v Middlesbrough (7:45 – Sky Sports Football)

Saturday August 3rd

Barnsley v Fulham, Blackburn v Charlton, Brentford v Birmingham, Millwall v Preston, Reading v Sheffield Wednesday, Stoke v QPR, Swansea v Hull, Wigan v Cardiff, Nottingham Forest v WBA (5:30 – Sky Sports Football)

Sunday August 4th

Bristol City v Leeds (4:30 – Sky Sports Football)

Monday August 5th 

Huddersfield v Derby (7:45 – Sky Sports Football)

We already have a number of new managers: Birmingham and Hull have yet to name replacements for Garry Monk and Nigel Adkins respectively, but Luton, QPR, WBA. Middlesbrough and Swansea all have new managers.

The League Cup fixtures are out later on today but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Right, guess who’s off to start putting a preview together…

Championship Teams Who Can Surprise in the 2020 FA Cup

Championship sides are often in an interesting position in the FA Cup.

They aren’t far down enough the English football ladder to prompt support for the magic of the FA Cup, but they aren’t fancied to take down the titans of the Premier League in most cases either.

But there are some Championship sides heading into next season who have a real shot at making some noise in the FA Cup, and upsetting the natural order of the tournament.

Wigan Athletic

Wigan Athletic had one of the most interesting FA Cup runs of all-time, when they managed to win the entire tournament despite getting relegated from Premier League competition in the same season. Perhaps more interesting was who Wigan had to beat to earn that trophy, as they managed to hold a potent Manchester City attack scoreless in a 1-0 FA Cup winning victory that shocked the football world.

City, of course, are on the verge of yet another FA Cup title as they are the favourites to win the tournament as they reached the final against Watford. Paddy Power has the Citizens at 1/5 odds to win the game in normal time to secure the domestic treble for the 2019-2020 season, a feat that has not been performed by a Premier League side to date. If anything, the continued rise of City has made what Wigan did in 2013 even more impressive.

As for this year’s team, there isn’t a lot of resemblance between the Wigan side that won the FA Cup and the side now. But the club and its supporters know full well how to navigate the tournament, something that gives them an advantage over most Championship sides who have yet to experience the same levels of success in the competition.

Middlesbrough

Manager Tony Pulis said that he considered the season for Middlesbrough to be a successful one regardless of whether or not the team ends up in the Premier League again. But the team could be in for more success next season, as they look like they would have a real shot to disrupt the traditional powers in the FA Cup thanks to one of the most stout defences in English football.

Boro allowed just 41 goals in 46 league matches in the Championship in the 2018-2019 season, tying them with Sheffield United for the best defensive mark in the league. Boro only knocked in 49 goals for the year, which could be cause for concern against higher-profile opponents, but their defence will likely keep them in games against even the biggest teams in the England club ladder, which could help them pull off some upsets en route to a magical cup run.

There are a lot of things that can change that can derail one of these teams or elevate another Championship team. The additional of newly promoted or relegated teams into the league can affect the balance of power, as can transfers and other forms of player movement. But as it stands right now, don’t be surprised if Wigan or Boro turn some heads from the Championship in the next FA Cup.

GOTW: Leeds v Aston Villa

Apologies for the lack of posts recently, it’s entirely due to work commitments.

I couldn’t really go another week without an update though, so although this is a quick one it contains a lot of information!

WBA v Rotherham (3pm Saturday)

This is more about Rotherham than WBA. The Millers could still save themselves from an immediate return to League One with a win, but given that WBA are on a five game unbeaten streak at the Hawthorns and Rotherham have won only once on the road this season, then it looks unlikely – indeed, the Yorkshire need to at least match Millwall‘s result at home to Stoke to stand any chance of that and they won’t know the score from the New Den until about half way through the first half due to the early kickoff in South London.

Leeds v Aston Villa (noon Sunday, Sky Sports Main Event/Football)

Every season there seems to be a very late season encounter between clubs that either ends up being a playoff final or semi final and lo and behold here we are again.

Leeds have lost four of their last ten at home – including last week’s defeat against Wigan, in which the Latics played with ten men for all but 14 minutes of the game and came from behind to win – whilst Villa have won five straight on the road. That being said, it’s worth remembering that Leeds haven’t lost at home to Aston Villa since Christmas 2000 but three of the last five encounters at Elland Road have been drawn.

At the bottom of the league it’s down to avoiding the last relegation place, with Bolton and Ipswich having already been relegated. The EFL took the unprecedented decision to postpone Bolton’s game against Brentford this afternoon after the Bolton players went on strike over unpaid wages.

That’s it for this week, I’m going to try my best to cover the end of the season even if the posts are briefer than usual.