Rovers’ dismal run of form to continue
Blackburn 3.45 v Bournemouth 2.186/5; The Draw 3.412/5
For Blackburn Rovers fans, the start of the 2020-21 season must feel like a lifetime ago. The Lancastrian side were at their swashbuckling best throughout September and October, and were scoring goals for fun. Although they opened the campaign with a defeat to Bournemouth, they were competitive throughout the 90 minutes, however an Arnaut Groeneveld strike handed their recently relegated rivals all three points.
The two sides meet again on Easter Monday, and the pair currently appear to be heading in completely opposite directions. Although the hosts aren’t going to get sucked into a relegation battle, they are suffering from a hugely underwhelming spell, and arrive here winless in five. They’ve been victorious in just one of their last 13 matches, and fans are beginning to tire of Tony Mowbray‘s excuses.
Injuries haven’t helped their cause, however, the manager’s regular use of the word ‘consolidation’, and his reluctance to start exciting winger Tyrhs Dolan hasn’t gone down well with supporters. Rovers are lacking a creative spark at the moment, and have failed to score more than a single goal in seven of their last nine outings.
Adam Armstrong‘s form has dipped in recent weeks, and he looks set to move away from Ewood Park this summer, whereas Bradley Dack is set for an extended spell on the sidelines once again. They fired in 11 shots again bottom side Wycombe on Friday afternoon, yet still only managed just a couple of efforts on target. It was a desperately disappointing afternoon for the visitors, and despite the second half arrival of Stewart Downing, John Buckley and the aforementioned Dolan, they were unable to turn things around.
Blackburn’s defence has been their saving grace in recent weeks, with Darragh Lenihan having impressed against the Chairboys. They haven’t conceded more than a single goal in any of their last eight matches, and even restricted table-topping Norwich to just a single strike. However, their lack of firepower has ultimately been their downfall since the start of February.
Bournemouth have been slowly improving in recent weeks, and they deservedly beat Middlesbrough on Good Friday. Jonathan Woodgate was delighted to get one over on his former club, and he will hoping to conclude the Easter weekend with a victory against a fellow North-Easterner. The Cherries have been registering well on the xG scale, and have scored eight goals in their last three outings.
They are also unbeaten in three of their last four away games, and despite only being in temporary charge of the club, Woodgate finally appears to be getting a handle on proceedings at the Vitality. Five of their seven shots against Boro landed on target, and with such a sizeable squad at their disposal, they have the option to rotate ahead of this tie.
Blackburn’s defensive capabilities could frustrate the visitors for long periods of this game, however, the visitors should have enough quality to edge past the out-of-form hosts. They are 2.186/5 on the Exchange and should be able to make it three wins on the bounce.
Swansea’s poor form set to continue
Swansea 1.9720/21 v Preston 4.57/2; The Draw 3.3512/5
Steve Cooper was left bitterly disappointed by his side’s underwhelming display on Friday evening. Swansea were second best throughout the 90 minutes and will be aiming to put in a much-improved showing on Easter Monday. Cooper admitted that it was a “poor performance” and that his team “…fell well short of the levels that we aim for”. He doesn’t have long to prepare his side for this clash, and the former England youth coach must find a way to turn things around at the Liberty Stadium.
The Swans’ slump has arrived at exactly the wrong time, and having firmly established themselves as promotion contenders, the Welsh side are currently in danger of slipping out of the play-off picture. They’ve now failed to score in each of their last three Championship matches, and have collected four points from a possible 15.
Admittedly, their form had looked a little unsustainable, with a series of controversial penalties having helped them to secure all three points against both Middlesbrough and Stoke, however, their downturn in form has become a worrying trend and supporters are understandably concerned.
They lacked conviction going forward against Birmingham and managed to produce just seven shots against the struggling Blues. They appear to lose confidence whenever they reach the final third and have generally relied upon loanee Conor Hourihane to give them a spark.
Frankie McAvoy is in temporary charge of Preston North End following the dismissal of Alex Neil last month, and the caretaker boss managed to guide to his side to a 1-1 draw against high-flying Norwich on Good Friday. The interim boss has described his “ultimate pride” at having been handed the responsibility, and he will be hoping to extend the Lilywhites unbeaten run on Monday afternoon.
PNE were predictably outplayed by Norwich for large swathes of the 90 minutes, however, they continued to plug away, and were duly rewarded in stoppage time. Their recent form is wholly unremarkable, hence the recent managerial switch, however, they are likely to be full of confidence following their encouraging display against the Canaries.
Ryan Ledson was amongst the stand-out performers on Friday and he provided the assist for Brad Potts‘ last-gasp leveller. Andrew Hughes and Tom Barkhuizen also provided some much-needed quality down the left-hand side. The celebrations at the final whistle suggested that the squad are still fighting for one another, and although they lack an out-and-out goalscorer, they should have enough quality in their ranks to test the Swans’ defence.
Swansea are 1.9720/21 to collect all three points in this encounter, however, their recent performances do not justify this odds-on price. Preston are 2/1 Draw No Bet on the Sportsbook, and that appears to be a better way to approach this contest. PNE could be galvanised by their last-minute equaliser, and they could easily spring a surprise in this one.
Royals and Rams to share the spoils
Reading 2.35/4 v Derby 3.613/5; The Draw 3.211/5
Reading fans were left frustrated by their side’s inability to convert their chances in South Yorkshire on Friday evening. The Royals picked up a point against fellow play-off contenders Barnsley, however, the Berkshire outfit spurned a couple of opportunities to kill off the game. A lack of composure was to blame, with some fans pointing to the ever-increasing number of individual errors which have started to creep into their displays.
Veljko Paunovic‘s side are still incredibly difficult to beat, and have suffered just a single defeat in their last seven Championship matches. However, they’ve also failed to win any of their last four, and the pressure of a play-off push may be affecting this relatively young and inexperienced squad.
Lucas Joao appears to be lacking a little confidence, and the Portuguese isn’t playing with the same level of freedom these days. Josh Laurent has been a superb addition, and his performances have rightly been praised by Royals’ fans. Michael Morrison and Liam Moore have been keeping a tight ship at the back, and the pair did superbly to keep the Tykes’ potent strikeforce quiet at Oakwell.
Derby aren’t completely out of the wood just yet, however, their Good Friday victory over Luton at Pride Park was a significant step towards safety. Wayne Rooney was understandably delighted with his side’s performance, and they were the better team throughout the 90 minutes. The return of Lee Gregory has given the Rams some much needed cut and thrust in the final third, whilst Graeme Shinnie‘s all-action performances in the centre of the park have also been notable.
The East Midlands side have been ranking well on the xG numbers, although a chronic lack of goals is still holding them back. Recent draws against both Brentford and Barnsley have suggested that they were starting to turn a corner, and they will not go down without a fight here. They are tough to score against, and have only conceded more than a single goal in just one of their last six outings.
There is very little between these two sides, and they have also traded blows in their recent meetings. Reading’s form has dipped, whereas the visitors are slowly starting to gather momentum. This could be a fascinating tactical battle, although it isn’t likely to be one for the neutrals. The draw looks the most realistic outcome and can be backed at 3.211/5 on the Exchange.
You can follow Jack Critchley on Twitter @jcritch7