Preview: Blackpool vs. Oxford United – prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday’s League One clash between Blackpool and Oxford United, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Two sides fighting around the playoff places in the League One table will do battle on Saturday, as Blackpool welcome Oxford United to Bloomfield Road.

Both aiming to end tough runs of form, the two sides currently sit eighth and seventh respectively with the visitors just one point outside the top six and their hosts another five points back.

Match preview

© Reuters

Blackpool head into the weekend aiming to bounce back to winning ways in their pursuit of a League One playoff place this term, having seen their momentum slowed in recent weeks after enjoying a pleasing run.

After seeing 2023 end in a pair of defeats, Neil Critchley‘s side bounced back in impressive fashion in January, scoring three straight victories to strengthen their top-six claim and move onto 45 points from 28 league games, firstly seeing off Lincoln United and Exeter City in 2-0 triumphs at Bloomfield Road.

The Tangerines then visited Bristol Rovers and saw out a 2-1 win thanks to goals from CJ Hamilton and Karamoko Dembele, before hosting Charlton Athletic and seeing their momentum slowed slightly in a 1-1 draw, as Dembele’s opened was cancelled out by a Marvin Ekpiteta own goal.

Seeking to quickly bounce back from that result, following an EFL Trophy penalty shootout triumph over Bolton Wanderers, Critchley’s men most recently travelled to take on fellow playoff-chasers Stevenage at Broadhall Way last Saturday, but they would leave empty-handed following a 1-0 defeat, as Jake Forster-Caskey hit the only goal five minutes from time.

With that result seeing them drop six points behind sixth-placed Stevenage, who also boast a game in hand, Blackpool will be keen to quickly bounce back against another top-six-chasing outfit at the weekend and regain ground in the playoff race on Saturday.

Blackpool manager Neil Critchley before the match on August 29, 2023© Reuters

Their visitors, meanwhile, also have their sights set on Stevenage and a swift return to the top six, having dropped out in the midst of a disappointing run in recent weeks.

A pair of away victories over Charlton Athletic and Carlisle United at the beginning of January saw Oxford United move into a strong position with 49 points on the board from 26 League One matches, but they have failed to build on those triumphs since.

Indeed, Des Buckingham‘s side have added just two more points to their tally in the last four attempts, coming in-back-to-back draws heading into the weekend after suffering a 1-0 defeat at home to Barnsley and a 3-1 beating away at Bristol Rovers.

The U’s then shared the points in a 2-2 draw with league leaders Portsmouth, thanks to James Henry‘s 90th-minute leveller, before most recently hosting rivals Reading last weekend and being pegged back by a Ciaron Brown own goal 14 minutes from time, having previously led 1-0 through Mark Harris.

Now sitting just outside the playoff spots amidst a four-match winless streak, albeit now on the back of a pair of draws in tricky encounters, Oxford United will now bid to return to winning ways at the weekend in another difficult test at Bloomfield Road.

Blackpool League One form:

Blackpool form (all competitions):

Oxford United League One form:

Oxford United form (all competitions):

Team News

Blackpool's Jordan Gabriel celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates on January 7, 2024© Reuters

Blackpool may head into the weekend without key man Jordan Rhodes, who leads their scoring charts with 15 League One goals so far this term, after he missed the Stevenage meeting through injury, and if he is not deemed fit to return on Saturday, with Jake Beesley also out of action, Kylian Kouassi and Shayne Lavery will fight to lead the attack.

The preferred striker will be joined by CJ Hamilton and Kyle Joseph, while George Byers, who arrived on loan from Sheffield Wednesday at the end of the January transfer window, will hope to earn a debut in midfield in place of either Ollie Norburn or Albie Morgan.

Behind them in their 3-4-3 shape, Marvin Ekpiteta will continue to play a key role at the heart of a back three, with Matthew Pennington and mainstay James Husband bound to join him again.

Oxford United may travel to Bloomfield Road with an unchanged starting XI from their draw with Reading last time out, although goalkeeper Jamie Cumming has returned to fitness and will fight to regain his spot between the sticks from Simon Eastwood.

In a 4-4-2 shape, Elliott Moore and Ciaron Brown will continue in the middle of the defence, while Marcus McGuane will hope to again join key man Cameron Brannagan in the engine room despite competition from Josh McEachran and January arrival Jay Matete.

At the top end of the pitch, Mark Harris will continue to lead the line, having netted six goals in his last eight appearances to take his tally to 12 for the season, with Ruben Rodrigues again set to join him while Tyler Burey and Tyler Goodrham will offer further threat from the wings.

Blackpool possible starting lineup:
Grimshaw; Pennington, Ekpiteta, Husband; Lawrence-Gabriel, Norburn, Morgan, Coulson; Hamilton, Lavery, Joseph

Oxford United possible starting lineup:
Cumming; Negru, Moore, Brown, Leigh; Burey, McGuane, Brannagan, Goodrham; Rodrigues, Harris

SM words green background

We say: Blackpool 1-1 Oxford United

With stakes growing in the battle for playoff places in League One and two sides full of quality squaring off, we anticipate a tight encounter at the weekend and cannot quite pick a winner, instead opting for a share of the points.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

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