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 BlueSquare 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 BlueSquare 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 VictorChandler 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.