Coventry v Nottingham Forest
Sunday August 8, 16:30
Coventry finally return to the CBS Arena
Coventry kick-off their first home contest in the CBS Arena since 2019 on Sunday after an agreement was reached between the Sky Blues and Wasps back in March. Mark Robins' men have been playing their 'home' games at Birmingham's St Andrew's for the last two seasons and so this weekend's encounter will be eagerly anticipated by City supporters.
Unfortunately, Cov's pre-season has been disrupted as a result of COVID cases in the camp forcing the cancellation of a couple of development friendlies and the Sky Blues' opening first team warm-up game against Leamington being down-graded to an U23s fixture. A friendly against Norwich was also scrapped due to coronavirus cases in the Canaries' squad.
Centre-backs Michael Rose and Dom Hyam, and skipper Liam Kelly are understood to be among a number of players who have suffered setbacks to their fitness due to illness in recent weeks. But Robins managed to get a strong team out to face Wolves last weekend, albeit with several players still lacking vital match minutes ahead of the big kick-off.
Forest endure difficult pre-season
Chris Hughton took charge of Nottingham Forest four games into last season with the Tricky Trees pointless at the bottom of the second-tier. Slow progress was made and the Reds comfortably survived the drop, averaging 1.24 points per-game, and giving away just 0.90 goals per-game. I have made Forest a Top Six bet in my season preview, which you can read here.
Forest's issues were in front of goal, where the team regularly failed to fire. A fully fit Lewis Grabban could solve those issues, although Brennan Johnson's return has excited Forest fans and a link-up between him and Alex Mighten could have defensive lines in the Championship fearing for the worst. In reserve, Hughton can still call upon the likes of Lyle Taylor and Nuno Da Costa, as well as Joao Carvalho. The Reds aren't short of ability.
However, Forest's pre-season campaign has also been disrupted because of coronavirus cases within the camp - fixtures against Aston Villa and Burnley have had to be cancelled. It means Hughton's charges have not played a game against external opposition since a 2-2 draw with Crewe on 24 July and could arrive at the starting gun a touch undercooked.
Coventry haven't enjoyed recent skirmishes with Nottingham Forest. The Sky Blues were turned over in both of last term's tussles and have now lost seven of their past nine league meetings with the Tricky Trees. This century alone, City have also posted a negative W3-D1-L4 home return against Forest since the duo departed the Premier League.
Coventry 2.588/5 were much more effective on home soil last season, despite using St Andrew's as an adopted home. The Sky Blues earned 67% of their points tally in Birmingham, as well as 61% of the club's goal tally. Mark Robins will be looking for similar returns on City's return to the CBS Arena, especially with home fans back in the stadium.
Nottingham Forest 3.1511/5 may have failed to excite and enthral en-route to a comfortable bottom-half finish under Chris Hughton, but the Tricky Trees proved pretty effective when coming up against the lesser lights. The Reds posted W9-D9-L2 against the bottom-half dwellers under Hughton's watch, only once conceding multiple goals.
Coventry's St Andrew's showdowns were rarely thrilling affairs, and while the expected boost from returning home has to be considered, the aforementioned disruption to plans and pre-season preparation suggests we're unlikely to see the Sky Blues at their best for Sunday afternoon's curtain-raiser.
The same argument could also be made against Nottingham Forest's prospects this weekend, bringing the potential to oppose goals. But with Under 2.5 Goals too short to support at 1.574/7, it may make sense to back Forest in the Double Chance market alongside Under 2.5 Goals for a more palatable 2.0521/20 shot via the Sportsbook's Bet Builder.
It's a selection that's proven profitable in 16 of the Tricky Trees' 21 match-ups with bottom-half teams under Chris Hughton and should go close considering the circumstances surrounding both squads.