Blackburn v Reading
The Championship action this midweek is split half and half between Tuesday and Wednesday, with the more attractive action coming on Wednesday. This includes promotion hopefuls Blackburn welcoming Reading to Ewood Park, with both sitting are different ends of the table and also recent form guide. For all that Rovers suffered defeat to Stoke on Friday, this ended an 11-match unbeaten run in league and cup, so we can forgive them that. Reading are on a three-game losing run, although these came versus high-flying Middlesbrough, Sheffield United and Millwall.
Facing another strong promotion candidate next time up is therefore probably the last thing Paul Ince would have wanted. He would have also wanted it at home, which is where they have collected 75% of their overall points tally this season. A series of toothless away performances across the season has led many to suggest they’re a soft touch on their travels, and the facts tends to back that up. Only Huddersfield have collected fewer away points, whilst the Royals are joint-bottom for away gaols scored. Even taking xG (Expected Goals) into the equation, they’re ranked fourth-bottom, so they ultimately don’t create enough away from their home comforts.
With Reading lacking away goals, this is perhaps the type of game which plays into the hands of Wednesday’s home side. Blackburn are second only to West Brom for home clean sheets achieved, and overall they’re more than solid at keeping out the lesser sides at this level. They did lose 3-0 away at Reading earlier in the season, but that was all the way back in August, and Blackburn have come on since then. Taking that out, of their 11 victories against teams positioned 15th or below (Reading 16th), nine came without conceding. They know how to get the job done.
Another angle here is that Reading tends to find life tough against the better teams in the league, the complete opposite to Blackburn it would appear. Reading have suffered defeat to also on 11 occasions to opponents currently in the top half, and nine of those clashes saw them not score in reply. The onus really is on Reading here to try and do something different to make them harder to beat on their travels. There is big pressure on Tom Ince to deliver the goods, and you suspect Rovers boss Jon Dahl Tomasson will look to his midfield duo of Lewis Travis and John Buckley to keep him quiet, something they do so, so well.
A Blackburn win to nil here pays a handsome 2/1 with Unibet, and if they are indeed to claim three points here then there is a lot to suggest it’ll happen without goalkeeper Aynsley Pears picking the ball out of his own net.
Luton v Bristol City
Arguably one of the surprise packages of the season, Luton, entertain Bristol City in midweek action as the hosts look to continue their outside pursuit of second position. Following a superb 1-0 away win at Sheffield United, currently in second place, on Saturday afternoon, they’re now only seven points behind the top two. They now have a little cushion inside the play-offs to fall back on, but they’ll expect to continue their recent momentum over mid-table opposition.
Bristol City are knocking on the door of the top half in their defence, but any hopes of a late charge towards a play-off berth of their own is probably just about out of reach. For it be more than that, you suspect they need to go on a bit of a winning run. Victory over lowly Blackpool at the weekend was an expected outcome, but it's results at places like Kenilworth Road which will determine if they’re to break away from the middle portion of the division.
The problem with Bristol City, as is often the case with teams roughly situated in the 11th to 18th region of the standings is a lack of consistency. I mention the Robins needing to string a run of results, but they just don’t do that often enough. The only times that they managed to claim back-to-back wins since September came when defeating Preston and Norwich last month. Following six league wins over the campaign they’ve backed it up with a defeat, and this lack of consistency is something Bristol City fans will have come used to over the years under previous management regimes. Injuries haven’t helped their cause recently given they already had a small squad, so the chance to rotate much for this midweek game means some tired legs will take to the field.
Luton have injuries of their own to worry about, but when you have the likes of Cauley Woodrow, Henri Lansbury and Sonny Bradley on your bench, as they did in their last game, then it proves they have the squad to be able to handle this run of fixtures. They’re going great guns, with only Burnley, West Brom and Grimsby (FA Cup) being able to defeat them since Boxing Day. You can’t really bet against them at the moment, such is the momentum they’ve built.
Luton do still have this underdog tag hanging over them. They don’t have the budget of practically every other team around them in the table, but they did reach the play-offs last season, so it is maybe not as much of a shock in one sense. For all that they’ve been on a great run of form in 2023, they have been involved in many tight games which could have gone either way. Each of their last five wins came via a 1-0 score, whilst they also have three draws across their last seven, too. They’ve drawn (8) more than they won (6) in home Championship action, so I can’t be too confident backing them at odds-on to win here.
Bristol City ran Burnley close away, only losing 2-1, whilst they claimed points at Middlesbrough, Blackburn and Millwall, so they can prove tough to beat on any given day. Luton just don’t lose many games however, and one angle I like is Luton Double Chance and Under 2.5 Goals at 21/20 on the Unibet bet-builder. This is a winning selection in eight of Luton’s last ten league battles, whilst none of Bristol City’s last seven league games has featured a minimum of three goals.
Blackburn v Reading – Blackburn to win to nil (2/1 Unibet)
Luton v Bristol City – Luton Double Chance and Under 2.5 Goals (21/20 Unibet)