Blackburn have made a fantastic start under Tony Mowbray, and Jack Critchley is expecting free-scoring Rovers to continue their fine form this weekend...
"Rovers' attacking output is excellent, and having taken 61 shots in their opening 270 minutes of football, they could take some stopping once again this weekend"
Cardiff to come up short in Lancashire
Blackburn 2.265/4 v Cardiff 3.65; The Draw 3.412/5
Blackburn Rovers are the highest goalscorers in the Championship by some distance having netted 11 times in their opening three fixtures, five more than any other club. Despite this blistering start to the campaign, it should be noted that almost 50% of those goals came against rock-bottom Wycombe, however, last weekend's comprehensive success at Pride Park sent out a real statement to the rest of the division.
Tony Mowbray has always instructed his sides to attack, and the affable Teessider is understandably delighted with what he's witnessed over the past three weeks. Rovers' attacking output is excellent, and having taken 61 shots in their opening 270 minutes of football, they could take some stopping once again this weekend. I'm not expecting them to maintain their superb record of 20.33 shots per match, but they are currently playing with such confidence that its hard to see anyone stopping them at Ewood Park.
28 of the hosts' 61 shots have landed on target, and they have a number of players who are likely to fire in efforts on goal at every single opportunity. Adam Armstrong who has already struck five times this season, averages around 4.9 shots per game, whilst goal-shy striker Ben Brereton, who plays a hugely important role in this side, is averaging around 3.3. Rovers have a smaller squad than last season, although a number of players have come out and spoken about the positivity within the camp, with the aforementioned Armstrong also suggesting that the team have been concentrating on improving their fitness levels over the summer.
Getting players into the box, and utilising willing runners has also been key to their success so far this campaign with the youthful exuberance of Joe Rankin-Costello and Tyrhys Dolan helping to cause panic in the opposition defence. They narrowly missed on the play-offs last year, yet the early evidence suggests that they could easily finish in the top six this time around. Nevertheless, fans will be determined not to get too carried away, as one or two injuries in key areas could potentially halt their progress.
In contrast to Blackburn's flying start, it's fair to say that Cardiff have stumbled their way through the first three games of the campaign. The Bluebirds may be nursing a play-off hangover, however, the mood amongst supporters is far from positive. The sale of Callum Paterson to Sheffield Wednesday is the latest in a long line of decisions which have been questioned by fans. The Scot was a hard-working member of the squad, who was popular on the terraces, and although he wasn't a regular starter in South Wales, his endeavour will be greatly missed.
Neil Harris' recent quotes on the club's transfer business have been curious, with the former Millwall boss appearing to be confused by some of the incomings and outgoings, whilst recent arrival Sheyi Ojo has yet to win over the fanbase.
On the plus side, Cardiff have won their only away game of the season so far, although that 2-0 victory against out-of-form Nottingham Forest may only have served to paper over some of the cracks. They also tend to perform far better against sides who attack, and their ability to get the ball out wide does allow them to create opportunities.
Paterson's depature along with the curious exit of Nathaniel Mendez-Laing does perhaps suggest that all is not well behind the scenes at the Cardiff City Stadium, and that doesn't bode well ahead of this tricky away tie.
Blackburn can be backed at 2.265/4 and they should be firing on all cylinders once again this weekend. Although they surely can't maintain their eye-wateringly high shot count, they should be able to find a way past a Cardiff defence which has looked reasonably shaky in recent weeks. Over 1.5 Blackburn team goals can be backed at 6/5 on the Sportsbook, and that appears to be the best option in this Saturday afternoon tie.
Holden's Robins to inflict more misery on Forest
Nottingham Forest 2.77/4 v Bristol City 2.8815/8; The Draw 3.3512/5
Dean Holden may not have been every Bristol City fan's first choice this summer, however, the former Walsall defender has made a terrific start to his managerial career, and his side come into this fixture proudly looking down at the rest of the division. The general concensus is that the Robins' talented squad failed to reach its full potential under the erratic Lee Johnson, and there now appears to be a little more stability at Ashton Gate.
Jamie Paterson has made an outstanding start to the campaign with two goals and an assist so far. After a period of uncertainty, which included a loan spell at Pride Park, 'Pato' now appear to be enjoying his football again, and he will be key to driving the Robins forward this weekend. Andreas Weimann has been deployed in a new role, occupying up a more central position, and the Austrian has looked extremely sharp, and is averaging 2.3 shots per game.
Holden's squad may be a little thin, and the rookie boss will undoubtedly need to dip into the transfer market before the window closes. However, they look full of confidence and have already seen off some tough opposition in the shape of Stoke City, Coventry and Sheffield Wednesday. The Owls were yet to concede a goal until their 2-0 defeat at Ashton Gate on September 27th, whereas, Michael O'Neill's Potters have also been defensively sound, and have kept clean sheets in their other two Championship fixtures.
Having seen off some fairly stubborn opponents, the visitors are unlikely to be fazed by a trip to the City Ground this weekend. Forest are yet to get on the score-sheet, and have conceded five times. Sabri Lamouchi remains in the dugout despite growing pressure, and he appears to be running out of both time and ideas. The Frenchman altered his entire back four ahead of last weekend's 1-0 defeat to Huddersfield, and his constant chopping and changing cannot be good for team morale.
Although there are no suggestions that the players have downed tools, Lamouchi is skating on incredibly thin ice having overseen a disastrous end to the 2019-20 campaign which saw the Tricky Trees miss out on a play-off spot. Including the end of last season, Forest are now winless in nine, and have picked up just three victories since the beginning of February.
Although it's been a poor start to the season, the hosts do possess a number of match-winners with Lyle Taylor looking sharp during the early part of the campaign, and the industrious Sammy Ameobi having been his usual lively self. With another sizeable churn in playing staff this summer, it's little wonder that Forest have been slow out of the blocks this season, and their winless run looks likely to continue here.
At 2.8815/8 on the Exchange, Bristol City cannot be ignored. They have looked superb so far, and probably shouldn't be priced up as the outsiders in this fixture. Holden's men can maintain their lead at the top of the Championship table and should be backed to collect three points in the East Midlands.
Swans and Lions to share the spoils
Swansea 2.427/5 v Millwall 3.39/4; The Draw 3.1511/5
Both Swansea and Millwall remain unbeaten after three matches, and the early indications suggest that these two well-organised sides will be tough to break down this season. Steve Cooper's side are yet to concede a goal, and although they could easily have been accused of coasting against Wycombe last weekend, they always appeared to be in complete control. The back three, which consists of Marc Guehi, Joe Rodon and Ben Cabango has looked extremely unflustered, and will be extremely tough to breach.
Although some fans are hoping that their side will add a striker to the squad during the transfer window, the spine of the team looks incredibly solid, and they will be expecting to take something from this contest.
The visitors are also well-organised and have conceded just a single goal in their opening three fixtures. Gary Rowett has been a revelation in Bermondsey and his side have been exceptional on their travels since the former Burton boss arrived in the capital. Including last season, they've kept five clean sheets in their last six away matches, and he has overseen just four defeats on the road since being appointed at the end of October 2019.
The Lions find themselves in a similar predicament to their hosts with the lack of a profilic goalscorer likely to be their downfall this campaign. Troy Parrott picked up an injury in the EFL Cup, whilst the lofty Matt Smith isn't the kind of striker who will fire in 20 goals a season.
It's no surprise to see Under 2.5 Goals priced up at 4/7 on the Sportsbook, and this would have landed in all six of the fixtures involving these sides so far. Both sides are in the bottom ten for shots taken this season, and genuine goalscoring opportunities are likely to be in short supply here. Backing the draw at 3.1511/5 on the Exchange appears to be the best option with very little separating these two dependable operators.
You can follow Jack Critchley on Twitter @jcritch7
Blackburn vs Cardiff - Over 1.5 Blackburn Team Goals @ 6/5 (Sportsbook)
Nottingham Forest vs Bristol City - Bristol City Win @ 2.8815/8 (Exchange)
Swansea vs Millwall - Draw @ 3.1511/5 (Exchange)