Our Football League Championship writer is back at it with another full preview of this weekend's action.
It’s been an interesting few weeks in the Football League Championship. Brighton now lead the way from Newcastle by two points with a game in hand. There hasn’t really been any change at the bottom of the table with Rotherham and Wigan still in deep trouble while Blackburn are still within touching distance of safety in 22nd place.
The fixture of the round 26 will see Sheffield Wednesday go toe-to-toe with Huddersfield Town on Saturday. Elsewhere, Leeds host Derby in another play-off place battle while struggling Rotherham welcome Norwich City to the New York Stadium.
Thursday 12 December
Reading 8/10 | Draw 25/10 | QPR 33/10
Reading are flying high at the moment, just six points off of the automatic promotion places. They’ve won their last three league games on the spin and look streets ahead of their Thursday opposition, QPR. The Royals showed their promotion credentials last week by coming from two goals down to beat a spirited Bristol City side 3-2 at Ashton Gate.
QPR have recovered somewhat from a massive dip in form that saw them slide down the table to within touching distance of the drop zone. They’ve won each of their last two games 2-1 against Wolves and Ipswich Town respectively. Reading may prove to be a bridge too far, though. With the amount of quality in the Reading squad, I simply don’t see QPR really getting a look in. Back the home team at 8/10.
Friday 13 December
Leeds 31/20 | Draw 2/1 | Derby County 18/10
Could this finally be the season that Leeds make it back into the Premier League? That may well be the case as the Yorkshire club continue to grind out wins against the smaller teams while managing to at least grab a point from their fixtures with the big boys. As much was evident last time out against Rotherham as Chris Woods double and a cracking header from Kyle Bartley saw Gary Monk’s men claim a 3-0 victory. Woods will likely be the key man here for Leeds – his 13 league goals this season have been the driving force behind the side as they look to end their 13-year absence from England’s top flight.
Derby missed a golden opportunity to move into the play-off places as they went down 3-0 to Norwich last Monday. The Rams have just gone off the boil a bit after rocketing up the league in the weeks prior to the Christmas period. A loss of momentum now could prove to be their undoing, although a 2-1 FA Cup win against West Brom will do their confidence a world of good. Leeds are flying high at the minute while Derby come into this match having downed Premier League opposition in the Cup. It’s a tough one to call, but Leeds edge it for me. The home win at 31/20 is the way to go.
Saturday 14 December
Bristol City 12/10 | Draw 9/4 | Cardiff City 43/20
Bristol have been on a dreadful run of form which has seen them lose their last six league games. The run continued as they threw away a two-goal lead against Reading last Monday to go down 3-2. I shudder to think where this team would be without Chelsea loanee, Tabby Abraham. The England U21 centre-forward has banged in 14 goals this season as well as providing two assists. The Robins could be in Rotherham-esque danger if they don’t find someone to replace him come the end of the season.
Cardiff City have put the brakes on their fall down the Championship table of late by grinding out a couple of draws and wins. The Bluebirds will fancy their chances against a wounded Bristol City this weekend. Neil Warnock will be desperate for the win that will put his side out of harm’s reach, something that should be achievable if his leaky defence can keep the Abrahams at bay. Get on the Cardiff Win/Draw Double Chance here at 6/10.
Preston 5/2 | Draw 9/4 | Brighton 21/20
It’s been more of the same from Preston this season. They’ve never been in any real danger of sliding down into the relegation places while they simply don’t have the resources or personnel to threaten the top six. They’ll do well to get anything from the log leaders this weekend.
The Seagulls are positively flying at the minute. They sit atop the standings at the moment after not suffering defeat in each of their last 18 matches in all competitions. They should have very little trouble getting one over Preston this weekend. Massive value on Brighton at 21/20 here – definitely add to all of your weekend multiples.
Sheffield Wednesday 5/4 | Draw 2/1 | Huddersfield 23/10
This promises to be a cracking clash. Sheffield Wednesday could potentially climb into fifth place if they can grab a win against Huddersfield. The Owls come into this match off the back of two successive league draws against Preston and Wolves. Carlos Carvalhal will know full well that his side should have won both of those games. They simply can’t afford to slip up again this weekend.
Huddersfield have found their footing again after falling out of the promotion places before Christmas. The Tykes have not tasted defeat since November, when they went down 2-1 against Wigan Athletic. They’ve won five of their last six matches in all competition and look good value here against Wednesday. While I’m leaning toward a Town victory, play it safe and take Both Teams To Score: yes at 21/20.
Brentford 28/10 | Draw 5/2 | Newcastle 9/10
Bretford have been magnificent this season. They sit comfortably in mid-table and don’t look in any real danger of being relegated. Fans will be holding thumbs throughout the January transfer window though, with plenty of interest being shown in Scott Hogan. The centre-forward is currently being chased by West Ham with a £15 million price tag slapped on his head. He’ll need to be at his best this weekend against one of the toughest defences in the league.
Rafa Benitez will be all too mindful of how disastrous finishing outside of the top two will be to Newcastle. They simply can’t afford to keep losing against teams like Blackburn Rovers. The Toon will do well to bounce back this weekend against the Bees. I’m backing Newcastle to do just that – the away win is tipped at generous odds of 9/10.
Ipswich 11/10 | Draw 43/20 | Blackburn 51/20
Ipswich Town’s form has been a bit up and down of late. Two wins, three draws and a loss in their last six matches tells a story about a team that has ability, but lacks the consistency to mix it up at the top of the table. They’ve got a golden opportunity to grab three points against Owen Coyle’s relegation-threatened Blackburn.
For all of Blackburn’s short-comings this season, at least they can claim they’ve done the double over Newcastle United. The double will provide a crumb of consolation if they are to go down this season, something that is looking increasingly likely. They did manage to claim a place in the fourth round of the FA Cup by beating QPR 2-1. Rovers are in decent nick at the moment and are undefeated in three in all competitions. Back Blackburn on the Double Chance at 13/20.
Burton Albion 12/10 | Draw 21/10 | Wigan Athletic 9/4
Burton Albion are now in deep trouble at the wrong end of the table. The only reason the Brewers are not currently in the bottom three is because of their excellent start to the season. However, now that the momentum is gone, Nigel Clough and his threadbare squad are going to find it increasingly difficult to get back up the table.
Wigan will view this match as an absolute must-win. Three points will keep them just about in touch of 21st place. They won’t have it easy though with Burton also fighting for their lives. The Latics haven’t won a league match in seven attempts as their situation grows ever dire. These sort of matches often produce goals. Go Over 2.5 Goals at 12/10.
Rotherham 34/10 | Draw 11/4 | Norwich City 7/10
Where to next for Rotherham? Knocked out of the FA Cup by League One Oxford and still bottom of the Championship – there doesn’t seem to be much hope for the struggling Millers. That said, they’ve picked up two valuable wins against QPR and Wigan in recent weeks. Getting a result against Norwich is a completely different story, though.
The Canneries have been in absolute freefall of late. They’ve slipped from second place right down to ninth in around two months. There is now massive pressure on Alex Neil to at least guide his side back into the top six. The away win looks likely here and 7/10 is an absolute gift. Get on!
Fulham 13/20 | Draw 29/10 | Barnsley 7/2
Fulham have been in decent form of late which has seen them climb to within six points of the play-off places. While they most certainly have the quality to gain promotion, they lack consistency at the moment. As much was evident in December when a 5-0 win over high-flying Reading was followed up by a 4-4 draw against Wolves.
Barnsley have been one of the surprise packages of the 2016/17 campaign. The Tykes currently occupy eighth place on the standings, just four points off sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday. A brilliant December for South Yorkshire club was rounded off as Sam Winnall won the Player of the Month following his six goals in as many appearances. Two teams in good touch here. I’m leaning toward the Fulham win, although I’d play it safe and take Both Teams To Score at 13/20 to be safe.
Birmingham 11/10 | Draw 23/10 | Nottingham Forest 47/20
Birmingham City have struggled for form following the shock sacking of Gary Rowett. Gianfranco Zola has a bit of mountain to climb now if his side are to finish in the play-off places. They’ll get a chance to get the ball rolling against Forest who are winless in seven in all competitions.
It’s all falling apart for Forest who started the season pretty well. Winless in seven and teetering precariously above the relegation zone can make life difficult, but when Steve Bruce makes an enquiry about your captain and best player; you know things are about to get a lot more difficult. This is the situation facing Philippe Montanier at this crucial junction in the season. He’ll be praying his side turn the corner soon. Forest have been all over the shop lately and don’t look as though they could buy a win. Back the Blues to cruise past Montanier’s men at 11/10.
Wolves 29/20 | Draw 21/10 | Aston Villa 37/20
Things will get tasty this Saturday as Wolves welcome Midlands rivals Aston Villa to the Molineux. The home side will be buzzing after winning their first FA Cup match in six years against the Premier League’s Stoke City. Expect the Black Country to be absolutely buzzing!
Wolves’ form has been as indifferent as Aston Villa’s. These are the sort of matches that could go either way, but with Jonathan Kodjia at the Africa Cup of Nations with the Ivory Coast, Steve Bruce’s men lack a certain edge at the top of the pitch. Wolves edge the betting and rightly so. I think that the home side just edge this tie with Villa missing Kodjia and Jordan Ayew.
Suggested Weekend Treble: 5.27/1
Reading to beat QPR: 8/10
Norwich to beat Rotherham: 7/10
Brighton to beat Preston: 21/20
Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets.