It’s that time of year in England when the festive fixtures come thick and fast, and it’s a crucial point in the season with plenty of points up for grabs. Their European counterparts may be enjoying an extended Christmas break, but for players plying their trade in Blighty there are no such luxuries.
SBO have been making a regular profit in England’s second tier this season, and with several games to choose from on Boxing Day afternoon, there’s a good opportunity to replace some of the cash that’s gone missing from the wallets over Christmas!
Aston Villa are our first port of call, as they have an eminently winnable game at home to Burton. Steve Bruce’s men still have a tonne of work to do if they are to bridge the six-point gap to the play offs, but that looks to be their only chance of promotion since they’ve dropped to 17 points behind the runaway leading pair of Newcastle and Brighton. It’s away form that continues to damage the Villains – they’ve notched just two wins from twelve on the road – but home form gives plenty of hope as it’s four victories on the spin at Villa Park.
Huddersfield have come back to form in recent weeks, with a superb 2-1 win at Norwich completing a run of three in a row. The Terriers are doggedly holding onto their play off place, and a home game against lacklustre Notts Forest presents a perfect opportunity to secure another three points. Meanwhile, Fulham travel to Ipswich for a mid-table clash that looks to have goals written all over it.
Aston Villa v Burton
Villa are a fair price at 7/101.70-1430.70-1.430.70 with Coral to beat Burton, and should give their fans plenty of Christmas cheer on Boxing Day afternoon.
The Villains have certainly improved since Steve Bruce took charge, but it’s clear they are much more comfortable on home soil. Terrible away form was the story of their relegation from the Premier League last term, and away wins at Reading and QPR have been the only two victories for travelling fans to savour in over a year. Give credit to Bruce that his Villa team have been beaten just twice – at Leeds and Norwich – since he took the job, and momentum is slowly building. The last four home games have all resulted in three points, after wins against Fulham, Blackburn, Cardiff and Wigan, and Villa remain unbeaten at Villa Park this season.
Burton travel here off the back of three straight defeats, but manager Nigel Clough was full of praise for his side’s performance in the 2-1 defeat by Newcastle. Realistically though, if they finish in their current position of 21st and maintain Championship status, it will be classed as a successful year. That’s the difference in expectation at these two clubs, where anything less than promotion will be classed as failure for Villa. Despite showing all of the fighting qualities needed to survive in this division, Burton are yet to win on their travels and it’s unlikely that they will start here.
Huddersfield v Nottingham Forest
Huddersfield’s early season form was arguably as much of a suprise to their own supporters as it was the general football world, but at odds of 4/51.80-1250.80-1.250.80 with William Hill they should be backed to beat Forest.
Most pundits expected the Terriers to drop away from the top of the table in due course, and so it proved as a run of just one win in eight brought them crashing back down to earth. However, they’ve regrouped and managed to win the last three on the spin to solidify their position in the top six. Those wins have come at home to Bristol City, away at Burton, but most impressively, away at Norwich last Friday night. The Canaries are a very strong side at Carrow Road, but there was no fluke about Huddersfield’s win. Manager David Wagner has reportedly turned down an approach from Bundesliga side Wolfsburg, and that should in turn galvanise the playing squad.
Forest tend to feature in high-scoring games in the Championship, as has been pointed out on countless occasions in this column, but it hasn’t done them many favours. They sit in 17th position just six points clear of the drop zone, and are winless in three matches. Defeats away at Derby and at home to Wolves sandwiched a 1-1 draw at Preston, but a side that can’t defend will struggle at any level of football. On the road Forest have managed just two win and eight points from 11 games, which puts them in the bottom four of the division for away form.
By comparison, Hudderfield have won 7 of 10 at home which puts them in the top six for home form. The Terriers are a good bet to make it 8 from 11 on Boxing Day.
Ipswich v Fulham
Finally over 2.5 goals is worth a bet at 107/1002.07+1071.071.07-0.93 with Marathonbet when Fulham visit Suffolk to play Ipswich.
The Tractor Boys are a perennial mid-table side under Mick McCarthy – not quite enough about them to challenge for promotion, but never looking like being drawn into relegation battles. That’s probably testament to the experienced manager’s ability to get a tune out of a squad on a budget. Ipswich are currently 15th in the table with 28 points, and they won last time out by the odd goal in a five-goal thriller at Wigan.
Fulham’s last five games have all gone over the 2.5 goal line, ranging from a 5-0 victory at home over Reading, to a 4-4 draw in the road at Wolves. Both teams will fancy their chances of getting three points here, and that should lead to an open, and ultimately, high-scoring match.
Aston Villa to beat Burton
Monday 26th December, 15:00 GMT
Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.
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