English Championship Preview

While the FA Cup will take centre stage this weekend, there are still a number of mouth-watering fixtures set to take place in England’s second-tier. There are seven games set to take place this weekend, and all of them offer some fantastic value to the avid punter! The pick of this week's action will see Cardiff entertain Brighton in a play-off place shootout. Elsewhere, struggling Derby County travel to Brentford while MK Dons and Bristol City do battle near the bottom of the table.

Saturday 20 February

29/20 Cardiff | Draw 43/20 | Brighton 19/10 (14:45)

Cardiff did their chances of reaching the play-offs some serious damage as they were held to a goalless draw by relegation-threatened Charlton Athletic. In a game that produced a number of excellent opportunities, neither side was able to find the breakthrough. Cardiff dominated proceedings throughout as they went close on several occasions, hitting the frame of the goal twice. Frustrations came to head as Sammy Ameobi was sent off late in the piece following a second bookable offence. Two points dropped then for the faltering Bluebirds. Brighton on the other hand, came out of their five-goal thriller against Bolton Wanderers with all three points in a game that ebbed and flowed beautifully. Albion took the lead as early as the first minute thanks to Jamie Murphy. Emile Heskey pulled a goal back following a deflected effort before Tomer Hemed tapped in to restore the Seagulls’ lead. Wanderers would again claw their way back into the game after Jay Spearing’s low effort found the back of the net. The hosts would wrap up all three points as Beram Kayal drove the ball home from the edge of the area. Brighton have recovered well following their mid-season slump winning four of their last four games. Cardiff have been indifferent of late drawing their last two matches. The away win is tipped at 19/10.

15/20 Fulham | 51/20 | Charlton 37/10 (17:00) 

Fulham eased their relegation worries with a magnificent 3-1 over West London rivals QPR last time out. A 12-minute blitz from the Cottagers at the end of the first half saw them score three times with Ross McCormack, Moussa Dembele and Tom Cairney all finding the back of the net. Fulham never looked like losing the game as the seized control of proceedings early in the first half. Rangers would pull one goal back in second-half injury time, but it would prove too little, too late. A valuable three points for Slavisa Jokanovic’s side as they look to further distance themselves from the bottom three. Charlton were lucky to escape with a point last time out as they barely held on to a 0-0 draw at home to Cardiff City. They’ve only managed five wins in 31 games this season, scoring a measly 26 goals – the second-worst record in the division. Their record is even worse away from home where they’ve picked up two wins, scoring 11 goals and conceding 33. The Cottagers will have their tails up following their West London derby win against QPR last time out and look as though they should breeze past the Addicks. Back the hosts at 15/20.

18/10 Brentford | 9/4 | Derby 29/20 (17:00)

Brentford will want to put last week’s catastrophic performance against Sheffield Wednesday behind them. The Bees were reduced to 10 men after just five minutes as Yoann Barbet was sent off following his clumsy challenge on Gary Hooper. The game was all but over following the French midfielder’s dismissal as Wednesday went on to score four unanswered goals. Brentford are in a bit of a rut at the moment losing four, drawing one and winning one of their last six matches. The Rams started life under new manager Darren Wassall in the worst possible way as they slumped to only their third home defeat of the season against a resurgent MK Dons outfit. An 82nd-minute free-kick from James Forster-Caskey ensured that midlands club remained winless in their last six matches as their place in the top six comes under pressure from the likes of Birmingham City and Cardiff. With Derby’s awful run of form and Brentford’s strength at home, I’m backing the home win at 18/10.

19/10 Preston | 21/10 | Sheffield Wednesday 29/20 (17:00)

Preston moved back into the top half of the Football League Championship standings with a well-earned win over Wolves at the Molineux at the weekend. A deft finish from Paul Gallagher 17-minutes into the piece got the Lilywhites on their way before Adam Reach finished neatly from 10 yards out in the 53rd minute. Wolves did pull one back through Joe Mason, but it wouldn’t prove decisive as Preston held on to record a well-earned 2-1 win. Sheffield Wednesday put in one of their best performances of the season as they breezed past 10-man Brentford last Saturday at Hillsborough. Goals from Fernando Forestieri, Gary Hooper, Kieran Lee and Lucas Joao ensured that the Owls continued their promotion push. Both sides have been in good touch of late, however, Wednesday look unstoppable at the moment. Back them at generous odds of 29/20.

37/20 Bolton | 22/10 | QPR 29/20 (17:00)

For all of their courage and fighting spirit, Bolton Wanderers have little to show in a forgettable season. They went down 3-2 last time out away at Brighton and Hove Albion in a game which saw them twice peg back the high-flying Seagulls. They remain rooted to the bottom of the table, seven points from safety with one of the worst defensive records and the fewest wins in the league. They will come up against a QPR side who were humbled at home last time out by a resurgent Fulham team. The R’s never really got going against the Cottagers and found themselves 3-0 down heading into the break thanks to a 12 minute period where their neighbours played them off the park. Bolton’s recent form actually isn’t that bad. Couple that with a number of spirited performances of late and they’ll consider themselves unlucky to be at the bottom of the table. I can see this match ending in a draw – and with great odds of 22/10, it’s definitely worth a punt.

23/20 Huddersfield | 9/4 | Wolves 24/10 (17:00)

Huddersfield Town shattered Nottingham Forest’s unbeaten run as they came away from the City Ground with a 2-0 victory on Saturday. The win – capped by a magnificent Phillip Billing goal – moved the Terriers nine points clear of the drop zone as we enter the final third of the season. The result comes off the back of a poor run of form in which David Wagner saw his side lose their last three matches. A rather turgid display from Wolves saw them slip to a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Preston North End. The loss was Wolves’ 11th of the season and stretches their winless run in the division to five games. They have not reacted at all well to the sale of star striker, Benik Afobe, as their early season goals seem to have dried up. Huddersfield Town will be buzzing following their victory over Forest last time out, and with their opposition struggling up front, I’m backing the Terriers to rip into the Wolves. The home win is tipped at 23/20.

33/20 MK Dons | 43/20 | Bristol City 33/20 (17:00) 

MK Dons continued their climb away from the relegation zone with a resounding 1-0 win away at Derby County thanks to a curling 82nd-minute free kick from Jake Forster-Caskey. The win moved Dons up to 20th position on the log, one place above their opposition for this weekend. Dons haven’t lost a game in their last three, and should that form continue, they look well on course to stay up. Bristol City also put a bit of daylight between themselves and the bottom three with 2-1 win over Ipswich Town. Two first-half goals from Aden Flint were enough to secure all three points for the Robins as Ipswich slipped to their second-consecutive defeat. This game has all the makings of a classic, however, MK Dons look the slightly stronger of the two, and with home ground advantage they should prove too strong for a brave Bristol City side.

5/10 Burnley | 3/1 | Rotherham 52/10 (17:00) 

Burnley extended their unbeaten run to eight games as they were held away at the Madejski Stadium by Reading. It was a game the Sean Dyche would have felt his charges should have won. Andre Gray had his 59th-minute penalty spectacularly saved by former Wigan goalkeeper, Ali Al-Habsi. Despite all of their fluid build-up play and attacking intent, the Clarets couldn’t find a way past a spirited Reading side. They now sit third on the Football League Championship table behind Hull and Middlesbrough having played more games than the top two. Rotherham, along with fellow strugglers Bolton and Charlton, have been cut adrift at the bottom of the Championship. They managed to cling on for a 0-0 draw against Birmingham at the weekend despite being reduced to nine men. Looking ahead, I can only see one winner this weekend. Burnley have the best attacking record in the league while Rotherham have the second-worst defensive record in the division. Back the home win at 5/10 – absolute banker.

Written by Jason Dewey

Championship Picks

Brighton WIN 19/10
Fulham WIN 15/20
Brentford WIN 18/10
Sheffield Wednesday WIN 29/20
Bolton DRAW 22/10
Huddersfield WIN 23/20
MK Dons WIN 33/20

Burnley WIN 5/10