The final international break of the year has come and gone, which can mean only one thing for fans of England’s second tier: there's plenty of pulsating football action to look forward to over the coming festive season.
The fixture of the weekend sees Brighton welcome Aston Villa to the AmEx on Friday evening. Elsewhere, Derby will look to put Rotherham to the sword while Norwich will look to get back to winning ways when they face QPR at Loftus Road.
Friday 18 November
Brighton 17/20 | Draw 24/10 | Aston Villa 33/10
Birghton have really started to turn up the heat following a disappointing start to the season. The Seagulls are unbeaten in eight games and haven’t conceded in their last four. Chris Hughton has the South Coast outfit purring as was demonstrated last time out against Bristol City. Steve Sidwell opened the scoring with a Xabi Alonso-esque ping from the halfway line, before Jamie Murphy doubled the lead as his deflected shot nestled in the bottom corner. Bristol never threatened from then on as the game was managed expertly by Hughton’s charges.
Villa themselves have turned a bit of a corner of late following the sacking of Roberto di Matteo. Steve Bruce has come in and galvanised a side that was dropping far too many points against teams they should have been beating. Having said that, their undeserved 2-1 victory last time out against lowly Blackburn Rovers left a lot to be desired. Despite Villa’s good start under Bruce, I just don’t see them coming away with anything at the AmEx.
Saturday 19 November
Fulham 14/10 | Draw 22/10 | Sheffield Wednesday 39/20
The Londoners haven’t had the worst start to the season, winning and losing six while drawing four of their 16 matches. They occupy eighth place on the standings and could well be pushing for a promotion place come end of the season. What will be particularly pleasing for Slavisa Jokanovic, will be the nature of Fulham’s last two wins. An utterly dominant 5-0 win over Norwich City was followed up by a fine 2-0 trumping of Brentford at Griffin Park.
It’ll be interesting to see how well the Cottagers do against Sheffield Wednesday this weekend. The Owls have been pretty ordinary of late having lost their last two matches against Derby and Ipswich Town respectively. The pressure is just starting to build on Carlos Carvalhal as his team slip further away from the promotion places. Wednesday have the more technically gifted players but Fulham have all the momentum. This could be a close-fought affair with plenty goals. Get on Both Teams To Score at 15/20.
QPR 49/20 | Draw 47/20 | Norwich 21/20
The big news coming out of West London over the last few days has been the appointment of Ian Holloway as QPR’s new manager. He comes in replacing Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink who was sacked following a run of poor results. The R’s have only managed one win in their last five games and will need Holloway to work his magic if they’re to stand any chance of getting into the play-off places.
It’s all gone a bit pear-shaped for Norwich City over the last couple of weeks. Alex Neill would have been one of the few managers in the league happy with the timing of the international break as it gives him a bit of time to figure out exactly what has gone wrong. No wins in their last five games in all competitions has seen the Canneries slip from the summit of the league down to fifth place. Another loss this weekend could see them fall out of the top six altogether. Neill is a top manager and would have used this international break to properly assess things. Norwich are too good a team to keep losing and are tipped to spoil Ian Holloway’s return to management with an away win.
Cardiff 29/20 | Draw 43/20 | Huddersfield 19/10
The Euphoria of Neil Warnock’s positive start to life in Wales has been overshadowed by two consecutive league losses. The Bluebirds are only kidding themselves if they think they’re too good to be dragged into a relegation battle. They concede far too many and simply don’t score enough, which is part of the reason why they sit just a single point above the relegation zone.
Huddersfield Town – the early-season pacesetters – have just started to come unstuck a bit. They’ve only managed one win in their last five, going down heavily against the likes of Preston and Fulham. Having said that, David Wagner remains a quality coach who has made some incredibly shrewd acquisitions for such a small club; they will bounce back sooner rather than later. Despite the fact that 17 places separate the two teams in the league, this will be a close match. I wouldn’t want to pick a winner here. Take the draw at 43/20 if you must have a bet, but personally, I’d stay away from this one.
Barnsley 33/20 | Draw 22/10 | Wigan 16/10
Barnsley continue to impress in the Championship and sit comfortably in mid-table with a positive goal difference. The Tykes have also managed to halt a bit of a dire run which saw them lose six out seven games between 17 September and 18 October. Two draws and win in their last three have arrested their slide down the table somewhat.
They’ll come up against a Wigan team who will be desperate to consolidate their place in the Championship following their promotion last season. The Latics sit in 22nd place on the standings and will need to improve on their record of two wins in 14 across all competitions. Barnsley should have too much for Wigan and should be backed at pretty generous odds of 33/20.
Derby 4/10 | Draw 33/10 | Rotherham 6/1
Derby County have finally turned a corner following their terrible start to the season. The Rams have only lost once in their last five games, beating the likes of Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday and Wolves in the process. Steve McClaren will be dead keen on for his charges to lay down a big marker against rock-bottom Rotherham this weekend.
The Millers are gone. They have absolutely no chance of surviving the drop based on current form. A solitary win in 16 league games sees Kenny Jackett’s team rock bottom of the table and without hope of beating the drop. They simply don’t have the players nor the budget to compete at this level. Derby should win this comfortably. Take them on the handicap at 11/10.
Preston 14/10 | Draw 43/20 | Wolves 39/20
Preston cruised to a pretty regulation 3-1 victory over cellar-dwellers, Rotherham just prior to the international break. The Lilywhites have actually been in pretty good touch of late, winning eight of their last 15 games, drawing two and losing five. It’s worth mentioning, however, that two of those defeats came against an unstoppable Newcastle United side. They have a good squad led by a good manager in Simon Grayson. They have an outside chance at a play-off place if they continue to perform this well.
Wolves on the other hand, have had a pretty torrid run of late and are without a win in any of their last seven games in all competitions. Paul Lambert is going to need to turn things around or risk being pulled into a relegation dog fight. Back Preston to claim a pretty straight-forward win at 14/10 here.
Blackburn 7/4 | Draw 9/4 | Brentford 31/20
Rovers are in real danger of relegation this season having only taken 13 points from their first 16 league games. They’ve conceded more goals than anyone else this season with the exception of Rotherham and Norwich. They were beaten last time out by Aston Villa, despite going ahead through Sam Gallagher. Losing games from winning positions is never a good sign and Owen Coyle will know this. Relegation looks a real possibility for the former Premier League Champions.
They will have a chance to turn things around against an out of sorts Brentford side. The Bees have been in freefall following a solid start to the season and have only won once in their last six games in all competitions. That said, they do have one of the form strikers in the league in Scott Hogan who will look to cause the problems in a shaky Blackburn defence. This one looks too close to call, and with the draw offering magnificent value at 9/4, I’d say get on!
Birmingham 14/10 | Draw 22/10 | Bristol City 19/10
The Blues are just one point off the play-off positions after 16 games. Truth be told, though, they have become the division’s draw specialists with seven of their games ending up in stalemates. Gary Rowett is all too aware of this and demand more from his talented squad going forward.
Bristol City are another unfancied club whose excellent start to the season has been derailed by recent poor form. Their only win in their last six matches came in a 1-0 defeat of lowly Blackburn Rovers back in October. Lee Johnson will be hoping that on load centre-forward, Tammy Abraham will galvanise a team that’s been lacking a bit of late. The 19-year-old has managed nine goals this season which has attracted plenty of attention from Premier League clubs after he admitted that he may have to leave Chelsea to reach the top level. Birmingham are the better side here. If they can keep a lid on the attacking threat that Abraham poses, they claim the three points.
Reading 9/10 | Draw 49/20 | Burton Albion 29/10
Reading have enjoyed a lively start to 2016/17 campaign under Jaap Stam. The Royals have won their last three league matches without conceding and will have a sneaky eye on an automatic promotion place. They steam-rolled a hapless Wigan side last time out with Garath McCleary (2) and Yan Kermorgant scoring the goals.
Reading really shouldn’t have too many problems in dealing with the very limited threat that Burton Albion pose this weekend. The Brewers have been good so far this season when you consider how small of a club they are. A stadium that seats fewer than 7000 and a budget akin to that of a League Two side hasn’t stopped Nigel Clough’s men springing the odd surprise here and there. To be in lower-mid table after 16 games is an excellent achievement – to stay up would be immense. Reading are far too good to slip up against Albion – they are very difficult to ignore at 9/10. Add to all weekend multiples.
Ipswich Town 11/10 | Draw 9/4 | Nottingham Forest 51/20
We round off Saturday’s action with an interesting tie between Ipswich and Nottingham Forest. Mick McCarthy’s men head into this fixture having claimed an excellent 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough last time out. They’ll return to Portman Road following the international break where they’ve only lost once this season.
Nottingham Forest have yet to win on their travels this season and as a result, find themselves hovering dangerously close to the drop zone. Philippe Montanier is under massive pressure having lost four and drawn one of their last five games. Ipswich look good value to win here and are tipped to do just that at 11/10.
Sunday 20 November
Leeds 31/10 | Draw 49/20 | Newcastle 17/20
Leeds seem to have finally come good under Gary Monk, winning their last five games on the trot in all competitions. So good has their form been that the Yorkshire club has managed to breach to top six, and it looks as though they could be there to stay. Chris Wood has led the line brilliantly this season netting eight times in 16 games.
Monk’s men face their sternest test of the season this weekend as they welcome Newcastle United to Elland Road. Rafa Benitez and his men sit clear at the top of the standings having scored 34 goals while only conceding 13. They’ve lost just once in their last 15 games and have won all of their last eight matches. As good as Leeds have been, they simply don’t match up to this Newcastle side. Back the Toon to claim all three points here at 17/20.
Suggested Weekend Treble: 55/10
Brighton win vs Aston Villa 17/20
Reading win vs Burton 9/10
Newcastle win vs Leeds 17/20
Our last match-day treble came in at 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.