We’re still only half a dozen games into the new season and because of luck and order of fixtures there will be some teams in a false league position. I’ve looked at the shot data, expected goals tables and used my own judgement to list a team from each of the top 4 divisions in England who should improve and who might be worth backing this weekend, or even following for a few matches.
Premier League – Burnley (19th)
Burnley have started the season in uncharacteristic form, conceding a lot of goals (9 in 4 matches). Most notably against Fulham whom they conceded 4 goals and 25 shots against. Sean Dyche is a shrewd operator though and he won’t stand for poor defensive displays for long. Their performance in their last match against Man United was an improved one and Infogol has them 4 places higher at 15th based on their expected goals data. The Clarets have had a lot of matches already this season due to their Europa League involvement, so the international break will be a chance for their players to get some much-needed rest.
On Sunday they face Wolves who’ve had a good start to their premier league season but who have only won one of their 4 matches. The performance and draw against Man City perhaps make their start seem better. I think Wolves are a team who’ll play well and rarely be out of a game but I’m not sure they have the ruthlessness to stick 2 or 3 past a team when they’re on top. With Burnley a massive 4/1 and over for this match they’re worth taking on the asian handicap (+0.5 at 2.04) at the very least.
Championship – Birmingham (20th)
Birmingham have drawn 4 of their opening 6 games but with the chances they’ve created should have converted at least a couple of those into victories. Their direct style isn’t easy for a lot of teams to deal with. They created a lot of clear-cut chances despite drawing 0-0 against a very good Swansea team who sit 7th and they were also winning against Norwich and Forest before conceding very late on. The Blues are 11th in the expected goals table as recorded by Infogol and that huge difference in actual v expected position adds weight to the argument that they’ve been unlucky so far.
Beating West Brom won’t be an easy task on Saturday but odds of 3.5 on a capable home side are decent. Keep Dwight Gayle quiet and you stand more than half a chance in my opinion.
League One – Oxford (23rd)
Oxford started the season disastrously losing 4-0 on opening day against Barnsley and shipping another 4 against Portsmouth. Those two teams are 2 of the best in the division right now though and currently occupy 2nd and 3rd spots, plus Oxford have improved since then. They were the better side despite only drawing against 4th placed Sunderland and they have some quality players in their team. The 2-1 defeat at home to Coventry was disappointing but even Sky Blues boss Mark Robins admitted it was a tight contest.
Prior to the game against Coventry, Oxford had attempted more shots than their last 3 opponents even though they’d only won one. They are worth backing at over 2/1 against 19th placed Wycombe on Saturday who have only won 1 of their first 7 matches. The newly promoted side seem to lack discipline to me and have been off the pace in some of their matches so far.
League Two – Bury (13th)
Bury are currently 13th in League Two but I expect them to be in and around the playoffs if they continue in the same vein. Thrashing Grimsby 4-0 last time out, they also gave a good account of themselves when narrowly going out of the league cup against Nottingham Forest. Each time they’ve lost in the league it’s been by the odd goal and two of these losses have been against quality opposition too, in Lincoln (1st) and MK Dons (6th).
Bury are away to Swindon next and can be backed at 2/1 with a couple of bookies.