The Championship title race is in full swing and this is one of the tightest leagues in recent seasons. No one team has taken the division by the scruff of the neck and forged into a clear lead which means just two points separate the top four clubs and they have 12 games to compete for the two automatic positions.
Middlesbrough blew one of their games in hand during the week, going down 2-1 at Blackburn, but they have the chance to put that right tonight when they host Wolves at the Riverside. A win there would take them to the top of the table one point ahead of the current leaders, but it is likely to be short-lived as the Clarets play in the lunchtime kick off at home to derby rivals Blackburn and it’s a game where we expect them to take the initiative.
For our other tips for the weekend we’re moving further down the league to a couple of mid-table clashes which represent a little bit of value at the prices. Ipswich are a side who haven’t featured in our bets many times this season, but the Tractor Boys are still in with a shot of sneaking into the play-offs as they did last year, and they host a Nottingham Forest side that has fallen off a cliff after a long unbeaten run. Elsewhere Reading play Fulham and it looks like a game that is primed for goals with better than even odds available for over 2.5.
Burnley v Blackburn
We’ll start with Burnley who are a cracking price at +105 with BetVictor to come out on top of a fierce Lancashire derby.
This fixture has never been one for the faint-hearted and it will be a real war of contrition, but Burnley have the greater quality and can reap the rewards if they can match Blackburn for the physical side of the game. The Clarets have won 7 of the last 9 games (excluding the FA Cup defeat at Arsenal) and they are unbeaten in the Championship since the Boxing Day loss to Hull. They came form behind to beat Bolton away last time out, and the home form is even better – showing 6 wins from the last 7 and in Andre Gray they have a striker among the goals.
Blackburn have started to improve under new boss Paul Lambert, as the midweek victory over Middlesbrough demonstrates, and three wins from four games will give them confidence. However, each of those three wins has been on home ground and apart from FA Cup ties at lower league opposition, they haven’t won away since early December. They’re 16th in the table and with 40 points on the board already should be perfectly safe from relegation. It’s this time of the year which gets difficult for teams in that position though, and they really only have pride left to play for. Of course, plenty of pride is at stake in this particular game, but Burnley have been a solid proposition all season at home and they are worth following again.
Ipswich v Nottingham Forest
Mick McCarthy has done an excellent job on limited resources at the Suffolk club, despite regularly losing his better players, and he’ll be hoping to lead his side into the top six as he did last season. They went down to local rivals Norwich in the play-off semi final last year, but once again they find themselves in a position to squeeze in at the last minute. They’re four points behind 6th placed Sheffield Wednesday with a game in hand and are among a clutch of teams who are realistically fighting for 4th, 5th and 6th spots. They ended a run of three straight defeats with the 1-0 win at Huddersfield last week, but their home record stands up well to scrutiny. Since September they’ve only been beaten at home by Derby, Hull and Middlesbrough – three of the top five sides – and they’ve also beaten Forest on two of their last three visits.
Forest themselves were on a superb run of form until recently, going 13 games without defeat, but the wheels have well and truly come off with three consecutive losses against Bristol City, Burnley and Huddersfield. Despite that excellent run they’ve still only won two of the last twelve games on the road, and with the squad stretched thin they will find this a tough assignment.
Reading v Fulham
Finally, we’ve made plenty of profit on backing Fulham games to go over 2.5 goals and we’re happy to do the same when they visit Reading at a price of +102 with Marathonbet
The Cottagers have one of the best scoring records in the division, but also one of the worst defensive records too. They’ve hit 51 goals over the course of the season which is bettered only by Burnley, but they’ve also shipped 56 and only the sides in the bottom three have a worse tally than that. They’re still not out of the woods as far as relegation is concerned, despite a 7 point cushion over the drop zone, so they have plenty left to play for as the search for survival points.
Reading fans may still harbour hopes of reaching the play-offs but it would have to be a dramatic run if they are to do so. They currently occupy 12th in the table and have a huge 12-point gap to make up to get that far. They’re certainly not in danger of relegation though, and much like Blackburn they probably have little left to play for but pride. The last five times these two teams have met there have been at least three goals, and it would be no surprise to see similar results on Saturday afternoon.
Burnley to beat Blackburn
Saturday 5th March, 12:30 GMT
Ipswich to beat Nottingham Forest
Saturday 5th March, 15:00 GMT
Reading v Fulham over 2.5 goals
Saturday 5th March, 15:00 GMT
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