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English Championship Preview

As is always the case, the Football League Championship steams ahead this weekend with a full set of fixtures set to take place around England and Wales as we near the season’s climax. Burnley and Middlesbrough look on course to secure automatic promotion while Bolton, Charlton and MK Dons – barring a few miracles – look as though they’ll be plying their trade in League One next season. That said, there are some tasty fixtures coming your way this weekend, and is usually the case, there is excellent value floating around. Let’s find some winners!

Friday 15 April

6/10 Brighton | Draw 29/10 | Fulham 39/10 (20:45)

At the time of writing, Brighton hadn’t yet played their Monday evening fixture against floundering Nottingham Forest. As of Monday morning, the Seagulls are undefeated in eight fixtures and look to be the only side outside of the top two with a realistic shot at automatic promotion. In the eight abovementioned games, the South Coast club have managed to score 15 goals while only conceding four. Much of this form is owed to the form of 15-goal centre-forward Tomer Hemed, who has been supplied beautifully by the likes Biram Kayal, Anthony Knockaert and Dale Stephens. Fulham claimed just their 11th win of the season against Cardiff City last time out thanks to a 93rd minute winner Emerson Hyndman. The win moves Fulham away from any lingering fears of relegation as they now face a fight to keep hold of the likes of Moussa Dembele and Ross McCormack. Brighton are far too good for Fulham and should have little trouble claiming all three points – back them at 6/10.

5/10 Hull City | 3/1 | Wolves 57/10 (20:45)

Hull City have endured a torrid few weeks in all competitions after they failed to win any of their last nine games. Steve Bruce’s men picked the worst time to hit a slump as they’ve slipped out of contention for an automatic play-off place. They struggled again at the weekend against Huddersfield and needed a 93rd minute Adama Diomande own goal to claim a share of the spoils against the struggling Terriers. They’ll welcome Wolves to the KC Stadium on Friday evening who have gone six games without tasting defeat – although four of those matches ended as stalemates, the last of which came against Blackburn Rovers at the weekend. While Hull City are the overwhelming favourites, I fancy Wolves on the Double Chance here at 29/20 – their recent form demands respect.

Saturday 16 April

19/2 Bolton | 4/1 | Middlesbrough 3/10 (13:30)

Bolton Wanderers suffered their fifth-successive defeat at the weekend as they were handed a 4-1 hammering at the hands of an out of sorts Derby County. The Trotters are rooted to the bottom of the table amid a financial crisis that sees them unable to field key players like Jay Spearing as they fear of triggering a 100 000 Pound appearance clause. The Lancashire club will welcome a Middlesbrough outfit who have turned a corner since Aitor Karanka’s spectacular tirade at his failing stars. Since then, they’ve gone on to win four games on the trot and look on course to secure automatic promotion to the big time. While Bolton simply don’t get results, they do seem to score more often than not. Take Boro to Win + Both Teams To Score at 9/4.

15/20 Preston North End | 5/2 | MK Dons 36/10 (16:00)

Preston were unlucky to go down 1-0 at Riverside last time out as a solitary Albert Adomah goal saw Middlesbrough claim all three points on Teeside. The Lilywhites have now lost two on the bounce and will be keen to get back to winning ways against an MK Dons outfit that looks doomed to the drop. The Dons are now winless in 10 league outings, losing their last four Championship fixtures. Unlike Preston, they fully deserved the 4-0 thumping that was handed out to them by Rotherham on Saturday afternoon. It’s hard to think that just eight games ago, the Dons were eight points clear of Rotherham and looked like they might well survive the drop. Preston have far too much quality to really be troubled by MK Dons, back the home side at 15/20.

1/1 Cardiff City | 23/10 | QPR 26/10 (16:00)

Cardiff City’s hunt for a play-off place was dented after they went down 2-1 away to a spirited Fulham team. Slavisa Jokanovic will be kicking himself at the missed opportunity, especially considering that Sheffield Wednesday – who currently occupy the final play-off place – slipped up as they were thrashed 4-1 by Bristol City. QPR continued their recent run of form after Nasser El Khayati’s 94th minute strike secured all three points against relegation-haunted Charlton Athletic. The R’s late season charge came perhaps three or four weeks too late to threaten the top six, although Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink will like the fight he’s seen from his players as he plans to win promotion back to the Premier League next season. Both sides have been in decent goal-scoring form of late and picking a winner is proving quite tricky – play it safe and take Both Teams To Score at 9/10.

8/10 Sheffield Wed. | 5/2 | Ipswich Town 32/10 (16:00)

Sheffield Wednesday suffered the ignominy of a 4-1 defeat against Bristol City at Ashton Gate on Saturday. The defeat saw them miss a golden opportunity to pull away from Cardiff City who currently sit in seventh place after they lost against Fulham at the weekend. As it stands, they’re only five points clear of the Welsh side and will be hoping they don’t wobble at this crucial juncture in the season. Ipswich also suffered a somewhat surprising defeat as they were smashed 3-1 at home by Brentford. The defeat effectively ends any faint hope that Mick McCarthy and his charges had of competing in the play-offs come the end of the season. Both sides stumbled last weekend and will look to get back to winning ways. That said, these teams are evenly matched and the draw looks likely – get on at 5/2.

7/4 Leeds United | 22/10 | Reading 31/20 (16:00)

Leeds will be disappointed at the manner in which they last to table-topping Burnley last weekend. Scott Arfield put the Clarets up 1-0 after just 58 seconds – and that’s how the score line would remain. The defeat meant that Leeds have failed to win in their last four games as their season threatens to end with a whimper. Reading were also hit with an early goal as they went down 2-0 at the hands of Birmingham City. The Royals, who were confident of finishing the regular season inside of the play-off places, would have been disappointed with the second half of the season. Neither of these sides have set the world alight of late and the draw looks like a good bet at 22/10.

4/1 Charlton | 28/10 | Derby 13/20 (16:00)

A late QPR strike condemned Charlton Athletic to their 21st defeat of the season. They’re now 10 points off safety and look as though they’ll be plying their trade in England’s third tier next season. Only rock-bottom Bolton have conceded more goals than them this term and they’ll do well to keep a dangerous Derby side at bay. The Rams come into this encounter off the back of a 4-1 thumping of basement-dwelling Bolton Wanderers. They’ll fancy their chances again this week against a Charlton side who haven’t fared much better this season. Keep in mind, however, that Charlton tend to score more often than not – that said, take Derby to Win + Both Teams To Score at 47/20.

14/10 Blackburn Rovers | 22/10 | Huddersfield 39/20 (16:00)

Blackburn Rovers were involved in the only 0-0 draw of gameweek 42 as they shared the spoils with Wolverhampton Wanderers. It’s been another disappointing season for the Lancashire outfit who have struggled since offloading their centre-forward duo of Rudy Gestede and Jordan Rhodes. Huddersfield were unlucky not to claim all three points against Hull City at the weekend. The Terriers were leading deep into injury time before Adama Diomande popped up at the far post to head Hull City level. Both teams have looked a bit shaky of late and I simply can’t pick a winner. The draw offers some decent value at 22/10, but I’d honestly stay away from this one.

27/20 Brentford | 47/20 | Bristol 37/20 (16:00)

Brentford come into this game off the back of three straight victories as they look to end their topsy-turvy season off on a high. They were full value for their 3-1 win over promotion-chasing Ipswich Town last weekend. Lasse Vibe scored twice while Sam Saunders grabbed a goal as the Bees continue their fine run. Bristol City sprung the shock of gameweek 41 with a magnificent 4-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday. Goals from Lee Tomlin, Jonathan Kodija, Bobby Reid and an own goal from Kieren Westwood moves the Robins 10 points clear of the drop zone as they look to prepare for yet another season in England’s second tier. Both teams look good, but I’ll be backing Brentford to come good at 27/20 here – climb on!

26/10 Birmingham City | 9/4 | Burnley 21/20 (16:00)

A recent slump in form ensured that Birmingham City are no longer in the running for a play-off place. That said, they did put in a solid performance against Reading last time out at the Madejski Stadium. Goals from Ryan Shotton and Clayton Donaldson capped off a good win against the Royals as Gary Rowett’s side kept their mathematical chances of claiming sixth place alive. Burnley have endured a bit of a wobble in recent weeks, however, they find themselves a point clear at the top of the Championship table. Their Saturday fixture against a solid Birmingham City outfit will present another tough challenge that Middlesbrough – who take on rock-bottom Bolton – will be keen to capitalise on. I have a sneaky suspicion about Birmingham here – take them on the Double Chance at 7/10.

5/4 Rotherham | 22/10 | Nottingham Forest 43/20 (16:00)

Rotherham have been absolutely brilliant over the last few weeks. They’ve gone from being sure-fire relegation candidates to the form team of the division. They’ve not lost in their last eight games, including wins over Middlesbrough as well as Sheffield Wednesday and look to have secured their Championship status for next season. Nottingham Forest have been absolutely awful over the last few months. They went from being genuine play-off place contenders to relegation candidates in no time at all. They’re only nine points clear of MK Dons, and a further string of defeats could see them sucked into the bottom three – although that would require Charlton or MK Dons to string together a few wins. Take Rotherham to claim all three points here.

Written by Jason Dewey

Championship Picks

Brighton WIN 6/10
Wolves WIN/DRAW 27/20
Middlesbrough WIN + BTTS 9/4
Preston North End WIN 15/20
Cardiff BTTS 9/10
Sheffield Wed DRAW 5/2
Leeds DRAW 22/10
Derby WIN + BTTS 47/20
Blackburn DRAW 22/10
Brentford WIN 27/20
Birmingham WIN/DRAW 7/10
Rotherham WIN 5/4