The Sky Bet EFL returns this weekend with action across the three leagues. Tom Carnduff picks out his best bets.
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Middlesbrough v Leeds
Leeds dropped down to second after defeat to Norwich last weekend, while Middlesbrough were shocked by League Two Newport County in the FA Cup.
The two sides meet at the Riverside on Saturday, at the earlier kick-off of 1pm, following a 0-0 draw earlier in the season. Both sides possess a strong away record, but the fact that Middlesbrough sit 14th in the home standings should play into Leeds' hands.
Tony Pulis also has a few injuries to deal with as Jordan Hugill, Britt Assombalonga, Lewis Wing and George Saville all battle to be fit for this one. That could cause some major selection headaches if any are absent.
Leeds are a side who do like to dominate possession and you'd expect them to be on the front foot throughout the game. That doesn't necessarily mean that they will win, but they could see more of the opportunities.
The best market for value though is corners. A common theme among Leeds' away games and Middlesbrough's home games is that they do see a high corner count. There's been an average of 14.2 corners across the Whites' last five games on the road.
Backing a similar tally in this game provides odds that are better than doubling your money. If Assombalonga or Hugill are absent, Middlesbrough might fancy their aerial threat to be their best route for goals.
Leeds' attacking intent does usually see the ball deflected behind, and they have seen more corners than their opponents in recent trips to Rotherham, Stoke, Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa and Bolton.
We're going for a high corner count in this one, but backing Leeds at -1 in the corner handicap market also provides a price of 21/10 with William Hill and that may also be worth a small play.
- Middlesbrough have only lost one of their last five Championship games against Leeds (W2 D2), keeping a clean sheet in four of these meetings.
- Leeds have lost both of their last two league trips to the Riverside (both 0-3), their worst losing run away at Middlesbrough in the league since they lost five in a row between September 1976 and August 1980.
- Only Bolton Wanderers (13) have conceded more Championship goals in 2019 than Leeds United (10).
- This fixture last season was won 3-0 by Middlesbrough, with Patrick Bamford – now playing for Leeds – scoring a hat-trick for Tony Pulis’ side.
- Each of Britt Assombalonga’s last four Championship goals have been as a substitute – he has scored more substitute goals than any other Championship player this season (five goals).
- Leeds striker Patrick Bamford has found the net with both of his shots on target in the Championship this season.
Bolton v Preston
Preston look a rejuvenated side following a strong January window where they welcomed a number of numerous faces, while Bolton are battling to avoid what feels like an inevitable relegation.
Wanderers have lost four of their last five in all competitions, with their 5-2 hammering of League One Walsall in the FA Cup their only victory in 2019.
Preston on the other hand, come into this on the back of a strong performance against Derby. Despite the game finishing 0-0, it's one they'll feel they should have won and built upon their two wins against Stoke and QPR in the weeks before.
North End's away form has also been pretty decent in recent outings. They scored two at Stoke and hit four past QPR, also getting victories at Nottingham Forest and Bristol City in games at the backend of 2018.
Against a Bolton side who do have a feel of 'down and out' about them, Preston are in a great position to make it three away wins from three.
One player who did catch the eye despite the goalless draw at Deepdale last Friday was Sean Maguire, with the attacking midfielder posing the biggest threat to the Rams goal.
He's managed to feature in just ten league games after missing the majority of the season with injury, but he looks like a player returning to his best after a run of three starts.
In that clash with Derby, he managed to register six shots in total, one of which was on target. That goes alongside at least a shot in each of the three games following his return.
He's still waiting for that first goal this season, but as he continues to recover from that injury, it feels like now is the time that he will finally strike. His ten goals in 24 Championship games during the 2017/18 campaign shows how he is a player who can strike.
If it wasn't for injury, the potential was there to exceed that tally. A fully-fit Maguire will help Preston in their push up the standings as the end of the season run-in approaches, and a general price of 23/10 for a goal anytime is worth backing in a game such as this.
Best bet: Sean Maguire to score anytime at 23/10
- Bolton are winless in their last five league games against Preston (D3 L2), with their last such win over them coming in January 2001 (2-0).
- Preston have won each of their last two away games at Bolton in league competition, after losing each of the three prior to this.
- Bolton have won just one of their last 20 league games (D5 L14), winning 2-1 against Rotherham on Boxing Day.
- Preston have conceded more headed goals than any other Championship team this season (16), with six of their last eight goals conceded coming via a header.
- Preston are looking to record three consecutive clean sheets in league competition for the first time since a run of six ending in November 2015.
- 14 of Bolton’s last 16 Championship goals have come in open play, including each of the last seven.
Luton v Wycombe
Despite losing their manager to the league above, Luton are showing no signs of stopping and look well on track to join Nathan Jones' Stoke in the Sky Bet Championship this season.
The Hatters have moved six points clear of second-placed Barnsley, with a seven point cushion over Portsmouth in third. That's despite Pompey being the side six points ahead at the top in December.
What has been a strong characteristic of this Luton side is their home record. In 15 games played at Kenilworth Road in the league, 12 have ended in victory with the other three being draws.
Like the league, there's a gap between them and Barnsley for points earned at home. This weekend sees them take on a Wycombe side who have struggled on the road with just three wins from a possible 15.
Everything points to a home victory here and that's reflected in their 4/7 general price. Given that home track record, the value is in backing the home side to win with goals.
Bet365 offering 12/5 is slightly above the general price of Luton scoring three or more goals here, which does look great value based on recent weeks. Four of their last seven home league games have seen them scoring three or more, with two of those falling one short of the target.
In a game like this, they have every chance of striking on multiple occasions once again. If we are to see over 2.5 goals then it is more than likely going to come from the home side, which is why it's better to back Luton goals than take the 6/4 on offer for a home win and over 2.5 goals in the match.
- Luton have only lost one of their last seven matches versus Wycombe Wanderers in all competitions (W4 D2), although this was their home meeting with them in League Two last season, a 2-3 defeat.
- Wycombe have won four of their last five Football League visits to Kenilworth Road (L1), although they did lose their 2-0 in the FA Cup first round earlier this season.
- Luton have won more games (19) and scored more goals (61) than any other team in League One in 2018-19.
- Wycombe are unbeaten in their last five league games (W3 D2), after losing four in a row prior to this.
- Luton striker James Collins is League One’s top scorer in the 2018-19 season with 18 goals, 44% of which have come during 2019 (eight in six appearances in 2019).