The Football League Championship dishes out a number of tantalising across England's second division this week.
Aside from Newcastle’s shock home defeat at the hands of Blackburn Rovers, there weren’t too many other surprises aside from Ipswich’s 3-0 hammering of QPR.
The standout fixture for this coming weekend has to be the London derby between Fulham and Reading. It might also be worth keeping an eye on (this game is televised locally) Saturday’s late kick-off between Leeds and Aston Villa.
Thursday 1 December
QPR 27/20 | Draw 22/10 | Wolves 2/1
QPR are such a frustrating team to bet on. Their squad is loaded with wildly inconsistent talent, as much was evident this past weekend. Going up against a pretty ordinary Ipswich side, Ian Holloway’s men managed to ship three unanswered goals. Poor goalkeeping, a lack of creativity and some shoddy defending capped off an altogether disappointing afternoon.
Wolves also went down this weekend to a much-improved Sheffield Wednesday. A 15th-minute Fernando Forestieri penalty was followed by a Kieran Lee tap in on the 29-minute mark. The Black Country side are now a single place above the relegation zone and look as though they’ll be battling it out with the likes of Cardiff, Wigan, Blackburn and Burton this season. No wins in six games is never a good sign, back QPR to extend Wolves’ winless run to seven on Thursday evening.
Friday 2 December
Nottingham Forest 15/4 | Draw 11/4 | Newcastle 7/10
Forest were involved in arguably the game of the weekend as they came from behind twice to beat 10-man Barnsley 5-2 at Oakwell. The result signals a return to the madness that was present in Forest’s start of the season where they conceded six and scored eight in their first two matches. Philippe Montanier’s men have now won two in a row but will have their work cut out for them when they welcome a smarting Newcastle side.
Rafa Bentiez’s decision to play a second string side against struggling Blackburn backfired spectacularly as Blackburn Rovers stunned the St. James’ Park faithful by winning 1-0. Charlies Mulgrew’s 75th minute strike put an end to the Magpies’ nine-game winning streak. Newcastle should have too much for Forest. To be safe, take both teams to score. (I really don’t like betting against Forest’s unpredictability.
Saturday 3 December
Norwich 9/10 | Draw 51/20 | Brentford 28/10
Norwich City’s dire run of form continued as they slipped to their fifth consecutive defeat against a fired up Derby County this weekend. The defeat has heaped all sorts of pressure on Alex Neil and his backroom staff as they furiously try to arrest the situation. I feel that a home loss this weekend against Brentford will see Ed Balls swing the axe.
Brentford’s bright start to the season has derailed slightly suffering four consecutive league defeats. In fairness, they were better last time out against a strong Birmingham side. Having gone 2-0 down at Griffin Park, the side rallied and grabbed a 77th minute goal thanks to a simple finish from Scott Hogan. Back Norwich to come good at 9/10 against a struggling Brentford.
Cardiff 39/20 | Draw 43/20 | Brighton 14/10
Right, safe to say it’s time to man the panic station over in Cardiff as the Bluebirds dropped into the relegation zone following a 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa. Neil Warnock couldn’t have said it better when he said he needed a few new players in January to stave off relegation.
Brighton are bang in form and showed it as they came from behind to beat an ever-improving Fulham side at the AmEx last weekend. Despite the fact that the Seagulls were far from their best, they still ground out the result – which may not have happened in the last two seasons. They could definitely earn automatic promotion this season. Brighton should be backed at delicious odds of 14/10 – add to multiples.
Sheffield Wednesday 15/20 | Draw 5/2 | Preston 38/10
The Owls have finally started to show signs that they could be in the mix for a play-off spot come the end of the season. They dispatched a woefully out of form Wolves side 2-0 at the weekend, courtesy of Fernando Forestieri and Kieren Lee. Carlos Carvalhal’s side could breach the play-off places if other results go their way – expect a big performance.
Preston were pretty poor against Burton Albion at the weekend as they slipped to a 1-1 draw at Deepdale. While the result wasn’t the greatest, but they have shown that they can mix it up with some of the stronger sides in the league. Despite this, I still think Wednesday should come good on Saturday. Back them to claim all three points at 15/20.
Burton 8/10 | Draw 26/10 | Rotherham 33/10
Despite their tiny size, Burton Albion have given a really good account of themselves so far this season. As much was evident as they held a strong Preston side to a 1-1 draw over the weekend. Nigel Clough would have identified this weekend’s clash as a chance to gain three valuable points as they look to establish themselves in the league.
Rotherham lost yet again at the weekend as they went down 2-1 against Leeds. The Millers remain rooted to the bottom of the table on just seven points, and will need a pretty spectacular miracle to survive this season. Burton to win here – get on!
Wigan 21/10 | Draw 43/20 | Derby 27/20
*Please note that this preview was written before Wigan played Huddersfield on Monday evening. This section of the preview to be updated once the game is played.
Derby are a team on the up. The Rams endured a torrid start to the season, but a run of four straight wins has seen them climb the table to ninth, just three points away from the promotion places. They continued their great run by condemning Norwich to their fifth consecutive league defeat and are magnificent value to beat second-from-bottom Wigan. Derby all day at 27/20.
Fulham 21/20 | Draw 24/10 | Reading 5/2
I really like this Fulham side. With a bit more consistency they could well push for a play-off place come the end of the season. They were unlucky to go down away at Brighton on the weekend after taking the lead in the 18th minute via the head of Kevin McDonald before the Seagulls scored two unanswered goals in the second half. The Cottagers have a good manager, a solid squad and a belief that they can win promotion. They’ll need to put in a massive performance if they’re to get one over Reading.
The Royals have been in supreme form of late, winning five league games in succession. Their most recent win came against Bristol City. Racing into a 2-0 lead before managing the game superbly well. The shine was taken off a bit as Gary O’Neil pulled one back for the Robins late on. Reading have all the form here. I simply can’t believe that you can get them at 5/2 to win this match. Definitely worth a nibble!
Blackburn 15/10 | Draw 43/20 | Huddersfield 18/10
Rovers pulled off the shock of the season as they beat Newcastle 1-0 at St. James’ Park on Saturday afternoon. The defeat ended a run on nine straight wins for the Magpies and meant that Owen Coyle’s side pick up three valuable points as they look to fight off relegation.
*This preview was written before Huddersfield played Wigan on Monday evening. This section of the preview will be updated once Monday's match has been played.
Birmingham 17/20 | Draw 51/20 | Barnsley 3/1
Birmingham’s fine start to the 2016/17 season continued as they claimed a 2-1 victory over a nuggety Brentford side at Griffin Park. Gary Rowett has this squad purring at the moment and there don’t seem to be too many teams capable of beating them right now.
Barnsley twice went ahead against Nottingham Forest at the weekend but still ended up going down 5-2 at Oakwell. Paul Heckingbottom hasn’t seen his side win in five league matches as they continue to slip down the standings. I think Birmingham have the beating of Barnsley here, take them on the (-1) Handicap at 21/10.
Bristol 1/1 | Draw 23/10 | Ipswich 26/10
This is another game that’s been priced up a bit strangely for me. Bristol have found themselves in a bit of rut, losing their last three league games. In fact, they’ve only managed one win in their last six – the fact that they’re even money surprises me a bit.
Ipswich come into this encounter having claimed an excellent 3-0 win over a strong QPR side. Mick McCarthy will be hoping for more of the same when they go up against Bristol on Saturday. I’ll be taking Ipswich to win this game on the price alone, there’s no way they should be 26/10 against Bristol. Don’t add it to any multiples, but a small stake on it won’t hurt; especially not at 26/10.
Leeds 29/20 | Draw 43/20| Aston Villa 19/10
Leeds have been the surprise package of the season for me. For so many years they’ve experienced mid-table anonymity, they now have the squad and manager to genuinely push for promotion. Souleymane Doukara has been monumental this season while Gary Monk survived massive pressure early in the season.
Villa are also experiencing something of a revival under the tutelage of Steve Bruce. They cruised to a 3-1 win over Cardiff City at Villa Park this weekend and don’t look like letting up anytime soon. Bruce has last year’s flops as well as this season’s new signings playing attractive, flowing football whilst remaining defensively rigid at the back. I hate tipping games like this. Either side could win it, so if you must have a bet, take the draw at 43/20.
Suggested Weekend Treble: 9.43/1
QPR to beat Wolves 27/20
Brighton to beat Cardiff 14/10
Birmingham to beat Barnsley 17/20
Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets.