The Capital One Cup completes its first round of fixtures on Tuesday night and Birmingham City, Charlton Athletic and Ipswich Town make up a fine home banker treble to get the better of their lower league opponents Barnet, Leyton Orient and Bristol Rovers respectively.
Birmingham City to beat Barnet @ 7/20
Lee Clark makes his bow as Birmingham manager in Tuesday’s Capital Cup tie against Barnet and if his new job looks like a tough gig on paper, he should at least get off to a winning start against his League Two opponents.
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Clark has big shoes to fill in the form of Chris Hughton, who took Brum to the Championship play-offs last term despite the club’s perilous financial state. Things aren’t looking any better money-wise and Clark has to deal with (possibly unrealistic) expectations as he takes his first steps as a second-tier manager.
But his charges shouldn’t have much problem seeing off Barnet at St. Andrews. Birmingham were extremely strong at home last season, losing just one match to boast the second-best record in the division. They only conceded 14 goals, easily the fewest in the Championship, and even though only £250,000 has been spent in the summer they should still be too strong for Barnet.
The Bees escaped relegation from the Football League by the skin of their teeth last term, a final-day victory over Burton Albion securing their League Two status for 2012/13, but another season of struggle is anticipated. New boss Mark Robson is untried and top scorer Izale McLeod has departed, leaving Barnet the rightful favourites for relegation. They were beaten 13 times on the road – only two teams lost more – letting in 40 goals in the process and there is nothing to suggest they can upset Clark’s big night.
Charlton Athletic to beat Leyton Orient @ 1/2
Charlton proved themselves to be far, far superior to Leyton Orient last season and should have no trouble in knocking them out of the Capital One Cup at the Valley on Tuesday.
The Addicks romped to the League One title as the division’s stand-out team, winning more matches and conceding fewer goals than the rest of the third tier and will be looking at more than consolidation when they start their Championship campaign at the weekend.
They were several classes above Leyton Orient, who narrowly avoided relegation to League Two and should be no match for Athletic. Russell Slade’s side lost 11 times on their travels last term and their record against the better teams in the division was also poor: Orient lost 15 of their 24 matches against teams in the top half of League One.
The O’s conceded 44 goals in those games and could well struggle against a Charlton side who, even if transfer activity has been limited, have kept the key squad members who together hit 46 home goals and posted a 16-7-1 record against teams in the bottom half of the division last season.
Ipswich Town to beat Bristol Rovers @ 14/25
Ipswich Town come into the Capital One Cup tie against Bristol Rovers on the back of a pretty decent pre-season and can get their campaign off to a winning start against the League Two side.
Paul Jewell will be hoping for an improved campaign for the inconsistent Tractor Boys and the signing of Luke Chambers from Nottingham Forest will help as the former Wigan boss attempts to better last season’s disappointing 15th-placed finish.
Ipswich were decent enough at home, winning 11 games (only five teams won more), and with a good friendly victory over West Ham under their belts, they should be seeing off a Rovers side who struggled on their travels last term.
Mark McGhee sorted out the Pirates’ home record but Rovers remained poor on their travels, losing 12 and winning just five of their 23 trips. They lost seven games against the top-half sides and without star attacker Mustapha Carayol, they don’t look to have enough to trouble their Championship opponents,.
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