Early Bird Best Bets: Early Picks for Four Matches this Week
Early Bird Best Bets: 28th March – 2nd April
The Early Bird is back and focusing on domestic football after the international break. It’s a trip to Exeter, Portsmouth, and Huddersfield on the agenda before heading for a more glamorous tie over in Italy.
In this article:
- Exeter vs Barnsley Preview & Best Bet
- Portsmouth vs Forest Green Preview & Best Bet
- Huddersfield vs Middlesbrough Preview & Best Bet
- Napoli vs AC Milan Preview & Best Bet
Exeter vs Barnsley Preview
England, League One, Tuesday, March 28th, 19:45 (UK)
Backing against Exeter after what we saw the Greacians do to Accrington Stanley on Saturday could be perceived as brave (or daft) by some. However, considering the type of form under Barnsley’s belt leading up to the international break, there’s an Asian Handicap angle that could work for us punters.
The 4-2 victory (vs Sheffield Wednesday) over one of the league’s best not only cemented Barnsley’s promotion push but also displayed the current level of performance from Michael Duff’s Tykes. It quite clearly showed that this Barnsley side will be a match for anyone in the division, let alone an Exeter outfit now comfortably mid-table.
No chance of relegation and no genuine chance at playoff football; it has been an outstanding season in League One for Exeter following promotion. They’ve punched above their weight, taken big scalps along the way, and played good football.
Exeter vs Barnsley Best Bet
We’re getting to the stage of the season where some teams may be ‘on the beach,’ so to speak. I don’t think that’s the case here – the Accrington battering confirms that – but the mindset isn’t the same. Barnsley have Championship football within reach if things go their way.
Not only that, but the travelling Tykes had the weekend off. At this stage of the season, that’s a godsend. The 1.83 for Barnsley to avoid defeat is value, even with Exeter winning three on the bounce in Devon.
- Selection: Barnsley +0 Asian Handicap
- Best Odds: 1.83 (bet365)
- Stakes: 10/10
Portsmouth vs Forest Green Preview
England, League One, Saturday, April 1st, 15:00 (UK)
Two defensive errors when clearing the ball put Portsmouth in hot water on the weekend. Both were punished, handing Port Vale an unlikely 0-2 lead at Fratton Park. In addition, a saved penalty from the foot of Coby Bishop at 0-2 down threatened to resign the hosts to a miserable Saturday afternoon.
In the second half, though, Pompey clicked into gear. Two goals in the 67th and 70th minute set up a nervy final twenty minutes for both. Portsmouth probably should have taken all three points on the face of things, especially with both of Vale’s goals borne from avoidable errors.
I’ve always preferred to back a team that shows it has the grit and professionalism to dig in and overturn deficits. You’d much rather put faith in these outfits over streaky, inconsistent sides.
With bottom-placed Forest Green coming to town, this may be the perfect time to get Portsmouth on a minus handicap. John Mousinho’s men are six points behind a faltering Derby in sixth position with eight matches to play – playoff football is a genuine possibility.
In comparison, Forest Green are fighting for their lives. Unfortunately for them, the fight within the camp isn’t enough. Duncan Ferguson hasn’t overseen a win in any of his nine matches at Forest Green. Seven of said nine under the former Everton striker ended in defeat – four of those by a two-goal margin which we’ll need for the -1 Asian Handicap to pay out.
Here we have two sides at opposite ends of the table but only one boasting form, quality, and home advantage.
Portsmouth vs Forest Green Best Bet
Edit: All of the above was written on Sunday morning before Sheffield Wednesday’s visit to Forest Green. In all honesty, I gave FGR no chance of ending the 90 minutes with a share of the points. Yet, as football often does, we were served up a surprise. Twenty-fourth beat the table-toppers and did so in some style.
Sheffield Wednesday were poor, but Forest Green set up in a way that prevented the visitors from getting going. Not only did The Owls not register a goal, but they only really had one high-quality chance to do so.
It’s important to take the result on board, but we should also zoom out and recognise that this will likely not act as the starting point for Forest Green to go away to the bigger sides in League One and pick up away wins. Still, regardless of an impressive, heroic victory, the -1 Asian Handicap should have a good shot.
- Selection: Portsmouth -1 Asian Handicap (TRACKED BET)
- Best Odds: 1.91 (William Hill)
- Stakes: 10/10
More Portsmouth vs Forest Green Tips
Huddersfield vs Middlesbrough Preview
England, Championship, Saturday, April 1st, 15:00 (UK)
Middlesbrough were priced as healthily as 1.95 when odds were released for their visit to Huddersfield. One can only assume that the looming prospect of League One, coupled with Neil Warnock’s know-how in the Championship, encouraged such pricing. I get it; the Terriers have eight cup finals left and sit only three points away from safety.
If the previous two matches are anything to go by, Neil Warnock may be prepping for one of his biggest managerial achievements by keeping Huddersfield in the second tier. A significant win in Millwall after a hard-fought draw at home to Norwich is the exact response required to steer to safety at the John Smith’s Stadium.
For me, Middlesbrough turns up and is ultimately too strong. The way they’re playing right now, and Boro’s trajectory should be a task too tall for Huddersfield. The hosts’ survival won’t be decided against the likes of Boro – they have a fighting chance, and anything they can get from Boro’s visit will be viewed as a bonus.
Huddersfield vs Middlesbrough Best Bet
Carrick’s squad has returned eight wins from their last ten fixtures. Now just three points behind Sheffield United with the Blades possessing a game in hand, Boro can’t afford to slip up here if automatic promotion is to transpire.
Somehow Chuba Akpom didn’t get the nod for Nigeria during the international break, which will have selfishly thrilled Boro fans and Michael Carrick. If he and Cameron Archer, to name just two, continue their form in front of goal, that 1.80 could prove to be a steal.
- Selection: Middlesbrough to Win (TRACKED BET)
- Best Odds: 1.80 (William Hill)
- Stakes: 15/10
More Huddersfield vs Middlesbrough Tips
Napoli vs AC Milan Preview
Italy, Serie A, Sunday, April 2nd, 14:00 (UK)
Superlatives are swiftly diminishing when contemplating how to describe this Napoli side best. They’ve featured in many an Early Bird article this season, and I’d bet this won’t be the last outing.
My attention piques when quoted 1.80 or bigger for a Napoli home win in Serie A, regardless of opposition. But when the opponent is not quite at it, losing 4/5 matches on the road, including their two most recent away days (3-1 vs Udinese & 2-1 vs Fiorentina).
Given the landscape of the Champions League draw, Sunday’s match will act as a taste of what we’re going to witness in the quarter-final. Neither side will want to drop points and give the other any form of mental advantage ahead of the all-Italian last-eight tie.
Napoli vs AC Milan Best Bet
And at home, Napoli have won 11/13 all season at the Estadio Diego Armando Maradona. Spalletti shows no signs of taking his foot off the gas in Serie A despite the 19-point gap. If it’s more of the same following the international break, and AC Milan again shows up and performs shakily away from the capital, Napoli will get the better of them.
At 1.80 quotes, they’re not a bad price to do so.
- Selection: Napoli to Win
- Best Odds: 1.80 (bet365)
- Stakes: 10/10
Odds via bet365 and William Hill as at 07:00 March 26th, 2023. Odds may now differ.
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