The Championship season got underway last weekend and after midweek cup clashes, it’s an immediate return to league football in the second tier. Millwall and Bolton were two of the three sides promoted from League One last term, and they face each other at the Den in one of Saturday’s more interesting fixtures.
Neither side won their opening games last weekend in the Championship – Millwall went down 1-0 at Nottingham Forest last Friday night, while Bolton were beaten 3-2 on home soil by Leeds in a televised fixture on Sunday. It’s going to be a tough season in search of survival for both, and Saturday’s match will see them renew rivalries from last term. Millwall have a very strong home record, but Bolton look decidedly over-priced to get some kind of result.
Two of the teams relegated from the Premier League last season catch the eye this weekend, despite neither managing to grab three points last week. We got our fingers burned by Middlesbrough as they fell to a 1-0 defeat at Wolves last Saturday, but they can be given a chance to make amends this weekend with a home tie against newly-promoted Sheffield United. Hull took a well-earned point from Aston Villa last Saturday evening, and a home match against Burton Albion gives them a chance to take three points in front of their own fans.
Millwall v Bolton
Firstly we’ll back Bolton or Draw at -118 with Bet365, although bolder punters may want to take some of the +300 available about a Bolton victory.
Millwall have a strong home record – the 6th best in League One last term and they were only beaten four times at the Den all season. However, one of those defeats was a 2-0 loss at the hands of Bolton last October. The Trotters finished 2nd to earn automatic promotion last year, while Millwall were successful via the play offs after finishing 6th in the table. Bolton also won the reverse League One fixture 2-0, and are a big price to take at least a point from this match.
The Lions gave a good account of themselves at Forest last week, missing a host of chances as they went down 1-0. They made amends during the week with a 2-0 Carabao Cup victory over Stevenage at the Den, and will aim to continue the good work by taking three points on Saturday. Bolton also hit the winning trail in the cup by coming from behind to beat Crewe 2-1. The Trotters were never quite on terms last week against Leeds, eventually losing 3-2 after Adam Le Fondre’s penalty gave them hope in the second half.
This has all the makings of a tight match, and Bolton look a fair bet to come away with something.
Middlesbrough v Sheffield United
It wasn’t a perfect start for Garry Monk and Boro last week as they came up against a Wolves side which has seen heavy investment. Any doubts about Wanderers forming a cohesive team were put to rest as Leo Bonatini’s first goal for the club gave them the three points. Middlesbrough piled on the pressure in the second half but couldn’t find a way through, and Monk lamented the fact that they failed to take their chances. He will expect a different outcome this weekend as his own expensively-assembled side play their first home match of the season.
Sheffield United – unlike fellow promoted sides Millwall and Bolton – enjoyed a perfect start to their Championship campaign with a 1-0 home victory over Brentford last week. That was followed up with a midweek 3-2 cup win over Wallsall, and one suspects it will be a very entertaining season for Blades fans this year. They won League One with 100 points last term scoring 92 goals in the process, and they are sure to be involved in some high-scoring matches this season. Whether they can take anything from Middlesbrough is another question though, and there should be a gulf in class here that is too big to bridge.
Hull v Burton
Albion survived against the odds last season but are going to have to cope with that difficult ‘second season syndrome’ this time around. They had a poor start with a 1-0 home defeat to Cardiff, but did at least snatch a 3-2 win away at Oldham in the Carabao Cup during the week. This is a tall order against a Hull side which still retains some Premier League quality in its ranks.
Hull’s home form almost saw them survive the drop last season, and although a lot of talent has left the club, enough remains for them to compete in the top half this season. They were second best in the first half at Villa last week, but produced a much-improved second half performance and were deserving of the point from a 1-1 draw. The Tigers are expected to be on the front foot for most of the match on Saturday, and one suspects they will have too much bite for Burton.
Bolton or Draw
Saturday 12th August, 15:00 GMT
Middlesbrough to beat Sheffield United
Saturday 12th August, 17:30 GMT
Hull to beat Burton
Saturday 12th August, 15:00 GMT
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