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The Champions League enters the final gameweek of the group stages this week, but away from the glare of the spotlight, there are some domestic quarter finals which take on every bit as much importance for the teams involved. It’s the last eight of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, and with a trip to Wembley just two games away, there is a huge prize on offer for the clubs involved.
Southend meet Millwall in an all League One affair, and with the teams equal on points in 7th and 8th in the table, it promises to be a close encounter. League Two’s top and bottom sides meet at the same time when Oxford take on Yeovil in a much more one-sided event; while Fleetwood and Morecambe compete in a tie that may not be so straightforward for the League One side, despite being at home. We’ve got an angle on each of the three games, but the headline tip is Southend who look a great price to beat Millwall on home soil.
Southend v Millwall
The Shrimpers and the Lions were both among the preseason favourites for the League One title, with Millwall only relegated last season, and Southend on an upward curve since promotion from League Two. Both are having a decent enough time of things on the league front, sitting just outside the play-off zone in 7th and 8th, with 31 points apiece.
While on paper Millwall should have the better quality in their squad, Southend are a formidable side under the lights at Roots Hall, and they’ve been in excellent recent form. It’s been three wins out of five for Phil Brown’s men, with league victories over Oldham and Blackpool, and a 1-0 home result against Bristol City in the last round of this competition. They’ve also managed very impressive draws with Sheffield United and Wigan in the league, and they’ll be looking to extend the five-game unbeaten run. Home form is also a boost to the selection, with Southend winning six of the last ten in front of their own fans; they’re also unbeaten at home since the 12th of September.
The Lions had a period of ruthlessness in the league recently, winning eight of eleven matches, and they were storming up the table. They’ve hit the rudders a little bit in recent weeks though, with three defeats in the last four putting a dent in their promotion push. Two of those were league defeats away at Fleetwood and Burton, while they were dumped out of the FA Cup on Saturday, going down to a late winner at home to Wycombe.
To add weight to the cause, Southend weren’t in action at the weekend as they had already exited the FA Cup at the hands of Scunthorpe in the previous round, so they have had an extended rest and should be fully prepared for this one. For Millwall, it’s a quick turnaround from playing on Saturday afternoon, and fitness could prove an issue towards the dying stages of this game.
Oxford v Yeovil
Meanwhile, there’s no reason not to back Oxford to beat Yeovil, despite a best price of 4/9 1.44 -225 0.44 -2.25 0.44 with Coral
The U’s are riding high at the top of the League Two table, and they’re on a very impressive run of six wins in the last seven matches. Yeovil on the other hand, are rock bottom of the table with just 11 points from 20 games, and they’ve lost six and drawn two of the last eight in the league.
Veteran manager Paul Sturrock left Yeovil earlier this month, despite only taking the reins in April this year. In total the club have gone 12 league games without a win, and Darren Way has been installed as interim manager at Huish park until the board can find a full-time successor. The Cup competitions have proved to be a welcome distraction for the Glovers – they beat Gillingham on penalties in the last round of this competition, and they’ve already beaten Maidstone and Stevenage in the FA Cup. However, Oxford are exceptional at home this season, which hasn’t always been the case, and Yeovil are beginning to look like a club in serious trouble.
Oxford have beaten this opposition on each of the last four occasions that they’ve visited, and another home win looks to be on the cards.
Fleetwood v Morecambe
Fleetwood’s financial troubles have been well-documented since the start of the season, and they were expected to struggle at the foot of the table. That has been the case so far, but a couple of excellent recent wins against Swindon and Millwall have dragged them two points clear of the drop zone. They also beat a good side in Sheffield United in the last round of this competition, going all the way and winning on penalties. That result forms part of a three-match unbeaten run at home, and they will fancy their chances of booking a semi final spot.
It’s hard to have too much confidence in a side that has just six wins in 20 league games though, and Morecambe are unpredictable enough to cause them trouble. The away side have only lost twice in ten on the road, and they won 3-1 here in this competition last season. Morecambe’s last four games have featured 14 goals, while Fleetwood have managed 13 for and against in their last four. With both teams averaging more than three goals per game, the odds on over 2.5 goals look well worth taking.
Southend to beat Millwall
Tuesday 8th December, 19:45
Odds: 7/4 2.75 +175 1.75 1.75 -0.57
Oxford to beat Yeovil
Tuesday 8th December, 19:45
Odds: 4/9 1.44 -225 0.44 -2.25 0.44
Fleetwood v Morecambe – Over 2-5 Goals
Tuesday 8th December, 19:45
Odds: 4/5 1.80 -125 0.80 -1.25 0.80
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