Championship expert Jack Critchley believes that Barnsley can claim back-to-back victories on Wednesday night when they host Blackburn Rovers at Oakwell...
"The Tykes' home form is fairly solid, and only four teams have left Oakwell with maximum points so far this season. Swansea, Bournemouth and Brentford are all challenging for promotion this season, whereas the defeat to Luton at the beginning of September cannot be attributed to the current regime"
Rovers to slump to third consecutive defeat
Barnsley boss Valerien Ismael has described the last seven days as his 'best week' since arriving in South Yorkshire. The Tykes almost took Premier League Chelsea to extra time in the FA Cup on Thursday evening, before upsetting the odds on Sunday afternoon. The midtable outfit travelled to West London to face high-flying Brentford, and despite going into the tie as underdogs, they managed to come away with all three points.
The majority of Bees fans were forced to accept that the visitors were the better side throughout the 90 minutes, and despite coming off the back of an energy-sapping midweek encounter, they still managed to produce an impressively high-energy pressing performance. Callum Brittain was full of energy in the channels, while Romal Palmer's industry and endeavour complimented the stylish Alex Mowatt. Daryl Dike, who recently arrived from Orlando City was also full of running, and linked up well with Conor Chaplin.
Amazingly, this was Barnsley's first Championship victory since December 29th, however, recent results have tended to belie their level of performance. Ismael has credited the Chelsea game with helping to change the mindset of his players, and despite the quick turnaround, they will fancy their chances of racking up successive victories in the second tier.
The Tykes' home form is fairly solid, and only four teams have left Oakwell with maximum points so far this season. Swansea, Bournemouth and Brentford are all challenging for promotion this season, whereas the defeat to Luton at the beginning of September cannot be attributed to the current regime. They've won three of their last five matches at this venue, and despite the lack of support from the stands, they are much tougher to beat on their own patch.
Blackburn are currently embarking upon a sticky run of form, and Tony Mowbray will be desperate to avoid a third consecutive Championship defeat on Wednesday evening. Although their xG numbers and chance creation statistics remain impressively high, they haven't netted more than a single goal in a game since January 2, and looked fairly listless against Preston on Friday night.
Mowbray was understandably frustrated and troubled by his side's lethargic performance, and bemoaned the fact that they failed to live up to their usual high standards.
They've lost four of their last six away games, and will need to offer far more in the final third on Wednesday evening. Although Adam Armstrong remains a constant threat, the decision to rest Harvey Elliott was criticised by some fans, and the likes of Ben Brereton and Tyrhys Dolan could be given a chance to impress from the start here. Blackburn need to rediscover their early-season zip if they are to take anything from this tie.
At the back, they've been fairly reliable and have conceded just four times in their last six matches. Although Jarrad Branthwaite had an evening to forget on Friday, the remainder of the back-line has been able to run a fairly tight ship in recent weeks.
Barnsley's tails are up, whereas Blackburn are generally performing below par at this moment in time. The Tykes' young squad can continue their excellent run of form and inflict a third straight defeat on their opponents.
At 2.6613/8 on the Exchange, the home side look worth backing on Wednesday evening.
Royals to heap more misery on Dean Holden's injury-hit Robins
Reading slumped to a disappointing defeat on Saturday afternoon, suffering a 2-1 loss to Millwall. Veljko Paunovic has been widely praised for his influence at the Madjeski this season, however, many fans believed that the Serbian got his tactics wrong on this occasion. He set up to try and combat the Lions' 4-4-2 system, however, it failed to have the desired effect. Although Alfa Semedo's superb strike was a rare moment of quality for the home side, it turned out to be a hugely underwhelming 90 minutes for the Berkshire outfit.
Despite this, Reading still sit fifth in the Championship table, and appear to be genuine play-off contenders. They have plenty of individual talent in the squad, and several match-winners such as Lucas Joao, Ovie Ejaria and Michael Olise. They come into this game off the back of consecutive home defeats, however, Paunovic has made his side incredibly hard to break down on the road.
They've suffered just three defeats on their travels this season, and have lost just once since mid-November. Although they've probably drawn too many away games, they have conceded just a single goal in their last four outings, and recently stopped high-flying Swansea from getting on the score-sheet.
Although this is a quick turnaround, Reading should be able to bounce back, and if Paunovic goes back to basics here, they should be able to extend their unbeaten run on the road.
Bristol City suffered a 6-0 hammering at the hands of Watford on Saturday, and inexperienced coach Dean Holden must find a way of picking his players up following an embarrassing afternoon in Hertfordshire. The Robins have had their fair share of fitness issues this season, however, fans' patience is beginning to wear thin. Holden described it as a 'horrible day', and he'll be hoping that his side can avoid falling behind so early in the game this time around.
It's now four consecutive defeats for the hosts, who have also failed to find the net in three of those losses. They are much better at Ashton Gate however, and have won three of their last four here. It's been a tough few weeks for the management team, and they will be demanding a response from the players.
They do have plenty of talented players in their squad, with Famara Diedhiou proving a handful on a weekly basis, whereas Henri Lansbury and Jamie Paterson are quality operators at this level. However, their inexperienced defence has proved problematic in recent weeks, and they may struggle to contain this lively Reading frontline on Tuesday evening.
Both sides come off the back of disappointing weekend defeats, however, Reading look better equipped to bounce back here.
At 2.186/5 on the Exchange, they should be able to continue their fine run of form away from the Madejski.
Coventry and Norwich to share the spoils
Coventry are just about keeping their heads above water at the bottom of the Championship, although with just three points between themselves and tenants Birmingham, they desperately need to take something from this tie.
Although Mark Robins' side remain tough to beat, they often find victories hard to come by, and they've won just twice since mid-December. At the weekend, they were always likely to struggle against a rejuvenated Cardiff City, however, back at St.Andrews, they will be expected to make it tough for the league leaders.
The Sky Blues recently frustrated Watford at this ground, holding the Hornets to goalless draw, and they could take a similar approach to this clash. Nottingham Forest are the only side since October 24th to have beaten Coventry at this venue, and having suffered just three home defeats all season, the price of 1.9620/21 on Norwich looks a little skinny.
The hosts have drawn four of their last six matches here, with each of those games ending goalless. Five of their six home stalemates this season have seen both sides draw a blank, and the 0-0 scoreline is also a real possibility here.
Norwich got back to winning ways at the weekend, sticking four past Stoke at Carrow Road. The return of Emi Buendia certainly helped gave them more creativity in the final third, and fans will be delighted to see striker Teemu Pukki back amongst the goals too.
The much-needed victory was the perfect response to a disappointing 2-0 defeat at the Liberty Stadium, and ended a three match winless streak. Despite their position at the summit of the Championship table, their away from has been far from convincing and they've won just one of their last four on the road. Each of their last five away victories has been by a single goal margin, and there is likely to be very little between these two sides.
These two sides drew 1-1 at Carrow Road when they last met at the end of November, and this could prove to be a frustrating afternoon for the leaders once again. The draw, which is available at 3.412/5 on the Exchange appears to be the best option here.
You can follow Jack Critchley on Twitter @jcritch7