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Npower Championship Previews

Barnsley v Portsmouth, 15:00

A couple of weeks ago Portsmouth looked like emulating the Sunderland of Roy Keane and climbing the length of the table to turn a sticky start into a proper challenge for promotion. But Steve Coterill and his men are discovering that while it is tough at the top, it’s even harder on the way.

Pompey are without a win in three, and their opponents have won their last two games. It may be worth mentioning that Barnsley’s wins came away from home, although this includes a great result against Ipswich last time out.

Portsmouth, with seven points from eight away games this year, go in underdogs, and with this in mind the 9/1 offered by 888Sports on a 2-1 home win is my pick for this one.

Bristol City v Leicester, 15:00

Leicester have conceded twenty goals so far this year in their away matches, a league-leading statistic they’ll not be proud of. Under the new Svengali installed (sorry) the Foxes are looking to change their ways, and have taken ten points from a possible twelve recently.

Bristol are still struggling at the wrong end of the table, and while they can boast a better road record than their opponents, they have only won once at Ashton Gate this season. The respective sides and their form mean both teams should lose this one, so I’ll only say the 10/1 offered by Blue Square on Andy King getting the first of the game seems generous given his form so far.

Cardiff v Nottingham Forest, 15:00

Cardiff lead the table by a single point, and will be hoping to stay ahead of a stuttering QPR with a win. Forest are right in the following pack, three points away from the magical zone of promotion, but only four points ahead of nineteenth place.

This should be tight, with the Bluebirds having a better record away from home this year, but with Forest’s good defensive record I think Bet365’s offer of 3/1 on Cardiff winning by one is a realistic bet.

Coventry v Burnley, 15:00

Burnley have, quite remarkably, not won a single away game in the league this year, and despite this occupy sixth place in the table. Coventry have lost three at home, and are on a three match losing streak they will want to end.

With all this in mind I think Blue Square are offering 6/1 on a 1-1 draw, which I’d probably plump for. It’s a tough on to call, as there are players who can produce on either side.

Derby v Scunthorpe, 15:00

Derby have won their last five home games, but to trump that stat Scunthorpe seem to be staying afloat this year by virtue of the five wins they’ve managed away from home so far this term, second only to Cardiff in that respect.

Things get more complicated when you see that Scunthorpe have also won their last three on the road, but Derby striker Kris Commons is always a good bet to get the first goal, with nine in the league already, and 5/1 (Boylesports) seems about the standard offer on this.

Doncaster v Swansea, 15:00

This should be a cracking game, with two good footballing sides meeting at the Keepmoat. Swansea are currently third in the league, and need to bridge the gap to second-placed QPR, whereas Doncaster lie on the cusp of the promotion places and have come out on top in their last two home games.

Although Doncaster are a good side I think that Swansea could edge this. Regardless of the final score Scott Sinclair has become a formidable player at this level, and therefore Betfred are the best bet on his getting the first at 11/2, which looks best price.

Hull v Ipswich, 15:00

Another tight game, with two sides both gravitating inwards toward the centre of the league. Every time Roy Keane gets too close to the top his side seem to take a step back, and Hull are still dealing with off-field turmoil in the form of a takeover.

With mediocre form being shared, maybe dominated by Hull, it’s a tight one, and the home team have less goals at their base than any other side. I don’t say this often, and I’ll probably regret not backing Ipswich, but I can see this ending goalless. Betfair are slightly ahead of the field, offering 9/1 on a 0-0 finish.

Middlesbrough v Millwall, 15:00

With a mini-revival under Tony Mowbray after the baffling tenure of Gordon Strachan Boro fans may have been hoping for a swift return to winning ways, but there is work to be done still, and Millwall will want to dent their aspirations.

However, the Londoners have only managed one point from their last four games, and are the kind of team you’d want to face if you need a win. If all goes as predicted then Victor Chandler are offering 6/1 on a 1-0 home win, which might crop up.

Norwich v Leeds United, 15:00

Leeds are a cracking watch this year, with more goals coming in their matches (62) than any other side, even if they have a goal difference of zero to show for it. Norwich, on the other hand, have been rather over-steady of late, drawing their last three games.

The Canaries go in as favourites, but need to be wary. It’s a long shot, but the 18/1 offered by Boylesports on a 3-1 Norwich win is at the generous end of that market.

QPR v Preston, 15:00

Second placed QPR, yet to lose in the league, will probably not look forward too much to this game. It is one they will be expected to win, and as a result won’t get a lot of credit if they do.

Preston are in trouble, with the Ferguson name seemingly not enough for success. I’ll be brave and say QPR will win by two. Bet365 offer a fairly standard 10/3 on such an eventuality, but if the Hoops get going it could be more.

Watford v Reading, 15:00

Like a few of the teams in the league Watford are more likely to win away from home this year, with only two victories in their eight home games so far. Reading aren’t fabulous on their travels, but have climbed to a decent position in the league and would love to win this one.

Watford go in slight favourites with the bookies, but I’ll pick the in-form Shane Long to open the scoring for Reading, with a best-price 13/2 from Betfred.

Sheffield Utd v Crystal Palace, 17:20

Palace have been dismal on the road so far with four points to show for their effort. Having said that, the Blades have only got a couple of wins at home this year, a statistic that should give the relegation-threatened London side hope.

United have gained just a solitary point from their last four home games, which isn’t the kind of form to please boss Gary Speed. Again, I could end up looking silly, given the attacking potential on show, but Bet365 are offering 9/1 on a 0-0 draw, and I think that could well be on the cards.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Preston v Hull, 19:45

The action gets underway this weekend with a game that isn’t exactly a glamour tie, but one with huge significance. Both sides are currently mired in a relegation situation, and need to (cliché alert) beat the teams around them if they are to salvage their respective seasons.
Betfred fancy John Parkin to get the opener, at 6/1, but quite often these games see the pressure on the two sides produce a damp squib. Preston are only missing one or two, but Hull have quite a few absentees, and Robert Koren’s return will be very welcome. Hopefully both teams will commit to trying to win.
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Saturday, 13 November 2010

Burnley v Watford, 15:00

The return of Watford top scorer Danny Graham will be a boost for the Hornets, but Burnley still lie above them in the league. Neither side has played particularly well in recent times, with each recording only one win in their last six outings.
Bet365 are offering 17/2 on a 2-0 Burnley win, which could be on the cards after Watford suffered a loss to Crystal Palace. For the record, Burnley haven’t had a clean sheet in four games, so they’ll have to improve defensively to achieve my picked result.

Crystal Palace v Coventry, 15:00

Despite an excellent win over Watford in their last game, Palace are still the league’s bottom side, and the matches don’t get any easier with the visit of high-flying Coventry. The Sky Blues will want to add consistency, with the last six outings yielding losses and wins in equal measure.
Most bookies have the Londoners as slight favourites, but I like the 10/1 offered by 888sport on a 2-1 away win, as Coventry are certainly capable of coming away with all three points.

Ipswich v Barnsley, 15:00

With eleven places between the sides this one should be a foregone conclusion, as Ipswich are right on the cusp of the play-off zone and Barnsley struggling to make an impact on the top half of the table.
However, both sides are capable of making bookies and tipsters look very silly, and have been less than consistent so far. A win over Preston recently will have helped Barnsley’s confidence, but I still think Roy Keane’s men should have a bit much for their visitors. Town’s top scorer Jason Scotland looks a decent option to net first with Bet365 offering 5’s on him.

Leeds United v Bristol City, 15:00

Bristol City seem to have overcome their early-season nerves and with wins in their last two away games they have started to move toward where they probably feel they should be in the table. Leeds have also hit a good run of away form, and are undefeated in their last three home matches.
Leeds ace David Somma has been called up for what could be his first cap for South Africa, and looks a decent bet to nab the game’s first goal, with Bet365 offering best price at 11/2.

Leicester v Derby, 15:00

The Rams may be the best team in the league on form, and this trip to Leicester will be a good test of both the Derby’s potential and the size of the task facing the new manager at Crispland, our Sven. Derby have won five of their last six games, and Leicester’s home form isn’t bad either.
The Foxes go into this one as favourites, but I think a draw could be on, and Blue Square are offering 6/1 on it finishing one apiece.

Millwall v Sheffield Utd, 15:00

Millwall have managed just one win in their last six home games, and must view this as an opportunity to heap more pressure onto Gary Speed’s shoulders, with the Blades just one point above the drop-zone and struggling to play well.
As indicated, though, the infamous Londoners aren’t exactly setting the world on fire themselves, and this one could very easily turn out a disappointment. I’ll be optimistic and pick a 2-1 Millwall win, with a generous 42/5 available with Betfair at the time of writing.

Nottingham Forest v QPR, 15:00

The recent stutter that league-leading QPR have endured may be in part due to the enigmatic nature of playmaker Adel Taarabt, but they haven’t lost in twelve now, and Forest will be ready for a stern test despite an excellent win over Coventry in their last game.
My gut instinct for this would be a draw, and most bookies seem to agree. Stan James is offering a decent 11/2 on this finishing 1-1, which is the best price on that scoreline. Having backed Jamie Mackie at my cost recently, I’m staying well away from likely goalscorers.

Portsmouth v Doncaster, 15:00

Prior to their unlucky draw with QPR, Portsmouth had been the Championship’s form side, and will be looking to bounce back against a Doncaster side shorn of Billy Sharp, their main threat in front of the net.
Pompey are undefeated in six at Fratton Park, and Donny will have to work hard to change that. Liam Lawrence has been an excellent signing for the south-coasters, and Bet365 will offer 21/10 on him getting at least one goal in this match.

Scunthorpe v Cardiff, 15:00

Cardiff have been in excellent form, but seemed to freeze in the lights when they took on Swansea last week, which is odd for a team of such experience. Despite a loss and a draw recently their manager Dave Jones also picked up the manager-of-the-month award for October.
Scunthorpe are in an awful run of home form, without a win in six, and this isn’t the game they would have wanted to reverse that trend. I can see the Welshmen returning to winning ways here, and Betfair are being kind with their offer of 10/1 in a 2-0 Bluebird victory.

Reading v Norwich, 17:20

This clash between two of the better-equipped (outside the boardroom) clubs in the league also represents a chance for Reading to get back on track after a couple of disappointing results of late. Norwich are currently maintaining a position in the play-offs, but will need to be solid to come away with anything here.
The bookmakers have Reading as favourites, and Boylesports are in agreement with me that Simon Church could be a good bet to get the first goal, offering 6/1.

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Sunday, 14 November 2010

Swansea v Middlesbrough, 15:00

Boro fans must be hoping that two wins in two games is the start of the Tony Mowbray revolution, but if the new manager wanted a chance to test his team’s resolve then he couldn’t have asked for a much sterner examination than this against the Swans.
However, Swansea followed up a superb away win in the Welsh derby by losing to Bristol at home, and this will give Middlesbrough hope. If they can combine hope and skill then they might win, but I’ll play it safe and back a 1-0 Swansea win, with Victor Chandler offering 6/1 on that score.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Barnsley v Leicester, 15:00

Mission: Highly Improbable is well and truly underway for Sven at Leicester, and this visit to Barnsley will be a stern test for the colourful Swede. Despite only picking up three wins in their last twelve games, the Tykes have only lost one of their last six at home.
With this in mind it seems like Barnsley should go in as slight favourites, but a 1-0 win against Preston in their last game will give the Foxes a boost. The bookies have made them favourites, which means the value is probably on a home win, with Bet365 offering 10/1 on Barnsley coming away 2-1 victors.

Bristol City v Preston, 15:00

This is a real clash of the strugglers, with the sides having identical points and goal difference at the wrong end of the table. To add to that Bristol have announced losses in excess of £10m this week, but can balance that against two wins and a draw in their last three league fixtures.
Given that, there is some chance that Bristol can pile a little more pressure on Darren Ferguson’s shoulders, and 16/1 with Boylesports on a 3-1 Bristol win could be nice, although Preston’s Sam Parkin, who has 7 league goals this term, is available at7/1 with Blue Square to open the scoring.

Coventry v Leeds United, 15:00

Whilst maybe not the most consistent team, Leeds are always entertaining for the neutral, and this trip to the Ricoh should be a good game. Coventry haven’t been great over the last few weeks, and Aidy Boothroyd will be hoping the fans turn up to boost confidence.
It’s another close one, with Leeds recent away form picking up, and 888sport are offering 6/1 on a 1-1 draw, which looks the most sensible option. As I said, Leeds are anything but predictable.

Doncaster v Millwall, 15:00

Another evenly matched pair meet at the Keepmoat, with the visitors only ahead in the league by goal difference, and then only by a solitary goal. Despite their proximity, Millwall’s away form combined with Doncaster’s home record makes this seem fairly one-sided.
The Don’s have only lost one of their last six at home, while Millwall can only claim one win from their last six road-trips. I’m going to back a victory for football and pick Boylesports offer of 11/2 that Doncaster will win by two.

Hull v Scunthorpe, 15:00

Hull are struggling, with two wins, five draws and five losses in their last twelve, and while they are maintaining a safe spot in the table at the moment, they look vulnerable. They have collected fourteen points so far, leaving them just one above the drop zone.
Scunthorpe suffered a disappointing home loss to rivals Leeds this week, but their away form is good and Ian Baraclough will be hoping to get back on track. Hull go in favourites, but I reckon the 12/1 being offered by Victor Chandler on a 2-1 Scunthorpe win could do nicely.

Middlesbrough v Crystal Palace, 15:00

Clearly there has been some crystal-gazing at FA HQ, as yet another match this weekend takes place between very evenly matched sides, stat wise. Boro are under new manager and former playing legend Tony Mowbray for only his second game in charge, and remain something of an unknown quantity.
Palace have tasted victory just twice in their last twelve games, and for that reason I think this could be Mowbray’s first win at the Riverside. Palace have a leaky defence, so I might call Betfred on their 14/1 for Middlesbrough to win the game 3-1.

Norwich v Burnley, 15:00

Fifth-place Norwich will be hoping that they are on-song for this tricky home tie against a team just two points and three places below them in the table. No doubt the Canaries will be heartened by the fact that Burley have lost four and drawn two in their last six away games.
The boys in claret and blue have only suffered one defeat in their last six games, but that miserable away record cannot be ignored and for that reason the 10/1 from Betfred on a 2-0 home win is my tip.

QPR v Reading, 15:00

Were it not for the big game in Wales, this would undoubtedly have been the one to watch this weekend, with early pace-setters QPR taking on Reading, four places but ten points behind Neil Warnock’s men.
Reading have been either very hot or tepid this year, and their last six away games have been two wins, two draws and two losses, so it is difficult to know what might happen here, especially given the R’s have stuttered of late.
QPR go in favourites, but I’m only going to say I fancy the 6/1 on Jamie Mackie to open the scoring, and if you do too then call Bet365.

Sheffield Utd v Ipswich, 15:00

Unfortunate United skipper Chris Hume was informed this week that he will not feature again for the Blades this season after picking up a knee injury, which is not the kind of news Gary Speed will relish with his side currently 18th in the league.
Ipswich are there for the taking at the moment, having lost four of their last six, and news of dressing-room strife has surfaced too. This will be close, and from my seat on the fence I might point you toward the 11/2 Stan James will offer you on a 1-1 draw.

Watford v Nottingham Forest, 15:00

Neither of these sides look to be in danger of the drop this year, but Forest in particular need to work hard to stay in touch with the leading pack if they are not to spend another year languishing in mid-table. It is also fair to say neither side is in any real form, and both could use a boost.
SkyBet has 8/1 on Watford to win by the game’s only goal, which could be good value. If you’re less convinced by this then Lewis McGugan is a great goalscorer to back at the moment, with Bet365 offering 5/2.

Derby v Portsmouth, 17:20

Portsmouth are enjoying the sort of rollercoaster normally associated with Florida, or Blackpool maybe, but at this point they are pretty much the form side in the league with five wins and a draw in their last six games. Derby are not far behind, with four wins, one draw and a loss.
This should be a cracking game, if nerve-wracking for the tipsters, and in order to avoid having to pick a winner I’m simply going to suggest that Kris Commons may get the opener, and that if you think he will Ladbrokes are offering 6/1.

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Sunday, 7 November 2010

Cardiff v Swansea, 13:10

No surprises that the BBC is showing this one, and there might be a few in the Valleys looking forward to a guaranteed Welsh win if the rugby proves painful on Saturday (Australia visiting). A super-charged atmosphere will hopefully not cause the players to lose their heads.
Fortunately for the Beeb, it is also a tie between first and third in the table, and with so much at stake the big players should come to the fore. If he can keep his temper, look for Craig Bellamy to exert his considerable influence on this one.
Horrible trying to predict such a tense match, but I think Cardiff will win a very tight game. 888sport are offering 15/2 on a 2-1 victory for the Bluebirds.

Cardiff v Norwich, 15:00

Following a stunning win over Leeds, Cardiff now lie level on points with leaders QPR and must go into this one as slight favourites. I say slight as Norwich are in a miserly run of defensive form and occupy fourth spot.

Nevertheless, Cardiff do go in as favourites. Don’t expect them to get four as they did against Leeds, but Jay Bothroyd played well in midweek, is available at 11/2 (with SkyBet) to continue his goalscoring run and net the first in this game.

Crystal Palace v Swansea, 15:00

Palace are a nightmare to predict this year, and Swansea are having a fantastic start to the season, although they were let down by their fans in the midweek Carling Cup game with Wigan. The Swans have also lost their last four away games, so George Burley’s men could be in with a shout of taking all three points.

Although Palace have only won two of their last six games in the league, the 10/1 offered by Betfred on a 2-1 Palace win could be worth a fling, but equally likely is a Welsh win. Sorry.

Derby v Watford, 15:00

This turbulent year for Watford has been characterised by goals, inconsistency and some good away form, and going into this game their opponents Derby must also contend with the fact they’ve lost their last three at Pride Park.

Thirteen of the twenty-one points the Hornets have picked up have come on the road, and they look a good bet for this one. Boylesports are offering 7/1 on Watford’s top marksman Danny Graham to open the scoring in this one.

Ipswich v Millwall, 15:00

It seems like the inevitable rot is setting in, and Roy Keane is beginning to show the strain. This week he chose journalists to have a pop at, and his Ipswich side have lost their three league games, whilst Millwall have been improving and now occupy ninth in the table.

This promises to be a close match, but I’d probably fancy Keane to get his side firing. With Millwall in form it could be close, but Ipswich are 11/2 to win by the single goal with Bet365.

Leicester v Preston, 15:00

Two teams desperate for a win will battle it out in what may prove a dull game, with the home side only netting sixteen times this season. Preston have been little better, as the league’s twentieth and twenty-first placed sides meet.

A draw seems quite likely, but I’m going to pick Preston at 14/1 with Bet365 to win it 1-0, mainly as it’s a good price. If Sven can get the Foxes running it could go the other way, and Blue Square have 7/1 on a 2-1 Leicester win.

Middlesbrough v Bristol City, 15:00

While City got a decent result against QPR last week it only garnered a point for the Bristolians, and they are still firmly entrenched in the bottom three. Joining them there recently have been Boro, who see to be on a strange path, but must be hoping new manager Tony Mowbray can help kick-start their campaign.

I fancy the Middlesbrough team to take this one, as players look to impress their new boss, and Bet365 have 15/2 on the Riversiders winning 2-0.

Portsmouth v Nottingham Forest, 15:00

Jose Mourinho is famous for knitting a group of players together and fostering a team mentality, but he pales in comparison to the effect of going through the administration fiasco. Portsmouth are looking stronger by the week, and this will be a close game.

Forest are also enjoying a good start, and with Lewis McGugan in top form must fancy at least a draw at Fratton Park. Tough to pick, but 8/1 with Betfred on a 2-1 Pompey win looks decent.

QPR v Burnley, 15:00

Burnley’s last league outing ended in their being demolished 4-0 by Reading, and an away game with the league leaders is hardly a bounce-back bonus, but on the face of it they may have one of the easier trips to the Hoops that any team has enjoyed this year.

QPR have faltered, and drawn a few games recently, allowing Cardiff to catch up, but I’d be surprised if they weren’t back to winning ways in this one. Blue Square have QPR available at 9/2 to win this by two.

Reading v Doncaster, 15:00

Doncaster must surely have won a few friends with their fine display on the BBC last week, but Reading had an even more impressive showing in their 4-0 away win against Burnley last Saturday. Although Donny are doing well, Reading look likely to continue their excellent form.

It’s a long-ish shot, but I like the 14/1 offered on a 3-1 Reading win offered by Betfred, for a combination of value and optimism.

Scunthorpe v Leeds United, 15:00

Fifteenth plays sixteenth in this one, with the home side having won their last two. Leeds have lost their last two, and Simon Grayson has a real challenge to make sure the team carries no negativity over from the 4-0 loss to Cardiff.

Scunny are my pick for this one, and you can get 10/1 from Betfred on them winning 2-1. For a bit of the other Becchio is available at 6/1 from Bluesq to score first.

Sheffield Utd v Coventry, 15:00

Gary Speed admitted that his side are not good enough following their loss to Doncaster last week, and the visit of Coventry will be a good test to see whether his words have had any effect. The Sky Blues are sixth at the moment, and if United start slowly and Coventry win they could finish the day as high as third.

United go in favourites, but I like the 7/2 on offer from Blue Square on a 1-0 Coventry win, for the discerning yet slightly adventurous gambler.

Barnsley v Hull, 17:20

And finally, the ultimate (technically) game, as the Tigers travel to Barnsley for the late kick-off. Hull are in a real slump at the moment, and with the club’s takeover stalling they need to find something to cheer about between the white lines.

Barnsley haven’t been all that impressive this season either, and their last two outings in the Championship ended with them losing 3-0. For this I’m going to back poor attack over poor defence and recommend the 10/1 available with Betfair on a 0-0 draw.

Friday, 22 October 2010 Bristol City v QPR, 19:45

A good evening of football will be anticipated at Ashton Gate, as league leading QPR travel to Bristol to open this round of fixtures, in a top versus bottom clash that could spring a few surprises.

City finally began to see the form expected when they signed David James, as he put in a stunning midweek performance to help his side beat Reading 1-0.

QPR, on the other hand, have only got two goals in their last three games, and despite their position have faltered slightly, although the away match with Swansea that finished goalless was a tight contest.

Given all this it is very possible the game will finish 0-0, which you can get at 9/1 with Bet365, although a 1-0 QPR win could be good at 6/1 with Betfred.

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Saturday, 23 October 2010

Burnley v Reading, 15:00

Brian Laws’ Burnley side will go into this one full of confidence after beating Barnsley 3-0 midweek, and following their 1-0 loss to the league’s bottom side Reading will be struggling to lift themselves for another tough fixture, having taken just one point from their last three games

Laws praised Chris Eagles for his ‘unplayable’ game against Barnsley, and will be hoping for a similar level of play on Saturday. Unbeaten in seven, Burnley now lie fourth in the table. Eagles has three in his last two games and is available at 10/1 with Bet365 as first goalscorer, or 13/5 anytime with Boylesports.

Coventry v Barnsley, 15:00

Both sides come in patchy form, with Coventry slight favourites due to home advantage. Barnsley will be stinging after losing 3-0 to Burnley, but Mark Robins’ side have managed just two points from their last six away games, and lost Jay McEvely after Tuesday’s game, to ligament damage.

Coventry’s recent home form has been encouraging, taking seven points from the last nine available at the Ricoh Arena, and they won’t be too downhearted despite the manner of their late loss to Cardiff midweek.

Marlon King is available at 6/1 with Betfred as first goalscorer, alternately 888sport offer 9/2 on Coventry winning by more than two goals.

Hull v Portsmouth, 15:00

After the first couple of games it looked like this could be a difficult year for Portsmouth, who were coasting gently to the bottom of the table, but over recent weeks Pompey have regained their swagger, and go into this with every chance of a win.

Hull, currently mired in takeover talks, have scraped one point from their last three league games, which has included two 1-0 home losses. And Bet365 are offering 8’s on the Tigers losing by that score, which could be a good price.

Millwall v Derby, 15:00

The Rams have really butted into the top half of the table of late, unbeaten in six and pulling off an audacious 3-2 away win at Doncaster on Thursday, and will go into this in fine fettle.

Millwall will be combative, but although the Den is never a nice place to go, the have managed two wins, two draws and two losses in their last six home games. Derby are in good form and could take this with Victor Chandler offering 5/2 on a County win.

Norwich v Middlesbrough, 15:00

Managerless Boro go into this game with many players, or at least many Scottish players, looking over their shoulder for a manager less enamoured of them, but Norwich won’t mind. The Canaries are now in fifth despite a midweek loss.

In fact, the reaction of the Riversiders makes this hard to call. If they play up then Norwich are vulnerable, losing three of their last six home games, but if Norwich get on to early it could be a heavy defeat for Boro.

Norwich go in slight favourites, although Kris Boyd could well open the scoring for Boro (13/2, Boylesports) I’d suggest a 2-0 Norwich win (17/2, Bet365) is just as likely.

Nott’m Forest v Ipswich, 15:00

After a strong start Roy Keane’s men have dropped out of the play-off places, and while Forest are undefeated in six at home, those games have only yielded two wins.

With Forest the favourites to take this top scorer Lewis McGugan could be decent value at 7/1 to get the first goal (Victor Chandler), but the game also boasts Rob Earnshaw, one of the most effective strikers to play at this level, and never far from the top of the scoring tables.

If you bet for the other team then Ipswich are available at 9’s to win this with Bet365, although those odd represent the challenge the Tractor Boys face.

Preston v Crystal Palace, 15:00

After a good win at Norwich in the week Palace will be feeling chirpy, but that game also represented their first win away from Selhurst this year, and Preston must take heart from that fact.

Both these sides currently sit in the relegation zone, and for Preston this game is a real ‘beat the teams around you’ scenario. A win for either side will probably lift them out of the bottom three.

Palace have a chance to pile further pressure on Darren Ferguson in what has been a tough week for both Ferguson father and son, but Preston have their backs to the wall, and 9/1 on a 2-0 home win with Stan James.com may see double celebrations for North End fans if it comes to light.

Swansea v Leicester, 15:00

Swansea haven’t lost in four, and following their midweek stalemate with QPR must think they should win this game against struggling (at least away from home) Leicester.

The Foxes, for their own part, have reacted superbly since the arrival of Sven, and if they can take anything away from this one it will be a real bonus, information which may give them some extra freedom around the pitch.

For a possibly pleasing return the Swans are available at 9/2 with Bet365 to win the game by two goals, with striker Scott Sinclair available at 11’s to net the first of the game, also with Bet365.

Watford v Scunthorpe, 15:00

Despite an erratic run of form, Watford are very, very good when it clicks, and the occasional brilliance has seen the Hornets fly to third in the league. The visit of Scunthorpe is one that will come with the pressure, mainly, of expectation for the Londoners.

Scunny have been hit-and-miss, losing the glamour tie with Doncaster at home, but then going to Preston and earning all three points. Whilst they have managed a few good results this may be beyond them.

Bet365 offer 7/1 on a 2-0 Watford win, or a slight better 15/2 on 2-1 to the same side. This looks possible, with their high-scoring ways seemingly behind them.

Doncaster v Sheff Utd, 17:15

The Blades make their second appearance of the year on the BBC for this Sunday evening game from Doncaster, who are undefeated in five games at home. Both sides have managed a win, a loss and a draw in their last three games, and both have a negative goal difference.

As I’m planning to sit down and enjoy this game, there is almost no chance of any good goals, play or events, so 17/2 with Victor Chandler on 0-0 looks good, but if the world turns and it is a proper match it most likely won’t be a high scoring affair, and 3/1 on Doncaster winning 1-0 is available with Blue Square.

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Monday, 25 October 2010

Leeds United v Cardiff, 19:45

The weekend will be over but the league coughs up one more game in this round, and it is possibly the most interesting. A fiery ground and a former giant of a club may inspire Cardiff, who could go top if QPR lose in Bristol.

Leeds have won three and lost three of their last six home ties, and for this reason I think Cardiff 2-1 could come off, available at 17/2 with Bet365, and Craig Bellamy at 9/2 as first goalscorer with the same folk.

Here we go then. A preview, with suggested bets, for the most competitive league in the world. Best of luck, to you and me.

QPR v Norwich, 15:00

And off we kick with a game between first and third in the table, at the home of the R’s. This is a really difficult game to call, as neither team look like taking a step back, and both will be flying high, but I’d probably back QPR to do the business after five wins in their last six games. After his Scotland bow ended in narrow defeat against Spain, Jamie Mackie could be good value as first goalscorer at 11/2 with Coral.

Ipswich v Coventry, 15:00

Ipswich are favourites going into this game, and may have Shane O’Connor, Damien Delaney and Luciano Civelli back from injury after the trio turned out for the reserves in midweek. Coventry have been patchy away from home, and following a few recent home wins Ipswich could turn 15/2 with William Hill (on a 2-0 win) into a good bet.

Cardiff v Bristol City, 12:00

Well, I’m going to get off the fence, stick out my neck and say that second-placed Cardiff should beat bottom side Bristol this weekend, especially given that the game will take place in Wales. Coral have either Chopra or Bellamy at 5/1 as first goalscorer, although Bet365’s offer of 10/1 on Cardiff to win 3-0 looks tempting.

Portsmouth v Watford, 15:00

Although starting the season slower than their fans may have found comfortable, Portsmouth are staging a recovery and go into this game as slight favourites. SkyBet have Watford at 5/2 to win this one, and with Portsmouth still very unpredictable at home and Watford more so away they could well take all three points, but no result should come as a surprise.

Reading v Swansea, 15:00

ARRGHH! This is the problem with the Championship, QPR v Norwich looks hard to call and this one is equally thorny. For all it helps the two sides lie seventh and eighth in the table, with the home side the superior, and Reading’s home advantage is the only real indicator of who might win. Scott Sinclair, at 8-1 with SkyBet, could be a good bet for first goalscorer if he starts the game.

Middlesbrough v Leeds United, 17:20

Two of the league’s best supported teams take each other on in the evening kick-off, although some could unkindly describe it as a pair of former greats brung low. Neither has been in impressive form of late, but Boro have managed to take seven points from the last nine available at home. Having said that, a nil-nil could be on the cards, and you can get 10/1 from Bet365 on this (although the same odds are available on 2-0 Boro, so if you’re a Riversider this may be the more positive option).

Sheffield United v Burnley, 15:00

Last year’s lambs to the slaughter, Burnley have bounced back impressively this year and find themselves sitting in the play-off places after ten games. Their trip to Sheffield represents a good chance for three away points, and they haven’t lost in their last three away games. Burnley are available at 15/2 to win this 1-0, although 10/1 on a 2-1 Claret victory maybe more tempting. I’d be surprised if this is a thriller.

Crystal Palace v Millwall, 15:00

Two teams with crosses to bear off the pitch (Millwall ‘fans’ and Simon Jordan’s ego) meet in an all-London affair, and one that should be a close game. Totesport are offering a bank-friendly 20/1 on Crystal Palace winning by 3-1, and while this may not seem the obvious bet this one could really end up any way.

Scunthorpe v Doncaster, 12:00

The day’s early kick-off this weekend is a game between two of the least glamorous sides in the division. After a strong start to the season Doncaster have struggled recently, and a big-money cup loss against Man United seems to have taken the wind out of Scunthorpe’s sails. Doncaster haven’t won in four, so expect a low-scoring game. Odds of 10/1 from SkyBet on a 0-0 draw look fairly decent, although both sides are available at 15’s or more to win it by the only goal.

Barnsley v Nottingham Forest, 15:00

It seems this week is determined to make me look even more stupid than my ill-advised teenage Mohawk, and Barnsley v Forest is definitely in on the conspiracy. Two sides in hugely uninspiring form, both looking to make the transition from the bottom to top half of the league. Such a close game could end up any which way, but a generous offer of 15/2 from SkyBet on a 1-0 away win could brighten up your Saturday.

Derby v Preston, 15:00

With star striker Kris Commons this week going public about a lack of interest on the Rams part in renewing his contract, Derby host a side that has faced it’s own share of trouble already this season. The Pride Park outfit go into this game as slight favourites, and with Commons playing to make a point 888sport’s offer on 6/1 on him to score first might be worth a look, providing he starts.

Leicester v Hull, 15:00

And finally, not least but last, is a battle between Foxes and Tigers at the home of crisps. Leicester’s big-money acquisition of Sven Goran Eriksson has given the struggling midlanders a lift, and Hull are as unpredicatable this year as ever. You can get 10/1 on Hull to win 1-0 with SkyBet, but would probably be better off taking the 7/1 on offer for Leicester to win by the same scoreline, offered by Stan James.

With round ten of the season upon us and the league table starting to shape up, a cracking set of fixtures this weekend is likely to produce a few surprises. When Middlesbrough take on Portsmouth at the Riverside, surprise is pretty much guaranteed.

Gordon Strachan’s Boro side are underperforming this season, surprising those who had tipped them to make the playoffs at the very least, and having lost their last two matches lie nineteenth in the table. Portsmouth are also underachieving, but have won their last two games, making this a really tough game to call. Both teams have been involved in fairly high-scoring games recently, so it should at least be exciting.

QPR have firmly installed themselves as the team to beat early on, and are incredibly six points clear after only nine games. They travel to Selhurst Park to take on Crystal Palace, who are in the bottom three and struggling to score. Expect the Hoops to continue their superb form for at least 90 more minutes in this encounter.

Leeds have had a fairly remarkable week, with the feisty game against Sheffield United followed by a frankly ridiculous match with Preston, which the Elland Road outfit ended up losing by six goals to four. A trip to Ipswich might not be the best remedy, with Roy Keane no doubt wishing to see an immediate reaction after the loss to Reading midweek, and this may well prove a step too far for United.

After a bright start to the season Swansea have stumbled somewhat, but still remain in eighth, knowing that if they beat Derby they could potentially climb as high a second in the table. Their perfect home record should not be under threat when the Rams visit, and Brendan Rodgers has already called for progress following their first away win of the season. Derby will be no pushover, but Rodgers would view a draw as two points dropped.

Following the ten-goal thriller at Elland Road, Preston manager Darren Ferguson will be hoping for a less stressful afternoon when Reading visit Deepdale, with Reading no doubt flying after beating Ipswich. While he would be happy to see his strikers perform like they did against Leeds, Ferguson will know that Reading are a good team on strong form, and Preston’s defence will need improvement if they stand any chance of winning this one.

Burnley face the never-attractive trip to play Millwall in their Den, and with the added burden of still being winless on the road, but the demolition of Hull on Tuesday will have been a boost. They will need to play well against a team that held leaders QPR to a goalless draw in the week, and who could draw level on points with Burnley if they win. However, Millwall are once again victims of their own fans with further crowd violence marring what would otherwise have been an excellent result on Tuesday.

Possibly the league’s form side, Watford were this week boosted by the news the Danny Graham has agreed a new two-year deal at the club after his prolific start to the season. They travel to Sheffield to play a United side who have taken only one point from their last two games and lie a disappointing eighteenth in the table. Gary Speed will need every ounce of his tactical skill to finish this game level or ahead, whilst a Watford win, maybe the most likely result, could see them go second.

The team they are looking to usurp are Cardiff, who can be sure of holding their position if the beat Barnsley on Saturday afternoon when they visit Oakwell. The Welsh side have started the season well, but with Barnsley unbeaten at home this season, don’t be surprised here if the Bluebirds leave empty handed.

When Scunthorpe arrive to play Leicester this weekend, they may have in the back of their minds that a win for the Iron could condemn Foxes boss Paolo Sousa, who is under increasing pressure as his side now lie at the foot of the table. The Portuguese legend must hope his players can draw some inspiration from the turmoil for this fixture, but Scunthorpe will have other plans.

Hull, who were smashed 4-0 midweek by Burnley, are in danger of sinking toward the relegation quagmire. The Tigers will be striving for consistency, and while their opponents Coventry lie ninth in the league, the Sky Blues patchy away record will give Hull hope. Expect a reaction from the Tigers, and they will want to return to the ways that saw them go nearly 280 minutes without conceding before the capitulation against Burnley.

Third-place Norwich travel to Bristol to take on City, who are floundering early in the season and need to start picking up points fast. On the face of it this probably isn’t the game you’d expect them to turn their term around in, but Norwich’s defence has looked shaky recently and the Canaries cannot afford to take this one for granted.

Finally, Doncaster play Nottingham Forest at the Keapmoat Stadium, looking to arrest a very poor run of form. After a decent start that saw them rise to fourth in the league, Donny need to get back on track if they are to keep pace with the leaders. Forest, meanwhile, are undefeated in three games, and a win could lift them into the playoff positions. This could easily end in a draw.

By Tim Masters

As the Championship gets into full swing and the gruelling run to Christmas starts two team with excellent promotion prospects meet at the Madejski stadium. Reading, fresh from a 3-0 win over Barnsley on Saturday, play host to Ipswich, who will be looking to get back to winning ways after an away draw with Scunthorpe. Reading’s slightly inconsistent form makes this a tough one to predict, but playing at home can often be an advantage in tight games.

Millwall visit league leaders QPR, and following the much improved performance in Wales which saw them lose narrowly there is no let-up in pressure for Kenny Jackett’s men, who may be secretly relieved to be on the road after the ugly scenes during the Watford game. QPR will be looking to continue their winning ways, and with striker Jamie Mackie possibly in line for a Scottish debut due to superb recent form Neil Warnock’s Hoops must fancy another three points.

Although Swansea started the season well, the last few weeks have seen their performances take a marked dip, and their trip to Vicarage Road to take on Watford won’t be an easy game. The Hornets are playing great stuff, and are full of confidence since beating Millwall 6-1. The Swans aren’t particularly solid on the road, having lost all four if their fixtures away this season, and Watford should edge what will be a close contest.

It wasn’t a massive shock to match Northampton v Liverpool, but Portsmouth’s 6-1 win over Leicester on Friday night certainly represented a change in form for Steve Tilson and his team. Struggling Bristol are the next up at Fratton Park, and their poor form makes this a good chance for Pompey to get their second win and climb out of the relegation zone, which looks as likely as any result.

Two recent Premiership leavers face off at Roots Hall, and the Tigers of Hull City will fancy at least a draw against a Burnley side that lie 7 places above them, despite having only collected on more point. Burnley themselves are undefeated at home this term, and a win for the Claret and Blues could take them as high as third in the table at this early juncture.

Derby and Middlesbrough can also boast relatively recent appearances at English football’s top table, but it counts for little as they are both in the bottom third of the league. This may be slightly deceptive, as a win for Gordon Strachan’s side could see them rise to the top six, but the Scot will be aware that the league can leave you behind quickly, and will want to win this game. That may not be simple, with Derby’s new striker Bueno on good form and Luke Moore signed on loan from West Brom, as well as the match being played at Pride Park.

Cardiff are still second in the league, but have slipped back to six points behind leaders QPR after taking only three points from their last three games. The Bluebirds will see the visit of Crystal Palace, who are languishing near the foot of the table, as a chance to reboot their campaign, but David Jones may still be missing talismanic striker Craig Bellamy. Palace were thrashed 5-0 by Derby on the weekend and will be without James Vaughan after his sending-off in that game.

Preston welcome manager Darren Ferguson back to the dugout for the game away at Leeds, and he will need to put out his strongest side to cope with Simon Grayson’s high-flyers. A tightly-fought derby win over Sheffield United on Saturday will have done wonders for the confidence of Leeds, who now find themselves fifth in the league. If the front-men for United can fire this will be simple for Leeds, but don’t rule out a Preston victory as Ferguson aims to lift his side up the table.

Another team at the wrong end of the league, Leicester, take on sixth-place Norwich at Carrow Road, and the Canaries must be targeting a good win here. There is always the chance that the Foxes will bounce back after losing 6-1 at Portsmouth and replacing Pompey are the foot of the table, but Norwich will view anything other than three points and an opportunity lost.

 Doncaster this week find themselves sent to Coventry, if only by the fixture computer, and if either side can win this one they will most likely finish the evening in the play-off positions. They are travelling in different directions at the moment, with Coventry on the up and Donny slipping after an impressive start, but Coventry lost to Preston on the weekend, and have been inconsistent of late. Doncaster must be aware this is a decent chance to restart their winning ways, although a revitalised Marlon King needs watching as he leads the Coventry line.

Forest are another side that sit in mid-table, but are one win away from the rarefied atmosphere of the top six. For their own part opponents Sheffield United could climb as many as ten places if they can smash-and-grab all three at the County Ground. Gary Speed will want his players to react well to a narrow, and somewhat controversial, loss to Leeds, but may have to settle for a point at best with the Nottingham on good, if patchy, form.

Finally Scunthorpe, who are better away from home so far this year, host Barnsley, a side who have only picked up one point on their travels this season. This game doesn’t look to be a classic, but as we’ve already seen this year it is impossible to predict this league, so what looks like ending a goalless draw will probably finish 6-1, but in favour of which team is anyone’s guess. For the record, a goalless draw seems to this observer worth predicting, if only for the fans that turn up to see me proved wrong!

Written by Tim Masters

This week the Friday night lights will shine down on the trembling foundations of Fratton Park, as Leicester visit a club in apparent freefall. Having said that, the Foxes lie only three points and two positions above Portsmouth, and with neither club in impressive form this game is really evenly balanced. Portsmouth, most likely, will be aware they are unlikely to get a better chance for their first league win of the season, and this could work in their favour.

On Saturday league leaders QPR host Doncaster, who could not have wished for a more difficult fixture following their disappointing home draw with Leeds last weekend. Although Donny have been on good form this season, currently lying 7th in the table, they may have to wait another game to resume their winning ways, especially given that QPR’s Jamie Mackie is in lethal form.

Two form teams meet at Vicarage Road, although Middlesbrough’s impressive 3-1 win over Reading last week was no doubt eclipsed by the stunning performance Watford produced to humble Millwall (and this writer) last week. The 6-1 away win will have left the Hornets buzzing and Boro face a very tough task if they want to take anything back with them.

On the other hand, both Cardiff and Millwall will be looking to bounce back and put poor results behind them. Cardiff’s good start was derailed last week when they lost to Ipswich, and they will be hoping to get back on track when the Lions roar into Wales. For their part Millwall will be anxious to prove the Watford result was nothing more than a freak, and should provide good opposition for the Bluebirds.

Burnley had an excellent League Cup result this week, triumphing with the dual satisfaction of beating a Premiership manager by a former Burnley manager, in Owen Coyle’s Bolton. Struggling Bristol City face a daunting trip to Turf Moor, and need a win to move them away from the relegation zone. Whether this is the time to get it remains to be seen, but a decent result is not totally out of their grasp.

Barnsley have faced a difficult week, with the arrest and bail of Paul Doyle on suspicion of possession of a Class A substance, and will be relishing the chance to get back to football matters when they take on Reading at the Royals home. Reading have endured a difficult start to the season, but will be aware the season is long and much can change yet. It is impossible to know how Barnsley will react to recent news, but Reading should just shade this one.

Ipswich travel to Scunthorpe, with the Glanford Park side dealing with a welcome distraction this week, in the shape of the visit of Manchester United in the League Cup. A game worth up to £200,000 of extra revenue saw Scunthorpe put in a spirited performance but fall short. Roy Keane’s side have quickly climbed the table and now lie second following a superb win over Cardiff last weekend. They must fancy their chances of taking at least a point from the fixture.

A charged atmosphere will greet Sheffield United when they arrive for their clash with Leeds at Elland Road, and ‘keeper Richard Wright could be thrown in at the deep end having signed on loan for the Blades this week. Gary Speed’s men have been inconsistent this term, and Leeds must feel they can win this one.

Having signed Marlon King this week following his release from prison Coventry have been receiving more attention than usual. They will be hoping the striker can put his issues behind him and make an impact against Preston, who will still be missing Darren Ferguson from their dugout. Preston are on a run of three league defeats and Coventry will be targeting three points from this home fixture,

Neither Nottingham Forest or Swansea have tasted defeat in their last three games, and the Welsh side will travel to City ground knowing they are eleven places above Forest. If other results go their way Swansea could finish the day as high as second in the league, and either an away win or a draw seem highly probable here.

Two clubs who may find themselves fighting at the wrong end of the table in May are facing off in what may already be a relegation six-pointer. Palace will need both keeper Julian Speroni and striker James Vaughan to have good games, although Nigel Clough’s side haven’t exactly set the world on fire recently. This is a game that may end, due to nervous tension, in a goalless stalemate.

Last, but not least, is the visit of Hull to Norwich’s Carrow Road. The Canaries have enjoyed a superb run, and supporters are suggesting that a run of good results could see the club climb to the very top of the table. With Hull in poor form this looks unlikely to be the match Norwich stumble in, unless Nigel Pearson’s men can drastically improve their level of performance

This weekend sees a host of mouth-watering fixtures in the NPower Championship, all kicking off on Friday night with Leeds United visiting surprise package Doncaster Rovers, who currently lie fourth in the table. Leeds are coming off the back of a heavy loss to Barnsley, and with Doncaster flying high after beating Norwich recently, this could be a good result for the Rovers.

One of the most interesting ties of the weekend is the match between Cardiff, currently lying second in the table, and Ipswich, ranked 5th, that takes place at Portman Road on Saturday. With Dave Jones hoping for the return of Bellamy and Bothroyd following an injury to midfielder Danny Drinkwater this week, this could represent a tough challenge for Ipswich, whose manager Roy Keane recently lost one of his best friends and football’s most famous canine personalities, Triggs, who he famously walked on returning home from the Irish World Cup squad.

Leaders QPR face what should be a relatively easy away game against struggling Leicester, but will have to be wary of in-form Andy King, who scored two goals in the home win against Cardiff, including a wonderfully judged lobgoog. Leicester have also been boosted by the news that star striker Matty Fryatt looks to be staying at the club.

At the other end of the table, Portsmouth travel to Sheffield Utd still looking for their first win of the season, which the Fratton Park faithful must be beginning to think will never come. Utd are only in 18th position, but could take all three points unless Portsmouth show some improvement. In another bottom-half clash 16th placed Hull travel to Nottingham Forest, who lies just one place above them in the league. This should be a close game, with a goalless draw looking probable.

Possibly the hardest match to call this weekend is high-flying Scunthorpe travelling to Swansea. Scunthorpe are on good away form, but the are Swans undefeated at home so far this season and Scunny will still be adjusting to the departure of manager Nigel Adkins, who moved down a league to take the reins at Southampton. Although caretaker boss Ian Baraclough has made a decent start, Swansea should just edge this one.

Recently relegated Burnley visit Selhurst Park to take on Crystal Palace, who will be hoping on-loan striker James Vaughan can continue the form that saw him bag a hattrick against Portsmouth. Burnley’s poor away form should see George Burley’s Palace just edge this one, but it is a match that could go either way.

The game between pre-season favourites Middlesbrough and Reading is an intriguing prospect, with Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici in good form and the team coming off a 3 – 0 victory over Crystal Palace. Gordon Strachan is hoping to welcome back some of his injured stars, including Willo Flood and Gary O’Neil, and the Riverside team should just have the edge due to home advantage, despite languishing in 17th position in the league.

In an all-London clash 3rd place Millwall welcome Watford to the New Den, as much as any team is ever welcomed there, and will expect to come away with all three points, providing that hitman Steve Morrison can get back to scoring ways after being thwarted by a good performance from Adam Federici in the match against Reading.

Meanwhile, Preston host Norwich with something of a cloud over North End, as keeper Andy Lonegan has disciplinary charges hanging over his head relating to the clash with Burnley on last Saturday, which has also meant that manager Darren Ferguson will miss the game, and the following two. Ferguson faces a three match ban after admitting a charge of improper conduct aggravated by insulting and/or abusive language. He clashed with Kevin Friend, the referee during Saturday’s game against Burnley. A draw seems the most likely result here, although Norwich could snatch all three points if Preston aren‘t focussed in their manager‘s absence.

Derby face a trip to Barnsley, in what could be a close match with neither team really catching fire of late. In a match that will probably come down to the minutiae Barnsley’s home advantage could prove a factor, but neither manager will be taking anything for granted.

It looks to be a similar story for Coventry, who travel to Bristol City knowing that the Ashton Gate side could be there for the taking, as Bristol lie 21st in the league, having suffered the upheaval of losing Steve Coppell. There was more bad news for the club this week as their plans for a new stadium hit a planning snag.

Written by Timothy Masters