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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Returning stars can mean that Sheffield Wednesday flourish

Neighbours Sheffield United could also grab huge away victory

Adam Reach of Sheffield Wednesday
1 of 1

English Football League
Kick-offs 3pm Saturday

Sheffield Wednesday v Reading
The Betfred World Championship snooker marathon begins in Sheffield on Saturday and football fans should also consider concentrating on the Steel City for their potential weekend profits.

Motivation plays a part in the odds at this stage of the season and Sheffield Wednesday, who have little to play for, could be forgiven for going through the motions against a Reading side who are battling against relegation from the Sky Bet Championship.

However, that is factored into the prices and on expected goals both would actually be lower down the league, with Wednesday ranked 20th and Reading 21st. But the Owls have legitimate excuses for their dismal showings for much of the season.

The Sheffield side have been ravaged by injuries with quite often a whole team out sidelined and there has not been a realistic shot at making the playoffs for several months.

Manager Jos Luhukay still has work to do in his attempts to win over the Wednesday faithful that he is the right man to replace the departed Carlos Carvalhal but the Owls have won four of their last six matches.

It's surely no coincidence that the recent return of Barry Bannan and Fernardo Forestieri has played a part in the upturn in fortunes, while competition for places has been further increased with Atdhe Nuhiu and Lucas Jaoa back from their injuries.

Wednesday beat Reading 3-1 at Hillsborough in the FA Cup in January but it was not until March that Jaap Stam was put out of his misery, the Dutch manager eventually replaced by Paul Clement.

Stam led Reading to within a penalty shootout success of the Premier League but on just about every metric (apart from league points) they were a long way short of being a playoff side so it was no surprise to see them drop well off the pace this term.

Reading have played five matches under Clement, winning two, losing two and drawing 2-2 at home to Sunderland last week.

In those five matches they have lost the shot count 28-108 and the shots on target count 8-30, which even allowing for an early red card at Aston Villa is seriously alarming.

Six of those shots on target came in the Sunderland match and they are a side who seem to lack attacking intent, an accusation also aimed at Swansea when Clement was their manager. 

Sheffield Wednesday
1pt 13-10 general

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Sky Bet Championship standings

Birmingham v Sheffield Utd
Big games come thick and fast at this stage of the season and that is certainly the case when relegation-threatened Birmingham host playoff-chasing Sheffield United.

Depending on results elsewhere this is probably a fixture both will feel they need to win and United are fancied to come out on top.

The form book says one win in six for the Blades but they will be left wondering how that can be after they were pegged back in draws with Brentford, Cardiff and Millwall as well as conceding late on to lose at Barnsley.

If United keep dominating games as they have been then wins should eventually come, perhaps against a Birmingham side with nine defeats in their last 13 matches.

Garry Monk's men have beaten Hull, Ipswich and Bolton as well as drawn with Burton but United are a much stronger outfit and Birmingham barely got a kick at Molineux last week, at least of the ball, although they did connect plenty with the Wolves players.

Centre-back Harlee Dean was sent off and the visitors can take advantage of his suspension.

Sheff Utd
1pt 31-20 bet365, Betfair

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Sky Bet Championship standings

AFC Wimbledon v Oldham
This is a tight tussle in the Sky Bet League One relegation battle but AFC Wimbledon's injury problems points towards Oldham avoiding defeat.

Centre-back Will Nightingale is out, while there are doubts over Harry Forrester and Tom Soares. They came back from two down to beat Walsall last week but that did include two penalties, one of which was scored on the rebound.

Oldham, unbeaten in five with two defeats to Portsmouth and Wigan since the start of February, could hold out for a point.

Oldham +0.25 Asian handicap
1pt 21-20 188Bet

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Sky Bet League One standings

Plays of the day

Wolves 22-23
The fact that promoted Wolves don't need to win to secure the title is factored into the prices. They are clearly streets ahead of Bolton and would ordinarily be shorter for the Macron trip.

Borussia Dortmund 11-8
Some firms are as short as 5-4 Dortmund which looks too short considering Michy Batshuayi is out for the season and Leverkusen destroyed Leipzig on their last away trip.

Wolves 19-20, Barcelona 2-5, St-Etienne 1-2, Chelsea 1-2 Ladbrokes

Both teams to score
Games at Preston 13-18, Scunthorpe 12-11, Rotherham 7-9, Barnet 8-9 188Bet

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Thought for the week

Who would be the best person to replace Arsene Wenger?

In my opinion, the best candidate is not even in the top 15 in the betting, which is not to say he should be a shorter price because he may not be on their radar, but the obvious person is already working in London.

Antonio Conte seems certain to depart Stamford Bridge in the summer so why doesn't Sven Mislintat, Arsenal's head of recruitment, at least put in a check call to see whether the Italian fancies a different Premier League challenge?

It may well be that Conte wants to head back to his homeland, possibly for a national team return or maybe to a big Serie A club, but he ticks many of the boxes required to get Arsenal back among England's elite as well as bring much-needed energy to the Emirates.

Conte turned Juve around by drilling into everyone that the fallen Italian giants were still a big club so they had to think big, something lacking in Arsenal.

He has won titles - three in Italy and one in England - and can sort a defence. What more do Arsenal want?

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He has won titles - three in Italy and one in England - and can sort a defence. What more do Arsenal want?
E.W. Terms
Sky bet