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Football League Championship: Week 31 Preview
The Championship enters its 31st week with Newcastle top of the pile following a good 1-0 win against Derby at the weekend. Brighton sit second after their 3-3 draw at Brentford while Huddersfield continued their good run of form with a 2-1 win over fellow promotion-chasers, Leeds.
The pick of this weekend’s fixtures will see Rotherham and Blackburn clash in a bottom-of-the-table tie while Wolves have the unenviable task of trying to take points of the Newcastle juggernaut at the Molineux in Saturday’s late kick-off.
Friday 10 February
Sheffield Wednesday 15/20 | Draw 5/2 | Birmingham 34/10
The Owls can ill afford any slip-ups when they welcome Birmingham City to the Hillsborough Stadium this weekend. A loss could see Carlos Carvalhal’s men drop two places in the standings should Derby and Norwich grab wins in their respective fixtures. Ross Wallace grabbed the only goal of the game last time out where Wednesday successfully overcame Wigan at the DW Stadium.
Birmingham also come into this game off the back of a win – Gianfranco Zola’s first for the club since taking over from Gary Rowett. Lukas Jutkiewicz was the hero for the Blues as he netted following Ryan Fredericks’ sending off for a village tackle on Craig Gardener. Wednesday should prove too good at home – get on the 15/20.
Saturday 11 February
Norwich 6/10 | Draw 28/10 | Nottingham Forest 17/4
Norwich appear to have overcome the terrible run of form that saw them plummet down the table during December and January. They’ve now won three on the spin and are on the cusp of breaking into the top six again. Cameron Jerome netted the only goal of their game against Cardiff at the weekend, with the Canneries looking for a repeat performance at home against Forest.
Forest – like Norwich – have also recovered from a mid-season slump that threatened to derail their entire season. They overcame Aston Villa thanks to a 93rd-minute volley from 17-year-old Ben Brereton. Both teams are in decent nick at the moment which makes predicting a result here tricky. Both teams are playing good, attacking football at the moment, though. With that in mind, take both teams to score at 17/20.
Rotherham 37/20 | Draw 9/4 | Blackburn 27/20
Rotherham slumped to a 1-0 defeat away at Bristol City this past weekend. The result didn’t really come as a surprise seeing as the Millers have only picked up a solitary point on the road this season. They’ll fancy their chances at home this weekend against fellow relegation strugglers, Blackburn.
Rovers grabbed a vital three points last time out against QPR thanks to a 91st-minute Sam Gallagher strike. The result leaves Owen Coyle’s men just three points behind Burton and Bristol who both have tricky ties coming up this weekend. Rotherham have been good at home against the weaker teams this season – back them on the win/draw double chance at 5/10.
Preston 27/20 | Draw 23/10 | Brentford 37/20
Preston have endured a bit of a poor run of late, derailing any faint hopes they harboured of promotion to the Premier League. Three draws and a defeat in their last four matches has seen them slip down the table to 11th. They played out to a dour 0-0 draw against Barnsley at Oakwell last time out and will be keen to get back to winning ways against the Bees this weekend.
Brentford’s 3-3 draw against Brighton was arguably the match of week 30. Having gone up 3-2 in the 94th-minute thanks to Konstantin Kerschbaumer, the match was levelled with basically the last kick of the game as Tomer Hemed nodded home from close range. I simply can’t separate these teams – the draw offers good value at 23/10, but I’d avoid this one to be quite honest.
Aston Villa 8/10 | Draw 49/20 | Ipswich 33/10
Villa threw away a one-goal lead at Nottingham Forest at the weekend. A 93rd-minute goal from 17-year-old Ben Brereton saw Forest grab all three points, leaving Villa’s very faint hopes of promotion in tatters. The former Premier League mainstays are now winless in their last six as pressure grows Steve Bruce to deliver results.
Ipswich’s struggles continue following a 2-2 draw with Reading at Portman Road this weekend. Reading came from behind twice as Mick McCarthy’s men continue to struggle to close out matches. Aston Villa have yet to taste defeat at home in the Championship this season. Back them to cruise to a fairly straight-forward win over a struggling Ipswich Town.
Fulham 6/10 | Draw 28/10 | Wigan 17/4
Fulham were unlucky not to come away from St. Andrew’s with anything as Lukas Jutkiewicz grabbed the only goal of the game, giving Gianfranco Zola his first win as the Blues’ manager. The Cottagers will be pretty confident of bouncing back this weekend against a Wigan side who a far from convincing on the road.
Wigan’s two-match winning streak came to an end as the relegation threatened club went down 1-0 at home to Sheffield Wednesday. The Lactics are now six points off safety and will need a minor miracle to avoid relegation now – where’s Roberto Martinez when you need him? Fulham to win here – straight-forward 6-10, add to all multiples.
QPR 23/10 | Draw 22/10 | Huddersfield 23/20
QPR head into their clash with Huddersfield Town off the back of a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Blackburn Rovers. They’ll need to rediscover the form that took them off the bottom of the table if they are to stand any chance against the surprise package of this season, Huddersfield Town.
The Terriers grabbed an excellent 2-1 over Leeds Untied at the John Smith’s Stadium at the weekend. Michael Hafele was the hero for the hosts as his 89th-minute strike helped secure the three points for Thomas Wagner’s side who will now be aiming to reel in second-placed Brighton. Huddersfield are in excellent form at the moment and should be backed to get the job done against an out of sorts QPR.
Reading 9/10 | Draw 49/20 | Barnsley 26/10
Reading were lucky to come away with anything from their game against Ipswich at the weekend. For a side chasing promotion, these are the games you absolutely have to win – you simply can’t afford to slip up against mid-table fodder. That said, they showed good character to come from behind on two occasions – expect better this weekend.
Barnsley played at to a terribly boring 0-0 draw against Preston at the weekend. Not the sort of result they would have been looking for as they remain hopeful of breaking into the top six. The 3-1 home defeat against Wolves two weeks ago appears to have sapped their confidence a bit. Take Reading to come out on top here.
Leeds 21/20 | Draw 9/4 | Cardiff 5/2
Leeds were unfortunate to get done 2-1 by Huddersfield at the weekend. Just when it seemed as if the teams would leave with a share of the spoils, up pooped Michael Hefele to hand the Terriers all three points. The defeat shouldn’t have too much of an effect on Gary Mon’s men, who still remain firmly in race for promotion.
Neil Warnock came into the Cardiff job with one task – avoid relegation to the third tier of English football. He’s done an excellent job of stabilising the club and moving them away from the relegation zone. Defeats like the one against Norwich at the weekend won’t fuss them too much. Leeds are the better side here and should be backed at generous odds of 21/20.
Derby 8/10 | Draw 49/20 | Bristol 23/10
Derby put up a pretty good fight against Newcastle at St. James’ Park at the weekend. Matt Ritchie’s deflected effort proved the difference between the sides as the Toon moved back into top spot. It’s all about the response now from Derby who know that a win against relegation-threatened Bristol could see them move into the top six.
Bristol got the job done against Rotherham this weekend, albeit in unconvincing fashion. That said, when you’re fighting for your life in the division, it doesn’t matter how the points come. Derby are a class above Bristol and should have very little trouble dealing with the Robins – get on at 8/10.
Brighton 9/20 | Draw 31/10 | Burton 6/1
Brighton simply can’t afford any more slip-ups in the race for the Championship title. Their 3-3 draw with Brentford allowed Newcastle to leapfrog the south coasters back into the pole position. Chris Hughton’s boys shouldn’t really have much trouble against Burton this weekend, though.
The Brewers have only managed to pick up two wins on the road this season. I simply don’t see them adding to that on Saturday – and with Blackburn likely to get a result over Rotherham, Nigel Clough’s men could find themselves in the bottom three. Take Brighton on the (-1) handicap here at 12/10.
Wolves 49/20 | Draw 23/10 | Newcastle 21/20
Wolves were pretty awful in their 2-1 defeat away at Burton last time out. The men from the Black Country took the lead on the 40th minute thanks to a Helder Costa penalty before Michael Kightly equalised and Cauley Woodrow snatched a 94th-minute winner for the Brewers. If Wolves aren’t careful, they could find themselves in a relegation scrap come the business end of the season.
Rafa Benitez and his men will want to put some distance between themselves and the chasing pack now that they’ve regained top spot in the league. They claimed a valuable three points over Derby last time out and should have little to no issues dealing with Wolves at the Molineux. Newcastle simply have to be added to all weekend multiples at just over even money.
Suggested Weekend Treble: 7.12/1
Newcastle to beat Wolves: 21/20
Brighton (-1) vs Burton 12/10
Derby to beat Bristol 8/10