The Championship season is already a couple of games old, and round three takes place in midweek. The three relegated clubs, Hull, QPR and Burnley, have had mixed starts, with only the Tigers finding a win so far. Last year’s play-off contenders, Brentford and Middlesbrough have both made a good early impression as they chase promotion once again, but Brighton have taken the top honours so far with the only 100% record still intact in the division.
There are some great fixtures in store on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and some good prices to boot. The first game which takes the eye is the clash between Derby and Middlesbrough – two of the sides well-fancied for promotion. Meanwhile, Preston have settled well into life in the Championship, and are worth following when they travel to bottom club Rotherham. On Wednesday, Hull are the headline pick to dominate at home to Fulham, as they look to bounce back at the first time of asking.
Tuesday 18th August:
Derby v Middlesbrough
Derby have had a steady, but uninspired start under new boss Paul Clement, with two draws against Bolton and Charlton. They welcome fellow title-favourites Middlesbrough to Pride Park on Tuesday night, and it’s not the ideal fixture for a team looking for their first win. ‘Boro have claimed a 0-0 draw away at Preston and a 3-0 home victory over Bolton, and already sit second in the fledgling Championship table.
Middlebrough won the corresponding fixture 1-0 in March last season, and can be backed at a decent price to come away with three points again. They fell at the final hurdle last term, losing out to Norwich in the play-off final at Wembley, but they’ve strengthened significantly this summer in an attempt to return to the Premier League at last. Having managed to persuade Stewart Downing to make the switch from the Premier League with West Ham to the Championship with his home town club, they also brought in Uruguayan striker Stuani from Espanyol. The latest player with top flight experience to join the Teesside revolution is David Nugent, and the £4 million signing from Leicester says he wants to be ‘back in the Premier League as soon as possible‘.
Derby have also strengthened this summer, but were rocked by the news that influential midfielder Will Hughes is out for six months after sustaining a knee injury. Clement has said that he expects to make more signings before the close of the transfer window, but that won’t help him on Tuesday night. ‘Boro were notable last year for their ability to soak up pressure and hit teams on the break, and they will aim to do exactly that at Derby.
Rotherham v Preston
Another side renowned for their defensive prowess is Preston, and they’ve brought that solidity up from League One to give them two clean sheets and four points from their first two games. They conceded the least goals in the third tier last term, barring champions Bristol City, and have started this campaign by holding Middlesbrough to an opening day 0-0 draw, and beating MK Dons 1-0 away from home at the weekend.
Rotherham have had the worst possible start, losing both games to leave them rock bottom of the table without a point. They were thrashed 4-1 at home by MK Dons in a demoralizing opener, before going down 2-1 away at Forest. They took the lead in Nottingham but were pegged back, and they’ve now conceded six goals in their first two games.
Preston are riding high on the enthusiasm of promotion and will look to keep that momentum going for as long as possible. Rotherham finished one place above the relegation zone last year, and it looks like being another long hard season for the Millers. Preston have won 10 of their last 15 away games, and can take the points again on Tuesday night.
Wednesday 19th August:
Moving on to Wednesday evening, and the stand out game is the one that would have been a Premier League fixture not so long ago. Fulham made the drop the season before last, and Hull joined them after failing to get out of trouble last term. The cottagers never looked like making a swift return last year, eventually finishing 17th after replacing Felix Magath with Kit Symons. The former player has his work cut out, but he has been backed in the transfer market to a degree by the board – bringing in Jamie O’Hara, Tom Cairney and Ross McCormack.
Hull meanwhile, have kept faith with boss Steve Bruce, although ownership issues still plague the club. Assem Allam has said that he will not attend any of the team’s games in the Championship, and has had a second appeal to change the club’s name to Hull Tigers rejected by the FA. It’s a situation that has dragged on since Allam took control of the club in 2010, but with the club still up for sale, he has continued to back Bruce in the transfer market to try and get back up.
Hull v Fulham
Hull – -133 with Ladbrokes
Fulham – +475 with BetVictor
Draw – +320 with Coral
The Tigers have signed Moses Odubajo from Brentford, and remain keen on raiding their fellow Championship side for striker Andre Gray. That deal may yet go through, but Hull still have a good nucleus of Premier League quality in the squad, and should be there or thereabouts come the end of the season. They beat Huddersfield 2-0 at home on the opening day, and were 1-0 up at Wolves before a defensive blunder led to a 1-1 draw.
Fulham took a point from an away draw with Cardiff first time out, but went down 2-1 to a late winner at home to Brighton on the weekend. They still look a little vulnerable, and Hull are a very strong proposition at the KC stadium.
Hull – -133 with Ladbrokes
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