After an excellent first season back in the Championship, it’s been a difficult second album for Blackpool. Head coach Neil Critchley left for a role at Liverpool in a summer of mistakes, so the Seasiders now find themselves seven points adrift of safety – 22nd, but only off the bottom by goal difference – and are hoping Mick McCarthy can salvage their season.
With Cardiff making progress under Sabri Lamouchi, the Tangerines will struggle to catch the Bluebirds, six points better off in 21st, and the more realistic targets may be the out-of-form sides just above them, Birmingham and QPR, who have a seven-point cushion.
Either way, PPG projections suggest Pool needs 20 points from their remaining 11 games unless the Blues or the Rs continue their respective slumps, in which case the required tally might be slightly lower.
A goalless draw with runaway leaders Burnley gave McCarthy encouragement over performance, discipline and shape – the afternoon went a lot better than some might have feared – but draws won’t do Blackpool much good hereon in.
No pressure on Bristol City
February’s 3-0 FA Cup defeat to Manchester City effectively ended Bristol City’s season, with Nigel Pearson’s side 10 points off the Play-Offs and 13 clear of the drop zone.
It’s been a season of modest progress for City, and most eyes now are on the summer, as Alex Scott is the subject of interest from a variety of Premier League clubs including Wolves.
The talented ball-carrier will be out to put himself in the shop window for the remaining games, while Pearson looks open to blooding more youth further back on the conveyor belt, with Sam Bell starting in Tuesday’s goalless draw at Huddersfield, plus Nikita Haikin, Omar Taylor-Clarke and Marlee Francois on the bench.
The relative lack of pressure on Bristol City could just as easily see them put in a limp no-show as it could see them play with a swagger and run riot.
Blackpool’s solid foundations
McCarthy will be hoping the same template that got his side an unlikely clean sheet against Burnley can do likewise at Ashton Gate, with a couple of alterations out wide proving the difference.
When Morgan Rogers and CJ Hamilton came on for Josh Bowler and Luke Garbutt respectively, Pool finished the game well and looked likelier to create chances.
There might still be question marks over whether Rogers will have the industry to fit into a McCarthy side, having signed initially for Michael Appleton, with whom he worked at Lincoln.
Plus, in a 4-2-3-1 with Sonny Carey in attacking midfield, as opposed to a McCarthy 4-4-2, wingers should have a little bit more creative freedom and if Rogers can be given that, he has the quality to make a difference at a crucial stage of the season.
The tactics board
Blackpool will employ a tight, two banks of four with Sonny Carey pressing former Leicester midfielders Matty James and Andy King, then bringing Hamilton, Rogers and Yates into the game. Hamilton will provide width on the right and look to either get crosses in from the byline, or pull it back for Carey to have a left-footed effort from the edge of the box, while Rogers will drift off the flank into pockets.
Initially, Pool will play in transition but as the game wears on and the stakes are raised, they might push for the winner, which is where Alex Scott’s ability to ride dangerous challenges could come to the fore.
Bristol City v Blackpool betting tips
The bare numbers would suggest Bristol City are rightly heavy favourites, but it’s a stage of the season whereby the permutations come into play. Sometimes, a team fighting for their lives can be more dangerous than the team that’s already safe, and in that sense, the value might be with the visitors.
Blackpool are 3/1 for victory, while Morgan Rogers to score anytime can be backed at 4/1 with Bet365.
Blackpool to Win @ 3/1 with Bet365
Anytime Scorer: Morgan Rogers @ 4/1 with Bet365
Gab Sutton is the resident football league expert at Punters Lounge. For more free expert tips across the leagues, check out our football tips page.