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2017 Football League Play-Offs

Championship

Home sides have a W19-D15-L14 record in play-off semi-final first legs since 1992/93, but with just five wins in the 22 matches since 2005/06. The fact that the lower-finishing side plays the first leg at home of course plays a significant part in this discrepancy.

56% of first legs since 1992/93 have had -2.5 Goals with 33% having -1.5. However, since 08/09 half the 16 first legs have had fewer than two goals with 12/16 having fewer than three and just five seeing both teams score.
Whereas first legs tend to be cagey affairs, in the return 52% have had +2.5 Goals. Home sides have also done better, though not overwhelmingly so, going W23-D10-L15.

League One

The first leg has a particularly strong draw bias in League One with half of the 50 ties since 1992/93 finishing all-square: home teams have gone W13-D25-L12.
It follows, therefore, that the ‘unders’ trend in League One is even stronger than the Championship 72% have had -2.5 Goals and 40% -1.5.

In second legs, home sides have a significantly improved record of W27-D11-L12. There’s also an increase in goals with 48% seeing +2.5 Goals. However, when the first leg was drawn then home teams have gone an excellent W17-D5-L3 as a significant 44% of the second legs have had -1.5 Goals. Of course, this season Scunthorpe’s second leg against Millwall went totally against both those trends as they lost 3-2 following a 0-0 in the first leg.

League Two

Unlike League One, when it comes to play-off semi-final first legs League Two results are much more in line with what we see in the regular season. Home sides have a W17-D11-L14 record since 1995/96.
There is, however, still a strong ‘unders’ trend in the first legs with 69% seeing -2.5 Goals and a massive 48% having -1.5 Goals.
In the return leg, home teams have a decent record of W21-D10-L11 and as we’d expect goals increase. 57% have had +2.5 Goals, however, when the first leg is drawn expect another tight affair. These 11 second legs have been level at half-time in nine and 6/11 have had -2.5 Goals.

Conclusions

The first leg of the play-offs is a crucial time with nobody wanting to slip-up and that has shown in the very low scoring nature. This is particularly the case in the tie between the two teams that finished furthest apart in the regular season as 69% of these first legs (all leagues combined) have had fewer than three goals.

However, come the return leg and it’s time to switch to ‘overs’, though if the first leg was a stalemate the chances of another low scoring affair do look to increase.

Championship Play-Off First Legs
Fulham v Reading, Sat 13th 17:30

Fulham finished sixth in the regular season but only Brighton suffered fewer defeats and their goal difference of +28 was better than the three teams above them combined. However, their 10 home wins was the fewest of any side in the top 13, though they averaged almost two goals per game. However, Reading lost 11 away games – only Norwich in the top half last more, and only Rotherham in the whole league conceded more on the road.

Both teams have scored in 12 of Fulham’s last 13 matches and in all of their last nine at home as seven have had at least four goals. Reading lost 5-0 here in December before beating Fulham 1-0 in January back at home. Five of their last seven matches have also had at least four goals, including all of their last four on the road.

Fulham have the momentum after finishing the season in impressive fashion but Reading, too, finished well with four wins in their final five. Despite the high scoring nature of both sides’ recent matches history tells us not to expect a goal-fest and Reading will surely look to replicate their 1-0 win in January and keep things tight. All those goals have pushed the ‘unders’ price up however and we are keen to take advantage of that.

Recommendation: Under 2.5 Goals at 2.25

Huddersfield v Sheffield Wednesday, Sun 14th 12:00

Wednesday finished the season with six wins in their final seven games to gatecrash the play-offs at the expense of Leeds (who managed just one win in their final eight). In contrast, Huddersfield, who for so long challenged for an automatic promotion place, finished with three defeats in their final four games, though by that stage they were already bound for the play-offs.

Wednesday scored just 24 away goals, placing them in the bottom-half for away goals scored, though that was still two better than Huddersfield managed and neither side was particularly prolific. Wednesday won both meetings between these sides this season with Huddersfield failing to score in either and both were goalless at half-time.

Huddersfield’s recent form isn’t necessarily that relevant as they rotated to keep the squad fresh but it’s hard to argue that Wednesday are not the stronger side as they finished with a goal difference of +15 compared to Huddersfield’s -2. That highlights how Huddersfield were slightly fortunate to ride so high for so long as 22 of their 25 wins were by just one goal margins. Given the poor recent record of home sides in the first leg at this stage of the Championship play-offs Wednesday look appealing but we’ll keep some cover on the draw while we’ll keep an interest in the half-time 0-0 given the likely lack of goals.

Recommendation: Sheffield Wednesday Draw No Bet at 2.25
Half-Time 0-0 at 2.62

Roma v Juventus - Sunday 19:45

Juventus might have seen their 33 game home winning streak ended in the derby last week but they won’t care an iota about that after sealing a second trip to the Champions League final in three years in midweek. They can also seal a sixth consecutive Scudetto with a win here (or a draw should Napoli fail to win at Torino earlier in the day) ahead of a Coppa Italia final next week.

Roma have been runners-up in two of the past three seasons and they’ve occupied their position as Juve’s closest rivals for most of this campaign. However, Luciano Spalletti continues to come under pressure in terms of his future and a 3-1 reverse in the recent derby looks to have left him on borrowed time. His side bounced back last weekend to thrash Milan in the San Siro but that was against a team that looks to have given up and this promises to be another test entirely. Roma have lost both their home matches against closest challengers Napoli and Lazio, while they could only draw with Atalanta, and those results have all happened in their last five home games as, while they remain dangerous going forward, the defence has looked shaky.

More than half (52%) of Spalletti’s 54 games in charge of Roma have had at least four goals and this season both teams have scored in eight of their 11 matches against the current top seven. The only time the goals have dried up in their matches was around December and January when Mo Salah was struggling with injury and then away at the African Cup of Nations: under Spalleti, Salah has started and completed at least an hour 44 times and those matches have averaged 3.52 goals per game while the 10 he’s missed have averaged just 2.20 gpg.

Juve have drawn their last two matches but with the Champions League out the way for now they should be fully focussed on winning the league here. Their away record this season at the other top clubs is a relatively poor W1-D2-L3 but they’ve only failed to score once, and that was also their only blank anywhere this season. Their away results last season were similar to this too as they won at Fiorentina but finished with a W1-D1-L3 record at the top six. Nevertheless we wouldn’t write off a team this dominant and it’s no surprise to see that they’ve won seven of their last 10 meetings with Roma. As the markets outsiders in the match outcome we definitely prefer them to a Roma side that look to be running out of steam with the title essentially out of their reach regardless of the result here. A draw may do it for Juve so back the Draw No Bet at 2.0.

However, the best bet has to be for goals. We highlighted how Juve had conceded in seven of their 11 league games prior to a Champions League tie last week, with the four clean sheets coming against three of the league’s worst attacks in Palermo, Chievo and Pescara twice, and that duly became eight out of 12 against Torino. With the Coppa Italia final on Wednesday we can take a similar view here and certainly with the open nature of this Roma side we expect to see chances at both ends and 3.1 is a huge price for Over 3.5 Goals.

Weekend Team News Analysis

Man City v Leicester
Danny Drinkwater (DM), Robert Huth (CB) and Wes Morgan (CB), Leicester

Leicester beat City earlier in the season without Drinkwater but in the nine matches he’s missed since the start of last season they’ve kept just one clean sheet and conceded at least twice on six occasions. City thrashed Palace 5-0 here last week and Leicester could be in for a similar beating without their key defensive players. Back City on the -2 Handicap at 2.62.

Dijon v Nancy
Benoit Pedretti (DM), Nancy

Nancy have taken just one point from the last nine matches Pedretti has missed and they’ve failed to score in 12 of the 16 matches he’s missed all season. Furthermore, he's played the most passes of any Nancy player this term and more than twice as many key passes as any of his teammates. This is a massive game at the foot of Ligue 1 but Dijon have kept four clean sheets in their last nine at home and we fancy the 3.75 on them delivering a win to nil.

Real Madrid v Sevilla
Mariano (RB), Sevilla

Sevilla have won 57% of Mariano’s 47 appearances since the start of last season but in the 27 matches he’s missed that falls to just 26% as they’ve scored exactly half a goal less per game while conceding almost half a goal more. Moreover, their away record with him is a respectable W7-D6-L8 but without it’s a woeful W0-D8-L8. Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more against Sevilla than anyone else and with Real in confident mood we expect them to deal out another thrashing and cover the -2 Handicap at 2.15.

Two out of three long shots came in last week and this week we've got three favourites who we think could win comfortably. Putting the three bets together gives a testy 19/1 treble this weekend. Good luck!

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