Boro Can Extend Lead with Win at Blackburn

Middlesbrough beat Brighton 3-0 away from home last weekend.

The festive feast of football is almost upon us and there’s a double bill in the Championship, starting on Boxing Day. Middlesbrough took the top spot for Christmas with a vital win at Brighton last weekend, taking the long-time leaders unbeaten record in the process. That result coupled with Derby’s hard-fought victory at Ipswich saw the Rams jump into the top two, relegating the seagulls to third position.

It will be a huge test of Brighton’s promotion credentials this week as we see how that defeat affects confidence and momentum, and they’re facing tough games away at Brentford on Saturday, before hosting Ipswich next Tuesday. We’ve made plenty of profit from Chris Hughton’s side over recent weeks, but it may be time to take a watching brief for now. Instead we’re keen on the chances of both of the top two on Saturday, while we’re also taking in a relegation battle as Rotherham host Bolton.

Blackburn v Middlesbrough

Starting with Middlesbrough, they look a shade overpriced at +140  with Skybet to beat Blackburn when they visit Ewood Park.

Aitor Karanka’s Boro have kept 8 clean sheets in 9 Championship matches, including the last six in row. The Smoggies are back to their resolute best, and the sort of form that saw them reach the play-off final last season. The crucial difference this year has been firepower, and despite the miserly defence, they’ve scored nine goals in those last six games to win five of them. Away form has been excellent lately too, with the last three games resulting in 2-0 wins at Ipswich and Huddersfield, and that brilliant 3-0 victory on the south coast.

Blackburn went down 1-0 away at Reading on Sunday, a result which left them 14th in the table and six points outside the play-offs. That will surely be the aim for Rovers this season, but whether they can get there is another question. They’d been on an eight-game unbeaten run before that reverse, and manager Paul Lambert has already made an impact since his arrival, but those fixtures were all against mid-table clubs and Boro are showing themselves to be a different class.

Blackburn have only lost one of the last six at home, but they’ve also only won one, with four stalemates. Middlesbrough’s tight back line will earn them the opportunity to snatch this game, and their forward line should have enough quality to take it.

Derby v Fulham

Derby are fairly short but can still be backed regardless at -188  with Skybet and Coral when Fulham come to town.

The Cottagers are all over the show at the moment, and the appointment of Stuart Gray as head coach has done little to steady the ship. It’s now eight games without a win for the West Londoners and they’re leaking goals at an alarming rate. They’ve conceded 19 goals in the last eight, and although they’ve notched 10 in return, it’s only been enough to earn them four draws and four defeats. They lost 5-1 at Derby last season and their fans must be fearing the worst on Boxing Day.

If Fulham fans are switching off from the football and watching festive films instead, Derby fans will all be tuning in to events at Pride Park as promotion is well and truly back on for the Rams. They led the Championship for so long last season only to fall away and miss out on a play-off spot when automatic promotion had looked certain. It was an astute decision to bring in former Real Madrid coach Paul Clement for his first managerial position, and the gamble appears to have paid off after a successful run of 10 wins in 15 games, with just 1 defeat.

They’ve won six in the last seven at Pride Park, scoring twice in all but one of the games, and they should be far too good for a fragile Fulham defence.

Rotherham v Bolton

Our final tip this week is on goals, and theres a good chance the Rotherham v Bolton fixture will feature over 2.5 goals. It’s priced at  +110  with BetVictorPaddy Power and Betfred and it’s worth taking a touch of odds-against.

Both teams are in dire trouble at the moment – Rotherham are 22nd in the table with 18 points, one point from safety; while Bolton are rock bottom with 14 points, a hefty five points adrift. Things are critical at the Lancashire club right now, with boss Neil Lennon admitting after the draw at Fulham that the PFA may be covering some of the Bolton players wages this month. The club are deeply in debt and face a winding up order over unpaid taxes. Unless a takeover can be negotiated they could even face administration and a 12-point deduction. Lennon states that it’s not affecting his players, but Bolton are without a win in 16 matches now. The last six games have featured 19 goals, at a rate of more than three per game.

Rotherham haven’t fared much better in recent times, but at least they’ve got three wins to their name in the last six. Those wins have been interspersed with losses though, as they have been all season, and last weekend’s shock 2-0 home win over Hull brought to an end a three-game losing run. They’re hard to predict results-wise, but they’ve got the second-worst defensive record this season, having conceded 38 goals so far. Home games seem to be particularly productive, with 33 scored by both teams in the last ten matches at Millmoor. The last three games between these two sides have featured 14 goals, and the bet would have landed on each occasion.

Tips Summary

Middlesbrough to beat Blackburn
Saturday 26th December, 15:00 GMT
Odds:  +140

Derby to beat Fulham
Saturday 26th December, 15:00 GMT
Odds:  -188

Rotherham v Bolton – over 2.5 goals
Saturday 26th December, 15:00 GMT
Odds:  +110

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