English Championship Preview

The Football League Championship threw up a few surprises last week as relegation-threatened Charlton claimed a commanding 2-0 victory against Middlesbrough who are looking badly off the pace after showing excellent form in the earlier parts of the season. This weekend will see table-topping Burnley welcome Wolverhampton Wanderers to Turf Moor while Bristol City and Bolton will battle it out near the foot of the table. We had a pretty good week last time out, let’s see if we can improve on last week’s picks. 

*All fixtures were written prior to midweek matches played.

Friday 18 March

29/20 Middlesbrough | Draw 39/20 | Hull City 21/10 (21:45)

Middlesbrough are in a bit of turmoil at the moment, having won just three of their last 11 games. This wretched run of form has left Aitor Karanka questioning his side’s commitment to the cause, he subsequently went on ‘strike’ refusing to travel with his side as they went down 2-0 to Charlton at the Valley on the Weekend. They still hold second place on the log with a game in hand over Burnley in first place. Hull City will be desperate to cash in on the mayhem in Teeside to leapfrog Boro into second spot. Hull haven’t been on the best of runs themselves, having drawn two and lost one of their last three games. I’m backing the Tigers to come right here and capitalise on all of the drama at Middlesbrough at the moment – back Hull at 21/10.

Saturday 19 March

7/10 Derby County | 24/10 | Nottingham Forest 17/4 (14:30)

Derby County were outstanding for the first 83 minutes against Rotherham this weekend at the AESSEAL New York Stadium as they seemed to be cruising to victory at 3-0 up. Then came one of the comebacks of the season as Danny Ward and Leon Best struck late to secure a draw for the Millers, keeping them within striking distance of MK Dons and Fulham. Derby still maintain their place in the top six, however, they’ll need an upturn in form if they’re going to gain promotion to the big time. They have the ideal opportunity to do so when they come up against a managerless Nottingham Forest side. Forest parted ways with Dougie Freedman after just 13 months in charge. Forest were hammered at home by 10-man Sheffield Wednesday to all but extinguish any hopes the Nottinghamshire club had of promotion – something that seemed a certainty a few months ago. Neither of these sides are in any sort of form, however, Derby do the look the stronger of the sides. Back the home side at 7/10.

28/10 MK Dons | 43/20 | Brighton 21/20 (17:00) 

MK Dons will be reasonably pleased with the 1-1 draw against promotion chasing Hull City this weekend. The point ensured that there is still the smallest bit of daylight between them and 22nd-placed Rotherham United who earned a magnificent 3-3 draw against Derby. The Dons are now undefeated in their last three and will be desperate to put more space between themselves and the bottom three. They won’t have an easy time of it this weekend as they go head-to-head Brighton and Hove Albion. The Seagulls last played last week Tuesday as they were held at home by Sheffield Wednesday. Their push for automatic promotion has just come unstuck a little bit following an excellent run of form which saw the South Coast side rocket up the league. They should be far too good for MK Dons, the away win is tipped at 21/20. 

15/10 Brentford | 22/10 | Blackburn 7/4 (17:00) 

Brentford made the short trip to Loftus Road this weekend for a West London derby against QPR where they were promptly beaten 3-0. The Bees have now lost six out of their last seven games in the league as the pressure mounts on manager Dean Smith. Brentford still have a mathematical chance of being dragged into a relegation scrap, especially if Charlton and Rotherham keep picking up points. Blackburn Rovers have enjoyed a bit of an upturn in form of late beating the likes of Birmingham City and Middlesbrough either side of a narrow 1-0 loss to league leaders, Burnley. This is the inconsistency that has plagued the club since their relegation from the Premier League. This was highlighted again this weekend as they went down 2-1 to Leeds United. Brentford have been on a miserable run of late and don’t look like beating an improving Rovers outfit. Take Blackburn at 7/4.

9/20 Sheffield Wednesday | 33/10 | Charlton 6/1 (17:00)

Sheffield Wednesday barely moved out of second gear as they coasted past a Nottingham Forest side who are in freefall at the minute. Goals from Aiden McGeady, Gary Hooper and Marco Matias condemned Forest to their 13th defeat of the season as they slipped down to 14th position on the Championship table. Wednesday, meanwhile, hung on to sixth position with the win following Cardiff’s success over Ipswich Town. Charlton provided the shock result of the weekend as they beat Middlesbrough in a bizarre match at the Valley. Both sides are struggling through off-field issues at the moment, however, it was the Addicks who rose to the occasion and claimed all three points to keep their slim survival hopes alive. They don’t stand much of a chance this weekend, take Wednesday on the Matchbet + Both Teams to Score: No at even money. 

7/4 Leeds United | 43/20 | Huddersfield Town 16/10 (17:00)

Leeds United won last time out at Elland Road against a resurgent Blackburn Rovers side. Goals from Mirco Antenucci and Sol Bamba proved more than enough as the Yorkshire club survived a late scare after Simeon Jackson pulled one back in the 89th minute for Rovers. The Terries come into this game off the back of three defeats and one win in their last four games as they continue their slide down the Football League Championship table. They were comprehensively beaten 3-1 last time out by Burnley, who now look as though they’ll win the league with a few games to spare. The smart money’s on Leeds here, they’re in great form and will be desperate to head into the final few games of the season with a bit of form. The home win is tipped at 7/4.

12/10 Reading | 22/10 | Cardiff 24/10 (17:00)

Reading have been indifferent this season and look to be idling to a relatively nondescript mid-table finish. They had yet to play their Tuesday evening fixture at the time of writing against Brighton and Hove Albion, although I don’t fancy them in that tie against the promotion-chasing South Coasters. Cardiff kept the pressure on Sheffield Wednesday in sixth place as they beat Ipswich Town at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday evening. Bruno Ecuele Manga scored the only goal of the game, which incidentally was his first strike since scoring in a 1-1 draw last season against Bournemouth. Cardiff have managed to lose or draw just about every time I’ve tipped them this season so I’m going to play it safe and back them on the Double Chance at 6/10.

11/20 Burnley | 29/10 | Wolves 5/1 (17:00)

Burnley continued their inevitable march to the Championship title with a convincing 3-1 win over Huddersfield Town this weekend. The Clarets are now unbeaten in their last 14 matches and sit seven points clear at the summit of the table. They look unstoppable at the moment and should cruise past Wolves with minimal fuss. Wolves were lucky to escape with a point against Birmingham City last time out as the Blues missed several gild-edged opportunities late on in the piece as the game finished 0-0. The win would have been Wolves’ third straight win at the Molineux, however, the draw definitely hurt Birmingham more who are still in the race for the play-offs. Burnley will win this one comfortably, back them at 11/20.

8/10 Ipswich Town | 5/2 | Rotherham 33/10 (17:00)

Ipswich Town, having set the early pace this season, have dropped off alarmingly. Their latest setback came in South Wales as they were defeated 1-0 by Cardiff City. They do still have faint promotion hopes, however, they will need to be more consistent. Two wins in six simply isn’t good enough for a side looking for promotion and Mick McCarthy will know that. Rotherham will be on a high and confident of clawing their way out of the relegation zone following their staggering 3-3 draw with Derby County. The Millers found themselves 3-0 down after 83 minutes before a goal from Danny Ward and a double strike from Leon Best secured a point for the Championship strugglers. Rotherham have now won three of their last four games and look good value to beat an out of sorts Ipswich side. Back them at 33/10.

11/10 Birmingham City | 47/20 | Fulham 47/20 (17:00)

Birmingham City missed out on a golden opportunity to close the gap on Sheffield Wednesday and Cardiff as they played out a goalless draw at the Molineux against an underperforming Wolves side. The Blues squandered several excellent chances late on in the game, most notably from Clayton Donaldson and Jon Toral. They will need to be much more clinical on Saturday when they come up against a Fulham side who are fighting for survival. The Cottagers were beaten last time out by Bristol City in what was a vital relegation six-pointer at Craven Cottage. Having taken the lead in the third minute, the Robins came back, scoring in the 69th and 90th minute to condemn the West Londoners to their 16th defeat of the season. I like the look of Birmingham here, but I’m not comfortable betting against an unpredictable Fulham team. Take Both Teams To Score at 15/20.

15/20 Bristol City | 26/10 | Bolton Wanderers 34/10 (17:00)

Bristol City secured a vital 2-1 win over fellow strugglers Fulham last time out at Craven Cottage. The win moves the Robins four points clear of 22nd-placed Rotherham United and eased their relegation fears to an extent. They will see this weekend’s fixture against Bolton as the ideal opportunity to pick up three more points against the division’s whipping boys. Bolton Wanderers threw away a 1-0 lead, eventually going down 2-1 to Preston North End at the Macron Stadium last weekend. The loss now means that the beleaguered Lancashire club are 11 points away from safety with no real chance of staying up. They simply don’t have the quality to compete at this level and will be hoping for a fresh start under new ownership next season. Bristol for the win – back them at 15/20.

27/20 Preston North End | 2/1 | QPR 22/10 (17:00)

Preston did their promotion push no harm with a 2-1 win last time out against rock-bottom Bolton Wanderers. The win was the Lilywhite’s first in four games and saw them move to within seven points of sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday. They simply haven’t scored enough goals this season, something that will need to change if they realistically want to get out of the division. QPR are on a bit of a hot-steak at the moment and will climb above Preston in the standings if they can come away with a win on Saturday evening at Deepdale. The R’s have now won three of their last four games and look to be peaking at precisely the right time in the season. They humbled Brentford 3-0 last time out and look good value to claim victory this weekend. Back the away team at 22/10. 

Written by Jason Dewey

Championship Picks

Hull WIN 21/10
Derby County WIN 7/10
Brighton WIN 21/20
Blackburn WIN 7/4
Sheffield Wed. WIN + BTTS: NO 1/1
Leeds WIN 7/4
Cardiff WIN/DRAW 6/10
Burnley WIN 11/20
Rotherham WIN 33/10
Birmingham BTTS 15/20
Bristol WIN 15/20
QPR WIN 22/10