England's second tier comes to life again this weekend with a full set of Football League Championship fixtures.
Last weekend’s results prove just how unpredictable the Football League Championship can be. Nobody would have seen Fulham or Brighton smashing five past Norwich and Huddersfield respectively while lowly Rotherham shocked Ipswich by grabbing a draw at Portman Road.
The pick of this week’s action sees Newcastle welcome Cardiff City to St. James’ Park while Norwich will want to bounce back following last week’s mauling with a win against Leeds.
Friday 4 November
Brentford 13/10 | Draw 47/20 | Fulham 2/1
Brentford continue to punch above their weight in the Championship. As much was evident as they cruised past QPR at Loftus Road winning 2-0. The victory was the Bees’ first win away to their West London rivals in 52 years. The three points gained put a halt to a dip in form which saw Dean Smith’s men fail to record a win in any of their five previous games.
Fulham will be supremely confident as they make the short trip to Griffin Park following their 5-0 drubbing of Huddersfield Town. The win was Fulham’s first at home in five games with Chris Martin, Tomas Kalas, Lucas Piazon and Kevin McDonald got the goals as David Wagner’s side made the trip back north with their promotion credentials having taken a bit of a battering. Both teams come into this off the back of superb victories. That said, neither Brentford’s nor Fulham’s form prior to last week’s matches look particularly good. Play it safe and take both teams to score: yes at 6/10.
Saturday 5 November
Wolves 31/20 | Draw 21/10 | Derby County 37/20
Following a solid start to the season Wolves have just started to lose their way a little bit. So poor has their recent form been in fact that Walter Zenga was removed from his post as manager in the middle of last week. Rob Edwards stepped into the position in a temporary capacity and watched his side salvage a late draw at Blackburn Rovers who themselves are struggling this season. Wolves are now without a win in seven league games as they slip dangerously close to the relegation zone.
The last thing they need now is a visit from Derby County who have just started to show signs of life under new manager, Steve McClaren. The Rams put an end to Sheffield Wednesday’s three game unbeaten streak, downing the Owls 2-0 at the iPro Stadium thanks to goals from Cyrus Christie and Alex Pearce. All this despite seeing less of the ball and creating fewer chances than Wednesday. Wolves haven’t been good of late as they continue to slide down the table. Back Derby to claim the points here at 37/20.
Wigan 15/10 | Draw 43/20 | Reading 37/20
No manager? No problem! Wigan put in a memorable display in Wales last time out as they ended Neil Warnock’s unbeaten start to life at Cardiff City. Former Swansea City man, Jordi Gomez gave the Latics all three points with a late strike following a Cardiff performance that ticked all of the boxes except for the one that matters most: goals scored. That said, Wigan will no doubt take confidence from the victory that put an end to their four-game winless streak.
Reading were full value their 2-0 win against Nottingham Forest at the weekend. In keeping a clean sheet, the Royals became the first team in the league to deny Forest a goal this season. More importantly for Jaap Stam, his Reading side have now consolidated their place in the top six and look like they could be in the mix come the end of the season. The Royals are proving to be one of the most diligent and organised teams in the league this season. They should cruise past Wigan at the DW Stadium this weekend. Get on at 37/20.
Nottingham Forest 27/20 | Draw 23/10 | QPR 19/10
Following their defeat at the hands of Reading last week, Nottingham Forest are now dangerously close to the drop zone, with only Cardiff City and a single point separating them from the drop zone. Philippe Montanier is now under massive pressure after losing all three of his last league matches in charge. Failure to claim victory against QPR could well see the Forest bigwigs swing the axe.
While Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s side are well clear of relegation, they’re still battling with wild inconsistency that sees them permanently suspended in mid-table. They got the players as well as the financial clout but they just can’t seem to string together a decent run. The Rs were comfortably beaten at home by London neighbours Brentford last week, much to the disgust of the Loftus Road faithful. Even though Forest are in freefall at the moment, they still have a quality squad with an excellent manager at the helm. I’d take QPR on the double chance at 11/20.
Norwich 7/10 | Draw 26/10 | Leeds 7/2
Alex Neil would have been furious with his side following their 5-0 hammering away to Brighton and Hove Albion last weekend. Glen Murray grabbed a hat-trick while Lewis Dunk and Anthony Knockaert also scored as the Seagulls laid down a massive marker against their more fancied opposition. Oddly enough, Norwich enjoyed more possession in the match, more passes in the final third while enjoying eight shots to Brighton’s 11. They collapsed spectacularly in the final 30 minutes, conceding four times. The Canaries will have a chance to put things right this weekend as they return to the comfort of Carrow Road for the visit of Leeds United.
Gary Monk has returned from the brink with Leeds United as the fallen Yorkshire giants continue to impress under their Walsh manager. The Whites left it late against Burton Albion at Elland Road with Chris Wood converting from the spot in the 83rd minute before Souleymane Doukara netted deep into injury time in the second half. Leeds have now won five of their last nine matches and will fancy their chances against Norwich this weekend. Norwich will be looking to bounce back after their hammering at Brighton but may struggle to do so against a confident Leeds side. Take both teams to score here at 8/10.
Aston Villa 13/20 | Draw 26/10 | Blackburn 17/4
Steve Bruce was denied all three points on his return to St. Andrews after Gary Gardener’s 29th minute header was cancelled out by David Davis’ low shot in the 71st minute. In hindsight, it wasn’t the worst point in the world for Villa who continue to flourish under Bruce. They’ll next welcome a struggling Blackburn Rovers to Villa Park on Saturday where Bruce and his players will know that anything less than three points will be considered failure.
Blackburn’s struggles this season continued last weekend as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Wolverhampton Wanderers. Rovers opened the scoring through Sam Gallagher who drilled a beautifully struck volley past Carl Ikeme. Dave Edwards’ header late on in the piece ensured that Rovers remain in the relegation places amid more protests from fans for Venky’s to sell the club. Back Villa here to take advantage of Rovers' on and off-field problems at 13/20.
Rotherham 19/10 | Draw 23/10 | Preston 27/20
The Miller’s amazing escape at the end of last season must seem like a distant memory now for the Midlands club. Rooted to the foot of the table and without a win in 12 games, Rotherham and their beleaguered fans were denied victory at Ipswich town thanks to a 95th minute David McGoldrick strike. The draw means that Rotherham are now eight points from safety with star striker, Danny Ward – who netted twice in clash with Ipswich – likely to jump ship in the January window. League One football seems inevitable Kenny Jackett and his players.
Preston never really had a chance as they welcomed an unstoppable Newcastle side to Deepdale last week. Aleksandar Mitrovic scored twice for the Magpies before Jermaine Beckford pulled one back for the Lilywhites in the 90th minute. Preston should prove far too strong for Rotherham and should be backed at 27/20.
Sheffield Wednesday 7/10 | Draw 24/10 | Ipswich Town 17/4
Wednesday will count themselves unlucky to have been beaten last week by Derby County after dominating large periods of the game. Oddly enough, Derby County have now extended their unbeaten run against Wednesday in all competitions to 17 games. Carlos Carvalhal will have climbed into his charges and will demand a better performance against an average-looking Ipswich Town this Saturday.
Ipswich come into this game as massive underdogs. They’ve only managed one win in their last six matches and needed a 95th minute equaliser against lowly Rotherham to salvage a point last weekend. The Tractor boys have their work cut out for them against a Wednesday side who will be keen to put things right following last week’s dire showing. Back Wednesday confidently at 7/10.
Huddersfield 23/20 | Draw 22/10 | Birmingham 49/20
Huddersfield Town have just started to wobble a bit now following their barn-storming start to the season. They were given a footballing lesson by Fulham last time out, losing 5-0 in front of a rapturous Craven Cottage. While it’s not quite panic stations yet for Thomas Wagner and his side, they will need to start winning more consistently if they want to remain in the top six and push for a play-off spot.
Birmingham put in a stellar performance at the weekend coming from a goal down to claim a valuable 1-1 draw against their Second City rivals at the weekend. The Blues are now level on points with Bristol City who occupy the final play-off place. A big effort from the Blues on Saturday coupled with some results going their way could see them breach the top six. I can’t separate these teams, to be perfectly honest. That said, neither of these teams score nor concede many goals. I’ll stick my neck out here and back both teams to score: no at 17/20.
Burton 23/20 | Draw 24/10 | Barnsley 22/10
Burton haven’t had a terrible start to the season. That being said, the three teams that occupy the places between themselves and relegation places will climb above them sooner rather than later. This means that Burton are going to need to start winning more games if they’re to survive this season.
They have the perfect opportunity to grab another valuable three points this weekend as they welcome Barnsley to the Pirelli Stadium. The Tykes doggedly scrapped to a 2-2 draw against promotion-chasing Bristol City thanks to a 91st Adam Hammill equaliser. This is one of those games that I’d generally stay away from – it could really go either way. The draw seems the most likely result for me.
Newcastle 4/10 | Draw 34/10 | Cardiff 6/1
Newcastle – after a few early season jitters – are now firmly in control of the league, three points clear at the top of the table. The Magpies have won all six of their last league games and have turned St. James’ Park into something of a fortress. Dwight Gayle is banging in goals for fun, finding the net 11 times in 15 matches as he looks to fire his side back into the Premier League.
Cardiff are going to need to put in a massive performance if they’re to take anything away from this game. I don’t think Neil Warnock can hold a candle to Rafa Benitez in terms of tactics while the Bluebirds’ playing staff are vastly inferior to those of Newcastle’s. This one is simple enough, back Newcastle at 4/10 and add to any weekend multiples.
Bristol 17/10 | Draw 22/10 | Brighton 31/20
Bristol City are perhaps somewhat surprisingly still in the top six after 15 games of the season. This is largely down to their home form which has seen them win five, draw one and lose one of their seven matches played at Ashton Gate. Whether or not they’ll be able to maintain that record come this weekend is a different story altogether as they prepare to welcome a Brighton side fresh off giving Norwich a 5-0 thumping.
Brighton laid down a massive marker this past weekend as they smashed five unanswered goals past Alex Neil’s Norwich City. They’ve consolidated their hold on second place and are just three points behind league leaders, Newcastle. On current form – four wins and two draws from their last six – they should have very few problems dispatching Bristol. While I think Brighton have the beating of Bristol, you simply can’t ignore the Robins’ home form. Play it safe and take both teams to score: yes at 8/10.
Suggested Weekend Treble: 10.37/1
Derby Win vs Wolves: 37/20
Reading Win vs Wigan: 37/20
Newcastle Win vs Cardiff: 4/10
Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets.