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Football | Friday, April 19, 2024 11:18 AM (Revised at: Friday, April 19, 2024 11:19 AM)

The Cards Column Tips: MD34 Player Cards, Team Bookings and Referee Data

The Cards Column Tips: MD34 Player Cards, Team Bookings and Referee Data
Andrew Orchard sports photography / Alamy Stock Photo: Hwang Hee-Chan of Wolverhampton Wanderers (l) and Michael Keane of Everton in action

It might be FA Cup semi-final weekend, but there’s still a huge weekend in the Premier League and EFL. 

Matt Kirby brings you The Cards Column as he dives into some of his favourite cards and bookings tips over the next few days, including a monstrous clash involving his beloved Stoke City as they seek Championship survival in front of home support.

Referee Appointments in the Premier League, Championship, League One and Two: Eye-catching

Anthony Taylor has the battle of the bottom two at Bramall Lane. Chris Kavanagh has the crunch clash between Everton and Nottingham Forest, while Paul Tierney oversees Arsenal’s trip to Wolves.

In the Championship, Thomas Bramall has the Midlands derby between Leicester and West Brom. It’s Bobby Madley in the Steven Schumacher derby as Plymouth travel to Stoke – a huge game for the Potters’ survival hopes. Tony Harrington is one to watch as Leeds look to get their automatic promotion challenge back on track.

Dropping into the third tier, card-happy Charles Breakspear has a big game at both ends as promotion-chasing Bolton host relegation-threatened Port Vale. There’s a third EFL game this season for Ruebyn Ricardo when Northampton face Exeter.

The promotion places are sealed in League Two, so it’s worth a look at the play-off places and the relegation battle. Lewis Smith is the man in charge as Sutton host Crawley – a game with meaning in both of those aspects. The experienced Darren Drysdale has Colchester’s potentially decisive trip to Notts County.

And for those who want to know, the FA Cup semi-final referees are as follows:

  • Man City v Chelsea: Michael Oliver
  • Coventry v Man Utd: Rob Jones

Stoke vs Plymouth: Madley magic in Schumacher dust-up

England, Championship, Saturday, April 20th, 15:00 (UK)

The first stop for this week’s column is in the Championship, where Stoke look to bolster their survival against Plymouth – a side that probably did enough to secure their second-tier status in their win over promotion-chasing Leicester last weekend.

With both vying for points to make sure of playing in this league next season, there’s a degree of a six-pointer to this. Throw in the element that Stoke took Steven Schumacher from Plymouth in December and we’ve got parts to a potentially feisty clash.

And when it comes to the numbers, Stoke average the most cards per home game at this level (2.6), while Plymouth average the most per away match (2.6). So, even if you remove the layers to this one, the stats don’t lie.

It’s unsurprising to see a line set at 5.5 in the normal card market. But if you look at the Asian cards line, it’s set at 5 – and it gives us the protection that if there are exactly five cards, we’ll get a refund.

Many of you will say this is a very high line. But for the factors outlined above, I’m happy to take the 1.90 on over 5 Asian cards. That’s also partly down to the referee choice of Bobby Madley, who averages five cards per 90 this season.

Now, here’s the thing with Madley. He’s done one game involving both of these sides so far:

  • Birmingham 1-3 Stoke – 5 cards – a refund if backing this bet – it’s worth saying that three of those cards came in the first half.
  • Plymouth 3-3 Watford – 6 cards – a winner if backing this bet. 

The Pilgrims picked up five cards on their own in that vital victory over Leicester last Friday – seven in total. While their visit to Norwich last month saw them rack up seven on their own. 

Throughout the campaign, they’ve got a history of racking up some huge team tallies, and I think there’s a good chance that they’ll have a lead to hold onto at some point in this  one.

The Potters, meanwhile, picked up four cards – from five – in last weekend’s draw at Sheffield Wednesday. Some lenient refereeing allowed the Owls away with a couple.

And it’s Schumacher’s side that rank second for fouls per home game in the second tier (12.8), so expect them to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in with plenty at stake.

This might look like a high line, but the numbers stack up with a fantastic referee for cards making this an enticing proposition. For those who like something juicy, both teams to pick up a card in each half is 3.40 with Bet365 and should give you a run for your money.

  • Selection: Over 5.0 Asian Cards (TRACKED BET)
  • Best Odds: 1.90
  • Bookmaker: bet365
  • Stake: 10/10

Michael Keane To Be Booked: Will Keane be too keen?

England, Premier League, Sunday, April 21st, 13:30 (UK)

Sunday’s top-flight action starts at Goodison Park where it’s 16th v 17th as Everton host Nottingham Forest. 

These two are both bang in trouble and with points deductions/appeals looming, they need to turn performances into points to avoid the dreaded drop. And you know what that usually means!

What Everton do well is defend – although you wouldn’t know it watching them get dismantled at Chelsea on Monday night. 

Only the top three have conceded fewer goals than the Toffees. But they don’t score many – only Sheffield Utd have scored on fewer occasions. Don’t expect a classic, just hope the Toffees dig in and keep this tight.

Given the magnitude of this clash, I was hoping to see a card-happy Select Group 1 referee. Instead, we’ve got Chris Kavanagh, who is at the lower end of the spectrum, averaging 4 cards per game this season. But his sole Everton game came in the FA Cup, which saw the ludicrous VAR review leading to a red card shown to Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

Sean Dyche has a few injury problems and doubts to juggle. Seamus Coleman and Nathan Patterson are part of that meaning Ben Godfrey could deputise at right-back. Sky Bet have him chalked up at 6.00 – a big price for someone who can get quite physical and hot-headed.

However, there’s another Toffee I’m keen to back at an even bigger price. That man is Michael Keane, with the potential absence of Jarrad Branthwaite. There’s just no way he should be 8.50 for a card given how rash he can be.

Keane has two cautions in 437 minutes of Premier League football this season, including a card on Monday when he replaced Branthwaite at Chelsea. A lack of minutes shows how quickly his stock has fallen. Remember when he was linked to Barcelona? Funny ol’ days! 

Despite being a centre-half, he can go wandering – or even better – find himself exposed. There’s a good chance at some point he’ll find himself trying to marshal Callum Hudson-Odoi or Morgan Gibbs-White – the latter draws 1.6 fouls per game. 

If that’s the case then I can see a lazy-leg challenge or something more meaty to make his presence felt. Either way, 8.50 seems a crazy price for such a huge game!

And let’s not forget that Keane can pop up with the odd goal too. Think back to the screamer he scored against Spurs last April. If there’s a repeat, whip the shirt off or jump in the Gwladys Street End, son!

To complete a hat-trick of Toffees players that could end up in the book, Ashley Young at 4.33 (various bookies) also whets the appetite. And if you wish – the Young/Keane double is 31.00 with Sky – tasty!

  • Selection: Michael Keane to be Booked (TRACKED BET)
  • Best Odds: 8.50
  • Bookmaker: Sky Bet
  • Stake: 5/10

Rotherham vs Birmingham: Blues to show battle

England, Championship, Saturday, April 20th, 15:00 (UK)

The spotlight returns to the fascinating relegation battle in the Championship, where Birmingham are bang in it. They visit Rotherham, whose fate has already been sealed, but this week’s events at the New York Stadium make this interesting.

On Wednesday, the already-relegated Millers sacked Leam Richardson then a few hours later appointed Steve Evans for a second stint at the club. Evans’ return gives this an added layer as players will look to show their worth, while the fans will be onside to make this a raucous atmosphere.

Birmingham’s victory over Coventry last week saw them climb out of the bottom three, but they are just a point away from dropping into the relegation zone. They need points and time is running out.

We’ve got a decent referee in Keith Stroud to lay down the law. Bet365’s over 3.5 card line does appeal, although slightly short at 1.72. So, I’ll go with both teams to receive two cards each at 2.20. 

Despite knowing their fate pretty early, Rotherham have still picked up 2+ cards in four of their last six, including last week’s trip to Swansea that saw a 3-2 cards split. While the Blues have seen 2+ cards in 15 of 21 away games, including in recent visits to QPR and Leicester.

I think the Stroud factor has to come into play here. He’s the top-performing Select Group 2 referee for cards this season at 5.3, with half of 26 league games seeing two cards to each team. He generally does show 4+ cards – that’s happened in 21 of those 26, just the splits haven’t been the kindest.

But I’ll take him to right that wrong here, especially with his last four league games seeing card splits:

  • Crawley 5-5 Notts County
  • Middlesbrough 3-3 Blackburn
  • Plymouth 5-3 Bristol City
  • Swansea 3-3 Stoke

That’s plenty of cards in recent weeks as the meaning behind these games intensifies. And there have been two reds in those four – he’s only shown three all season!

The Hampshire whistler has done three Birmingham games this season, producing 8, 2 & 3 cards in their direction. Lee Buchanan seeing red in their visit to Watford in September. While Stroud’s Rotherham involvement saw a 3-2 split in their defeat to relegation rivals Stoke. Then the Millers picked up two cards from the arbiter when visiting Ipswich. 

Gary Rowett’s side rank fifth for fouls committed in away games (12.6). While the hosts’ direct approach may see Stroud taking a dislike to the flailing arms and elbows, something he has done when overseeing them in those couple of games, where he penalised them 11 and 16 times – the latter above their seasonal fouls average. 

I can’t turn down cards when Stroud is involved, so let’s hope he comes to the party like he has in recent weeks. Rotherham are down but can drag Birmingham into peril with them, so expect a slug-fest at the New York Stadium.

  • Selection: Both Teams to Receive 2+ Cards (TRACKED BET)
  • Best Odds: 2.20
  • Bookmaker: bet365
  • Stake: 10/10

Odds via bet365 and Skybet as of 22:00, April 18th. Odds may now differ.


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