The English Championship is three games old already and the table is starting to take shape. The biggest story and the biggest surprise is that Aston Villa find themselves bottom of the table after gaining just one point from their opening three fixtures. That wasn’t what Steve Bruce and John Terry had on the agenda as they entered the season as one of the favourites for promotion, and they will need to turn things around very quickly. The Villains welcome another preseason promotion favourite, Norwich, to Villa Park on Saturday and it is a game that looks primed for goals.
Fulham are this week’s headline bet though, as they look to put three consecutive draws behind them and grab a victory at home over Sheffield Wednesday. The Owls are teetering just above the early relegation zone after collecting two draws from three games, but lost their only away match so far at Preston.
The televised game this evening features Sunderland and Leeds, a mouth-watering tie between two former top flight clubs with huge fan bases. The two sides are locked together on five points, in 6th and 7th respectively, but we suspect that the Black Cats might just have the edge in this one.
Fulham v Sheffield Wednesday
The Cottagers were pegged back by a last-ditch equaliser in their first game of the season at home to Norwich, a 1-1 draw denying them the perfect start and three points. They’ve had a couple of tricky away games since then – first at last year’s play off rivals Reading, followed by a trip up to Leeds. Both of those games ended all square too, but back on home soil on Saturday Fulham are fancied to get the win.
Sheffield Wednesday were also involved in last season’s play offs, but have started this season poorly. An opening day 1-0 defeat at Preston has been followed by two draws at Hillsborough. Sunderland and QPR have held them to 1-1 draws in the last two home matches, and this is a long trip down to London.
Sunderland v Leeds
Sunderland’s ship has been steadied after a dreadful campaign in the Premier League last year, and they are capable of getting the better of Leeds on live TV on Saturday evening. The Black Cats are a very tempting price of +125 with Betfred and Unibet.
They opened the season with a home draw against Derby in a game that could have gone either way, the 1-1 scoreline probably a fair reflection. After that Sunderland took three points at Carrow Road by beating Norwich 3-1, and were pegged back to a 1-1 draw in midweek at Sheffield Wednesday. One thing that is guaranteed for Sunderland is a big and very vocal crowd at home, and one suspects they will end the season with a strong home record.
Leeds are becoming a much more competitive side at this level, and very nearly qualified for the play offs last term under now Middlebrough boss Garry Monk. They are unbeaten so far after beating Bolton away on the first day, and taking part in two 0-0 draws against Preston and Fulham since then. However, with home advantage, Sunderland are fancied to be too strong on Saturday.
Aston Villa v Norwich
Finally Villa v Norwich looks primed for both teams to score at -120
Norwich conceded far too many goals last season – one reason they failed in a bid for promotion – and that doesn’t look to be changing this term. A 2-0 victory over QPR was at least a clean sheet, but it may be a rare thing this season for the Canaries.
Villa have some serious work to do after humiliating defeats and Cardiff and Reading, and they need points on the board soon if they are to stay in touch with the leaders. It has been a baptism of fire for John Terry, and one wonders if he regrets the decision to go to the Midlands.
With that in mind it is easy to imagine Villa going gung-ho in this game in order to take the initiative, but Norwich are good enough going forward to get on the scoresheet as well. A high-scoring game would hardly come as a surprise given the circumstances.
Fulham to beat Sheffield Wednesday
Saturday 19th August, 15:00 GMT
Sunderland to beat Leeds
Saturday 19th August, 17:30 GMT
Aston Villa v Norwich – Both teams to score
Saturday 19th August, 15:00 GMT