This looks the best game this weekend in League One as fifth entertains third and if you like the term 'for the purist', this will make them and lovers of that phrase wild with delight. Brentford have slightly gone under the radar with me this season, but their steady progress has seen them rocket to the play-off places.
The Bees have lost just once in their last 17 games, and have conceded just nine at Griffin Park this season. Striker Paul Hayes described their year recently as 'one that is beginning to click'. The 29-year-old front man also described his boss Uwe Rosler as 'bonkers'.
Behind the madcap front of Rosler there lies a forward thinking, tactical coach. The German is superb at working out the opposition's strengths and how to set-up against whichever team - which makes this clash all the more mouth-watering. Brentford are a good footballing side, and whenever I have watched them play, they do so from the back and have good movement.
Brentford's boss can use a five man midfield, which has been switched to a 4-4-2, whilst his bold move of playing three at the back with a sweeper worked superbly in the 2-0 recent win over Sheffield United. That was a top display against one of the best sides in the league, and Brentford outclassed them.
The MK Dons came through their bitter FA Cup tie against Wimbledon on Sunday, but the seven days that proceeded that match would have been fairly draining. The Dons produced their best display of the season recently in spanking Colchester 5-1, as their recent loan recruits dazzled. One of those is Chelsea youngster Patrick Bamford, who was involved in three of the five goals and has an electric change of pace.
The Buckinghamshire side love possession of the ball and play a 4-2-3-1 with lots of pace. Brentford might flood the midfield but will have to watch the flanks - especially the away team's full-back Jon Otsemebor - who is a strong-running defender. The visitors will try and play between the lines in what looks a superb match. It's hard to split them which makes the draw a potential trade.
Greg Abbott might start to feel a bit of pressure as Carlisle United manager following a poor recent run of results. I like Abbott and find him thought-provoking in his analysis, however the stats and figures don't lie. The Cumbrians have slipped down the table and have lost eight games at home this season - way too many.
Carlisle's problem is their woeful defence, heavy defeats at Brunton Park in November included reverses of 1-3 and 1-4, whilst the number of goals shipped on home soil is the most in the division at 25. For over 2.5 goals backers, eight of their last nine games have all been over that target, and the odds on them keeping a clean sheet are very slim.
On the plus side they have some good young players, but were again outclassed during Saturday's 1-3 home defeat to Bournemouth and heavy defeats at home are becoming the norm.
Sheffield United are title contenders and have always been fairly reliable in the under 2.5 goals stakes this season (bar two crazy games last month). They don't score too many away from home (eight in total), but they don't concede many either (seven). They can dominate games too, but Danny Wilson will need to iron out some of the defensive errors that have been creeping in to their matches recently.
The under and overs call is a tough one this weekend with both at the opposite ends of the spectrum. However, Sheffield United look a decent bet to beat their shaky and low on confidence opponents this weekend.
Tranmere Rovers [1.89] v Portsmouth [4.40], the draw [3.65]
Tranmere are still top of League One with 39 points, but are not quite the same blistering side that took the division by storm in the early part of the campaign. Their boss Ronnie Moore has a few injuries to deal with at the moment, and missing long-term absentee Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro is a huge blow considering his pace, whilst James Wallace has just been ruled out for six weeks.
Rovers are good on the counter-attack and have plenty of speed. Bolton loan man Michael O'Halloran has replaced Akpro and I like the way he runs the channels, he looks a good foil for young striker Jake Cassidy (who has hit 11 goals this term already).
One of the most interesting stats I have come across this season has been Tranmere's league record in their last seven games. Each match has been 0-0 at half-time, astonishing. I can't believe it's taken me this long to crack on to this. For unders players, their last five league encounters have all been below 2.5 goals.
Meanwhile Portsmouth are still fighting, and caretaker manager Guy Whittingham stopped a wretched run of seven straight defeats at the weekend with their 1-1 draw at Coventry two weeks ago. Pompey had no FA Cup match last weekend, so they will be well rested - which sometimes can work against you.
Whittingham has spoken about keeping things simple, and they might try and replicate what they produced at the Ricoh Arena - to go and contain and stay in the game. This should tee up a perfect trade on the 0-0 to get to half-time.
The visitors have no injury worries and former high-profile players Ricardo Rocha and Darel Russell can be found plying their trade at Fratton Park, and Rocha certainly brings a calm head at the back (if not the pace).comments powered by Disqus