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Paper Talk: Chelsea's Coutinho

Chelsea chasing Barcelona's Philippe Coutinho is one of the transfer rumours doing the round in Tuesday's Paper Talk.

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Free betting tips: Preview for the Sky Bet EFL fixtures on April 13

Our best bets for the latest Sky Bet EFL action
Our best bets for the latest Sky Bet EFL action

Just the two games previewed this weekend, but Tom Carnduff has in-depth explanations behind his 6/1 and 16/1 best bets...


Recommended bets

1pt Jake Cooper to score anytime in Sheffield United v Millwall at 16/1

1pt Reading (-1 handicap) to beat Brentford at 6/1

For advised bookmakers and each-way terms, visit our transparent tipping record


Sheffield United v Millwall

Enda Stevens scores for Sheffield United against Birmingham
Enda Stevens scores for Sheffield United against Birmingham

There's a huge amount of pressure on both sides for differing reasons heading into this one.

The hosts can move back into second with Leeds playing in the late kick-off, while Millwall need points in their quest to avoid the drop.

Sheffield United had to settle for a point in midweek as they were held away at Birmingham, who managed to strike just minutes after conceding in a 1-1 draw.

The Blades are waiting on the fitness of key centre-back Jack O'Connell, who has missed recent games through injury. Chris Wilder has stated that he will meet with the defender on Friday morning to discuss if he will feature on Saturday.

There's not doubting that O'Connell is a crucial part of that back line, although they do have the luxury of a player of Martin Cranie's ability in as his replacement. That said, O'Connell does provide more of an aerial threat compared to his team mates.

Birmingham struck from a corner on Wednesday night, and set-pieces are going to be Millwall's best chance of scoring in this game. They'll likely play for corners and try to win free-kicks in dangerous positions in their quest for points.

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder celebrates
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder celebrates

Neil Harris' side will also look to take confidence from the fact that Reading earned a point away at Norwich last time out. Despite the teams sitting at the opposite ends of the table, the team facing relegation had enough in them to grab a point.

I'd fancy Millwall to grab at least a goal in this game as they look to avoid any relegation trouble in the closing weeks of the campaign. They pushed Leeds close and beat West Brom, while a draw at home to QPR in their last game would have left Harris demanding a response here.

One man who can capitalise on Millwall's potential aerial dominance is Jake Cooper. The defender is a target at set-pieces due to his size and that's why he has had direct involvement in eleven goals this season.

He'll be a handful for the likes of John Egan and Chris Basham, with one of those two likely to man mark him on corners, and I'd say that he has the edge in terms of aerial battles over any of the United defence.

We can also see Cooper's impact at set-pieces through the stats. His 53 shots is the third-highest in this Millwall team, alongside winning the most aerial duels out of any defender in the entire Sky Bet Championship.

Jake Cooper celebrates after scoring for Millwall
Jake Cooper celebrates after scoring for Millwall

O'Connell will be key to try and limit Cooper's impact but it's a dilemma that Wilder will have to face. He can look to play him, even if he's not fully recovered, but at the risk of making the injury worse for the run-in and potentially the play-offs. Either way, Cooper has won near 100 more aerial duels than O'Connell this season.

At a price of 16/1, I think the value is definitely there in backing Cooper to strike anytime in this one. The visitors will rely on lofted balls into the box as their best chance of scoring, and Cooper is capable of capitalising in those situations.

In terms of the result, it depends how Millwall cope with the quick Sheffield United breaks up the pitch. Counter attacks have been a weak point for Harris' side and the Blades have shown time and time again that they can mount an attack with speed when opportunity presents itself.

Birmingham managed to act on a game plan where they struck from set-pieces and Millwall will likely have the same idea. If United can keep them quiet at corners, there is a huge chance that they will win.

I'd be tempted to back both teams to score at even money in this one. The hosts are odds-on favourites, of course, but as we know in this league - this point in the season often throws up surprise results.

Sheffield United should win, especially at home, but backing BTTS is the best outright option to explore here.

Best bet: Jake Cooper to score anytime at 16/1

Millwall celebrate Aiden O'Brien's goal
Millwall celebrate Aiden O'Brien's goal against Brighton

Opta facts

  • Sheffield United are looking to complete a league double over Millwall for the first time since the 1983-84 season.
  • Millwall have lost just one of their last six away league matches against Sheffield United (W2 D3 L1), a 0-2 defeat in March 2017 in League One.
  • Only Pablo Hernandez (103) has created more chances in the Championship than Sheffield United midfielder Oliver Norwood (89).
  • Millwall haven’t kept three consecutive Championship clean sheets since March 2018.
  • Sheffield United have won seven of their nine home league matches against London teams under Chris Wilder (W7 D1 L1), winning both this season against QPR and Brentford.
  • Millwall have lost all four of their Championship matches in Yorkshire this season, losing by a single goal each time.

Reading v Brentford

Reading boss Jose Gomes
Reading boss Jose Gomes

I'll be honest, if I was writing this preview around a month ago I wouldn't have even considering putting a home win, but recent events have convinced me that Reading are capable of three points here.

In classic Championship form, those fighting for their lives at the bottom of the standings are pulling results out of the bag when many wouldn't have given them a chance.

I fancied the Royals for relegation when I began to look at the run-in around February time. As much as I like Paul Warne, it looks like it will be Rotherham who will drop back down to Sky Bet League One now.

That's thanks, in part, to Reading's recent good form. Jose Gomes' side topped that off with a draw away at title favourites Norwich.

They were leading until the latter stages, then two goals in quick succession looked like they would leave empty-handed. A 97th-minute strike managed to rescue a point though.

Yakou Meite has been among the fouls for Reading
Reading's Yakou Meite

That means that they have picked up points in three of their last four games. Alongside that, their home form has been more than impressive, with just one defeat in their last seven.

Leeds were the only visitors who have managed to pick up all three points on offer - hitting three past Gomes' men at the beginning of March - but they can take significant confidence from their other results.

Reading beat promotion-chasing Nottingham Forest while also grabbing a point against Aston Villa. They've secured wins against those around them, while also grabbing three points against a mid-table side in Blackburn.

In Brentford, they take on a team who have had a bizarre season. They looked like title challengers at the very beginning, then tailed off, before another peak in early 2019 fired them up the standings.

However, they've hit a bit of a brick wall in recent weeks and their slim hopes of a potential promotion have faded away. Thomas Frank's Bees have little to play for here, and that will play into Reading's hands.

Brentford celebrate their comeback win over Blackburn
Brentford celebrate their comeback win over Blackburn

Brentford's away form doesn't make for pretty reading either, highlighting how they are a side who do rely on home comforts.

While they are the fourth-best home side in England's second-tier, they are the fifth-worst away with just 14 points gained from a possible 60.

Five of their last seven on the road have finished in defeat, four of those being by two or more goals. It's an odd situation, Brentford are a pleasure to watch at Griffin Park but away? They just look flat.

Credit where credit is due, Reading are starting to get points at a vital time in the campaign and given the fact that they are the home side, they are in an excellent position for another win here.

A Reading win is available at 23/10, but I'm looking bigger and going to take Reading on the -1 handicap at 6/1.

Brentford's struggles away are evident and Reading are a team with real confidence. This contest is one where the hosts can strike on more than one occasion, not only picking up the points on offer, but improving their goal difference a tad more than a standard win too.

Best bet: Reading (-1) to beat Brentford at 6/1

Brentford's Neal Maupay scores his 10th goal of the season, coming against Leeds
Brentford's Neal Maupay scores

Opta facts

  • Reading have won two of their last 11 league matches against Brentford (W2 D3 L6), most recently in February 2017.
  • Brentford have won four of their last five away league matches against Reading (L1).
  • Andy Rinomhota’s equalising goal in the 97th minute of Reading’s 2-2 draw with Norwich City was his first shot on target in the Championship this season.
  • Brentford’s Said Benrahma has registered 14 league assists this season – more than any other player in England’s top four divisions.
  • Reading have lost just two of their eight home Championship games under manager José Manuel Gomes (W4 D2 L2).
  • Neal Maupay has scored 22 league goals for Brentford this season – including one in the reverse fixture against Reading – but hasn’t found the net in any of his last six away league appearances, attempting 16 shots across those games without success.

Odds correct at 2035 BST (11/04/19)

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Most Read Football

Get all the latest football gossip from the day's back pages
1

Paper Talk: Chelsea's Coutinho

Chelsea chasing Barcelona's Philippe Coutinho is one of the transfer rumours doing the round in Tuesday's Paper Talk.

Sporting Life's Premier League preview package2

Premier League betting preview

Tuesday sees two games in the Premier League as Tottenham welcome Brighton and Watford take on Southampton. We have two best bets.

=?UTF-8?Q?Burnley=E2=80=99s_Ashley_Barnes_celebrates?=3

Chelsea misfire in top-four battle

Maurizio Sarri was sent to the stands as Chelsea blew a big chance to stake their Champions League claim by slipping to a 2-2 Premier League draw with Burnley.

Check out today's Paper Talk4

Paper Talk: Lukaku leaving?

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