As the EFL continues to heat up, this weekend's action brings us a thrilling South West encounter between Plymouth and Southampton, both aiming to maintain their unbeaten start.

Meanwhile, Sheffield Wednesday struggles to find their footing under new management, and Preston looks to capitalize on their positive momentum. From goal-scoring prowess to pinpoint shots on target, here's our analysis and tips for these intriguing matchups

Plymouth vs Southampton , Saturday, 12:30pm

League’s One and Two took centre stage in the midweek card across the EFL, with the Championship sides getting a break from league action. This ensures they’re all fully prepared for their weekend assignments, and there is a Saturday lunchtime clash which immediately catches the eye. Newly-promoted Plymouth has settled nicely into life playing at a higher level, whilst Southampton under Russell Martin are likely to be an entertaining watch in the season ahead.

Two unbeaten outfits go head-to-head at Home Park in this televised South West encounter, and this features two teams that will go all-out for victory. This proved to be Plymouth’s way to success last season, whilst Southampton are widely tipped to contest for an immediate return to the Premier League, despite losing some key players in recent times.

Southampton will dominate the ball in this game, and are expected to do so in most Championship battles they participate in this season. Their average possession two games in already reads 72.5%, and with Plymouth down on 42.7% it would appear that we already know how this game is likely to be played out. The hosts will still get their spells on the ball, but playing on the counter attack and pressing high won’t be an issue to them.

As mentioned, Southampton are minus the likes of James Ward-Prowse these days, but they still possess one of the strongest rosters in the whole league. Their epic 4-4 draw with Norwich saw Martin have the likes of Che Adams and Joe Aribo named amongst the substitutes, whilst Plymouth also have added decent depth to their squad in the off-season. Expect this to be a true 90+ minute match with chances at both ends. I’m expecting a high shot count, and that could lead to goals.

Plymouth have seen 34 shots against their goal this season, with only Norwich seeing more, and with Southampton’s quality on the ball, you’d expect the away team to find the back of the net. This is still early days in the Martin era though, and their precise playing from the back patiently style will be tested in this hostile atmosphere against a high tempo opponent. I’m backing both teams to score here as part of a double.

The second part of that double focuses around the player shots markets in operation with Bet365 for Championship games. Adam Armstrong has started the campaign positively, already firing three goals from 8 shots on goal in total. Over 70% of those attempts have hit the target, and you’d like to think he could at least add another shot in that manner this weekend.

A bet-builder of Both Teams to Score and Adam Armstrong Over 0.5 Shots on Target is priced 2.15 with Bet365. We’ve made a good case for each of these pulling through, so let’s hope logic prevails!

Sheff Wed vs Preston, Saturday, 3pm

One team that has had a particular difficult start to the campaign is Sheffield Wednesday. Xisco Muñoz is still settling into life in the Hillsborough hot seat having been a relatively late appointment to the job during pre-season. Many new faces have entered the club, and more continue to do so in the week leading up to this clash. They are two defeats from two to start the season, but the fans will expect a maximum return against Preston. Ryan Lowe’s side do have a shortage of fit strikers at present, meaning Will Keane has had to step up to the plate and the summer recruit has made the most of this opportunity with two goals this season.

You feel the negativity around Wednesday started over the summer when Darren Moore left the club. He was extremely popular amongst the players, and it was a shock to them and many that he departed having just guided the club to promotion via the play-offs. Xisco is a bright and bubbly character himself, but new managers always need a strong start to get the fans on side, and already some grumbles have emerged. Finding his best team is his first port of call, whilst the sight of star player Barry Bannan going off injured in the Hull defeat further adds to the disappointment around the club.

Whilst I mentioned above how Southampton have the highest ball possession percentage in the Championship, Sheff Wed are bottom of that statistic with only 27.1%. That isn’t necessarily the problem, as teams can be successful playing this way. However, they’ve faced 34 shots against them and have come under spells of big pressure in all their games so far. Going forward, they need to do so much more as an offensive threat, with only QPR managing fewer shots on goal in the league. The Owls are ranked bottom of the Expected Goals table. That suggests they should have scored 1.54 goals this season.

Preston aren’t exactly performing much better on the attacking threat, which may afford Sheff Wed a degree of optimism of turning their fortunes around. However, the feeling around North End is one of positivity, and their home win over Sunderland last time out they’ll hope with get them up and running. They started the season with a solid away point at Bristol City; a performance which pleased their manager, Ryan Lowe. They appear quite settled as a team and Lowe knows his best team at present. The same can’t be said of Xisco, and it is that uncertainty which makes it hard to be too confident on the hosts this weekend. They’ll click eventually, but it may take time.

It isn’t so easy to be mega confident about Preston either, especially as you never really know what you’re going to get. They do look stronger than last season however, so maybe this could be the year they break into the top-six. One reason for that is the summer acquisition of Mads Frokjaer-Jensen, a summer signing from Dutch side Odense. The club have exploited this market before, so their scouting process is to be trusted when snapping up a player from Denmark. He has slotted into the number ten role with ease, and having scored in the Sunderland victory he has shown he has got his eye in focus in front of goal.

With Wednesday struggling to protect their goal, a chance is taken on Frokjaer-Jensen to hit the target at least once in this contest. Over 0.5 Shots on Target is available at 2.25 with Bet365, and has to be worth a punt. He’ll find pockets of space playing in the position he does and against a disjointed defensive opponent he’ll surely get opportunities in front of goal.

EFL Tips

  • Plymouth v Southampton – BTTS & Adam Armstrong Over 0.5 Shots on Target (2.15 Bet365)
  • Sheff Wed v Preston – Mads Frokjaer-Jensen Over 0.5 Shots on Target (2.25 Bet365)
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