The international break has come and gone, and that can mean only one thing: club football makes a welcome return!
Week six of England’s second tier competition will be dominated by Sunday’s fixture between Derby County and Newcastle United. Elsewhere, Aston Villa welcome Nottingham Forest to Villa Park while QPR will be keen to take maximum points off of a floundering Blackburn Rovers side.
Friday 9 September
Reading 23/20 | Draw 22/10 | Ipswich 24/10
We open week six up with an interesting if not remarkable clash between Reading and Ipswich. Both sides are pretty comfortable in the division – neither will be relegated, and barring some miracle, neither will go up. Reading come into this match having claimed a pretty impressive 1-0 win away to Cardiff. The goal was scored Yann Kermorgant after some smart work down the flank by Jordan Obita. This was the Royals’ first league win away from home since April this year, and Jaap Stam will be keen to see his team kick on from here.
Ipswich Town won’t be pushovers themselves, they claimed a solid 1-0 over Preston North End prior to the international break thanks to a cracking strike from Grant Ward. Homeground advantage could be telling here as Ipswich haven’t managed a win away from home in their six matches. Historically, Reading are the better side in the fixture, take the Royals to open the scoring at 8/10.
Saturday 10 September
QPR 7/10 | Draw 51/20 | Blackburn 4/1
QPR have made a bright start to the 2016/17 campaign having won three of their five opening matches. They occupy fifth place on the table and will be dead keen on adding to their nine points when they host cellar dwellers, Blackburn Rovers. Interestingly enough, Rangers haven’t beaten Blackburn since 99/00 season although they did run out 2-0 victors against Cardiff in their last match before the international break.
Blackburn have been rubbish this season. They currently sit bottom of the pile on a single point after five games. They neither have the quality nor the fight to trouble this QPR side, especially at Loftus Park. Take QPR on the -1 handicap at 37/20.
Preston 23/20 | Draw 9/4 | Barnsley 47/20
Like Blackburn, Preston are another big side who have failed to get going in the 2016/17 season. A solitary win from their opening five games sees them occupy 23rd place on the standings after five games. They’ll look to turn things around this weekend when they take on newly-promoted Barnsley at Deepdale.
Barnsley have made a cracking start to the 2016/17 season. Three wins from their first five games have left the Tykes’ passionate fan base on cloud nine. Having lost narrowly to the likes of Huddersfield Town and Ipswich this season, they’ve delivered crushing blows to the likes of Derby County, QPR and Rotherham. They’ve shared the goals quite nicely, with Alfie Mawson, Marley Watkins and Conor Hourihane all scoring twice this season. Barnsley look the better side and should be backed at 47/20.
Fulham 1/1 | Draw 49/20 | Birmingham 26/10
Fulham are one of two undefeated sides left in the league following their 1-0 over Blackburn Rovers before the international break. Despite having lost their best players over the summer, they’ve purchased cleverly, alleviating some of the concern that was evident at the start of the season. As much is natural when over 20 players arrive at the club and a further 26 are shipped out on permanent transfers or loans. Adding the likes of Ragnar Sigurdsson, Neeskens Kebano and Jozzabed Sanchez could make the difference this season – definite promotion contenders.
Birmingham City are a wholly uninspiring side at the moment. Much like reading and Ipswich, they have neither the quality to make it out of the league nor the inefficiencies to go down. They’re a side that will squeak past the relegation candidates and go down relatively easily to the big promotion-pushing sides. That said, their 3-0 win away at Norwich last time out was quite something, even if it was a bit of an anomaly. With this in mind, take Fulham to win at even money.
Norwich 11/20 | Draw 3/1 | Cardiff 47/10
Norwich City would have been hoping for a better start to the season, with two draw against Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich as well as a 3-0 humbling at the hands of Birmingham City have seen them hovering in mid-table with the likes of Burton Albion and Brentford. They made some pretty shrewd acquisitions in the summer including Sergi Canon from Liverpool and Alex Pritchard from Spurs for a combined total of 12 million Euros.
Cardiff were the club who many thought would have surprised the division by sneaking into the play-offs. They never set the world alight in the window bringing in guys like Ben Amos from Bolton and Rickie Lambert from West Brom – both are proven Championship players but are unlikely to set the division on fire. The Welsh side have only claimed one win in their last six games, and that came courtesy of a Shane Duffy masterclass – the defender scoring two own goals and getting himself sent off. Norwich should win easily here – get on at 11/20.
Wolves 8/10 | Draw 24/10 | Burton Albion 36/10
Walter Zenga will be relatively happy with the way his Wolverhampton side have started their 2016/17 campaign. They’ve managed eight points in their first five games and looks as though they could be one of several teams competing for a play-off spot come the end of the season. They were beaten last time out against the current league leaders, Huddersfield Town thanks to a strike from their former employee, Rajiv van La Parra.
Burton Albion – having gained surprise promotion from the Championship – have made a storming start to the season all things considered. The tiny Staffordshire club have already claimed some big scalps including those of Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday. They were knocked out of the EFL Cup by Liverpool in the second round so will now be able to focus all of their attention on the league. Wolves are a good side but you just can’t ignore the threat that Burton pose to the bigger, more established sides. They play without fear and could well pip Wolves at the Molineux this Saturday. 19/20 on the double chance is great value – climb in!
Leeds 33/20 | Draw 22/10 | Huddersfield 33/20
Leeds are another side who were unable to keep hold of their most prized asset in the summer with Lewis Cook departing to Bournemouth for 7 million euros. The 19-year-old was the driving force behind the team last season and they’ve not managed to bring in anyone to plug the massive gap he's left behind. Liam Bridcutt joined in the summer from Sunderland, but doesn’t provide the same sort of drive and go forward that Gary Monk’s men lack this season. A league position of 21st after five games puts massive pressure on everyone at the club – they really don’t need a game against high-flying Huddersfield Town right now.
Huddersfield – the little club that could! I absolutely love this club – so much so that I named my Fantasy Premier League side after them! They operate well within their means and have made shrewd acquisitions in the market over the last few years – very much like Leicester City have done over the last few years. They rightly find themselves at the summit of the Championship with their fans – myself included – hoping that they can gain promotion to the big time. David Wagner, their German/American manager has been brilliant in the market luring some solid Bundesliga talent to Yorkshire. Two Yorkshire clubs heading in very different directions – Huddersfield should win this and are amazing value at 33/20.
Sheffield Wednesday 17/20 | Draw 24/10 | Wigan Athletic 33/10
Prior to this season kicking off, Sheffield Wednesday were my favourites to gain automatic promotion along with Newcastle United. However, five games into the new season and the Owls are languishing in 19th position having taken just five points from their first five games. Worryingly, they kept hold of all of their best players and added some real quality to their ranks, it seems they haven’t really recovered from the crippling disappointment of last years failed promotion bid. They need to pull finger ASAP though, or they will risk slipping into mid-table obscurity.
Their opposition for Saturday, Wigan Athletic, sit just one point and one position behind them. They were widely expected to be involved in a bit of a scrap this season having just come up from League One and not adding much quality to their squad. Euro 2016 sensation, Will Grigg, has started the season brightly though bagging three goals and an assist so far. That said, Grigg alone won’t be able to carry this team on his own. Wednesday are tipped to get back to winning ways here at 17/20.
Rotherham 22/10 | Draw 47/20 | Bristol City 12/10
Rotherham are right down where everyone expected them to be before the season started – firmly seated in the relegation places. Four points from their opening five league games is not the start you’re looking for – especially when you operate on a shoestring budget and one of the thinner squads in the division.
Bristol, on the other hand, have made a pretty solid start to their 2016/17 campaign. They made great use of the 13 million euros generated by the sale of Jonathan Kodija and brought in the likes of Lee Tomlin from Bournemouth and Hordur Magnusson from Juventus. Having already faced the big boys in Aston Villa, Newcastle and Norwich; they’ll be looking to claim maximum points form their next few matches to consolidate their position near the top of the standings. I hate betting against Rotherham, especially when they’re at home. However, there’s a real buzz in around Bristol at the moment and at 12/10 should be added to all of your weekend multiples.
Brighton 11/20 | Draw 29/10 | Brentford 47/10
Brighton are another big side who have flattered to deceive this term. Despite having kept hold of all of their biggest players and adding the experience of Steve Sidwell and Shane Duffy, they started the 2016/17 campaign quite slowly. However, they’ve managed to claim four wins and a draw from their last six matches in all competitions as the South Coast juggernauts begin to build up a head of steam.
Brentford will be the side in the firing line on Saturday. Despite all of the drama off the pitch, they’ve given a good account of themselves at the start of this season. Seven points from five games is no disgrace, especially when every pundit and his dog are tipping you for relegation during pre-season. They’ve strengthened where they can in the summer and will likely look to hit teams on the counter-attack this season, especially away from home. Brighton have started to get going and should breeze past the Bees despite their solid start to the season. Back the hosts at 11/20 – another one to add to all weekend multiples.
Derby 16/10 | Draw 43/20 | Newcastle 17/10
No matter how much money they spend on quality players every season, Derby County just can’t seem to get it right in the Championship. 18th position in the league following a 14 million pound spend in the summer by arguably one of the best managers in the league, simply isn’t good enough. Losing against the likes of Barnsley and Burton Albion so early in the season will have fans of the Rams desperately concerned, and for good reason.
Following a rubbish start to life in the Championship, Newcastle have found their feet and are grinding out wins for fun at the minute. Rafa Benitez has managed to sell off the likes of Moussa Sissoko and Gini Wijnaldum to bring in Dwight Gayle, Matt Ritchie and Grant Hanley – players who want to be at the club and genuinely want to see it established in the Premier League again. The giants of the north have won their last four games in all competitions, conceding just once in the process. Take Newcastle on the double chance here 9/20.
Sunday 11 September
Aston Villa 15/20 | Draw 5/2 | Nottingham Forest 7/2
Villa have made a pretty dire start in the Championship after their atrocious Premier League season last year. One win in their last six matches in all competitions seems to suggest that all is not well at Villa Park despite spending huge money in the offseason. Roberto di Matteo is running out of time, and he desperately needs his new big signings to gel or he faces a rather ignominious sacking.
Forest have been solid enough this season. Three wins from their opening five games sees them occupy seventh place on the standings. They’ve been involved in two cracking 4-3 wins early on the season and haven’t managed to keep a clean sheet in their last six games in all competition. With that in mind, I like the look of both teams to score at 9/10.
Weekend Quad: QPR WIN, Huddersfield WIN, Newcastle DOUBLE CHANCE and Aston Villa + Nottingham Forest BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE at 11.41/1.
Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets.