The Skybet Championship season has already been full of thrills and spills and surprises, and the action continues this weekend with a number of big matches. We’ve already seen Brentford and Rotherham part company with their respective managers at this early stage of the campaign, perhaps pressing the panic button a little too early, and it remains to be seen if form will improve for the change.
Brighton continue to confound expectations and are still top of the table, although Middlesbrough have drawn to within a single point after a run of five straight league victories. Their squad looks best equipped for promotion, and best equipped to compete in the Premier league if they go up, and they are beginning to look ominous as they rack up the wins. That pair have drawn five points clear of the chasing pack, with six teams – Reading, Hull, Cardiff, Burnley, Birmingham and Ipswich – all locked together on 15 points.
Boro travel to one of those sides, Reading, on Saturday, and it will be a real test of their promotion credentials as they come up against top-six rivals. Hull will look to maintain their position just off the leaders when they travel to Forest on the weekend, while Derby – many people’s pre-season favourites for promotion – are slowly getting their act together and climbing up the table. A win at home to struggling Brentford on Saturday could see them jump into the play-off zone for the first time this season.
Hull can Keep Improving
It’s all to play for this weekend, and we start with Hull who look a decent price at 17/102.70+1701.701.70-0.59 with Skybet, BetVictor and Betfair to take all three points from Nottingham when they play Forest on Saturday afternoon.
Hull were robbed of three points at home to Blackburn on Saturday when Jordan Rhodes hit a last-minute equalizer for the visitors, leading Steve Bruce to comment that “We urgently need the players to start performing the way we know they can”. He went on to highlight the impact of Shaun Malony and Jake Livermore, who he said added quality when they came on. Livermore is slowly returning to the side after his drug ban, and came on for the last 25 minutes, having completed the first 70 or so minutes in the 1-0 Capital One Cup win over Swansea. The former England international could be due for a start this weekend at Forest, and his contribution will make a vital difference in the centre of the park. In any case, the fact that Steve Bruce is pushing his players to perform better when they currently sit 4th in the league, is testament to the expectation levels at the club.
Hull have a good record at Forest, winning on their last three visits, and they also won last time out on the road when they returned from Cardiff with a 2-0 victory. Forest have had an up and down season which has improved recently with a couple of wins over Birmingham and QPR, but frailties were exposed in two recent home defeats to Middlesbrough and Cardiff, and Hull are another top side at this level.
Boro on a Roll
Middlesbrough have won six on the trot in all competitions, and odds of 17/102.70+1701.701.70-0.59 with BetVictor and Coral on another victory at Reading are worth taking.
Boro might have been a shorter price if it weren’t for Reading’s excellent recent form, but there is something relentless about the way Aitor Karanka’s men are going about their task this season, and they have quality oozing through their ranks. The likes of Stewart Downing and David Nugent have proven Premier League class, and Boro look to be on their way back to the top flight this season. They’ve scored at least twice in each of the last five league wins, and will have too much firepower for most sides in this division.
Reading are only one place behind Boro, although five points adrift, and its been a very good season so far for the Royals. They’ve won four of the last five, with a 1-0 loss to Derby sandwiched in-between, but this is their toughest test of the season so far. Much of their success has been on the road however, and it may surprise that they’ve only won one in the last thirteen in front of their own fans. Boro, on the other hand, have won seven of the last ten away trips, and are worth backing at a decent price to come out on top on Saturday.
Derby Getting Better
Derby represent a little bit of value at 8/111.73-1380.72-1.380.72 with William Hill, Betfred, and Totesport to beat Brentford, having finally got going in recent weeks.
The Rams have won three of the last four games, which has catapulted them up to 9th in the table just a point outside the play-offs positions. They had to rely on late goals from Darren Bent and Tom Ince to snatch the points against MK Dons last weekend, but boss Paul Clement was delighted to see Bent get on the scoresheet after not playing the striker as much as Bent would have liked. It was a slow start for the former Chelsea and Real Madrid coach in his first stint as a manager, but things look to be coming together for Derby, and it would be foolish to forget just how good they were for large parts of last season.
Last year’s form must be a distant memory for Brentford though, who are still trying to turn their own season around. Reaching the play-offs again looks highly unlikely at this stage as the Bees flounder in 19th position. They looked to be reaching a turning point with the 2-1 win over Preston a couple of weeks ago, but consecutive defeats to Sheffield Wednesday and Birmingham put them right back in the mire. Manager Marinus Dijkhuizen was replaced by Lee Carsley after just nine games in charge, but Carsley’s appointment made little difference as they went down 2-0 at home to Birmingham in midweek. Former Everton player Carsley, has pointed to a lack of confidence in the squad and has already said he doesn’t want the job on a permanent basis when his temporary contract finishes at the end of the season.
This is a side gaining in confidence against a side still well and truly in the doldrums, and anything other than a home win would be a surprise.
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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