Sunderland take on relegated Wycombe on Saturday afternoon in League One and it should be a good game. This is a clash of two in-form sides, who both have an eye on promotion to the championship.
The Black Cats have lost just once in their first six games of the campaign in all competitions; a 1-0 defeat to Burton Albion last weekend, which, given Burton's start to the season maybe shouldn’t be such a surprise, although they did limit the hosts to just one shot on target. But with nine points from four league matches, Lee Johnson's side are fifth in the table with a current record of W3-D0-L1. I have them top of the league on xPTS and non-penalty xG ratio.
The Chairboys, meanwhile, have returned to the third tier following a disastrous run in the Championship last season where they lost 25 of their 46 matches. However, it's been a decent start to their return to League One, nonetheless.
They're unbeaten in four games so far, winning three and drawing 1-1 with Wigan Athletic in a game they maybe should have won given they restricted Wigan to a xG of just 0.82. Yet, I have them down in 16th on xPTS and 18th on non-penalty xG ratio. This will be another tough test for them.
Wycombe manager, Gareth Ainsworth should be able to welcome Ryan Tafazolli back from injury while David Stockdale, Jack Grimmer, Josh Scowen, Curtis Thompson and others will be refreshed after he rortated his squad for the EFL Cup in midweek. The hosts have a few injury concerns but should be close to a fully fit squad as players return from niggles and knocks in the opening games of the season.
With the game hard to predict against two in form sides I want to move away from the result and the referee could easily play a part in proceedings. John Busby is in charge and so far, this season he's shown 18 yellow cards and one red in four matches. Last season at this level he averaged 3.53 cards per game.
Wycombe sit 3rd for the highest number of fouls committed so far in League One and with the hosts the 3rd most fouled home side I am expecting this trend to continue especially with Luke O’Nien one of the most fouled players in the league and Lynden Gooch and Aiden McGeady high up in the total number of dribbles per game in the division.
Wycombe have now collected five cards in their last two games as they look to impose their style and game onto their opposition. They will find it tough at the Stadium of Light as the fans will be up for the game against a side they will consider to be challengers for promotion. I believe this will be a tight game and with Sunderland conceding just 0.68 non penalty xGA so far this term Wycombe maybe frustrated.
Sunderland have seen a match card average of 4.5 so far this season with both teams collecting at least one each in every game, AFC Wimbledon are the only side not to collect at least two cards with eight shared between Wigan, MK Dons and Burton.
I fancy Wycombe to collect at least 20 booking points and we can back that with Skybet at 8/11 which in my view is solid bet, but I want to use the William Hill build a bet and combined Wycombe over 1.5 cards and Sunderland over 0.5 cards to boost this to 4/5.
A tight, niggle, cagey affair this one with a ref who have found his love for cards this season. Lets hope it all kicks off.
- Wycombe over 1.5 cards and Sunderland over 0.5 cards 4/5 (William Hill build a bet)