After a week of FA Cup action it’s back to the bread and butter of league football in England, and there are some intriguing games in the Championship.
Newcastle drew 1-1 away at Birmingham in their third round tie, and the replay at St James Park is scheduled in for next Wednesday night. Before that they face a trip to London to play Brentford – a game that will probably feature higher on Rafa Benitez’ priority list. The Magpies have been successful in nine of their thirteen away matches in England’s second tier, and can be supported to take three points back to Tyneside with them.
The North-East giants are playing catch up at the moment, as they have been surpassed at the top of the table by Brighton. Followers of this division will recall the Seagulls promotion challenge of last season when they were unfortunate to drop into the play offs after spending much of the year in the top two. Compensation – and promotion to the Premier League – is looking a more likely proposition with each passing week, and Chris Hughton’s men are also worthy of support when they visit mid-table Preston.
In a trappy little set of fixtures, our third bet in Saturday’s Championship features rock-bottom Rotherham against a faltering Norwich side. The Millers are twelve points from safety and will need a miracle of last season’s proportions to survive again this time around. As improbable as that is, at least Rotherham fans can expect their team to go down fighting. Norwich are 9th in the table, and after looking like early season contenders, it’s been a dramatic fall from grace. Alex Neil remains in charge despite increasing pressure, but a 3-0 win over in-form Derby and a 2-2 FA Cup draw with Southampton in the last two games have bought him time. The Canaries are still just five points outside the play offs, and with so many points left to play for, they can still force their way into the promotion picture.
Brentford v Newcastle
First up it’s the Magpies, who are rated a 1/12.00+1001.001.00-1.00 chance by Bet365 and BetVictor to win at Brentford.
Rafa Benitez has had arguably the best squad in the division at his disposal this term, and his Newcastle side have barely been outside the top two all season. The Magpies are now six points clear of third-placed Reading (who lost to QPR on Thursday night), and are just two points behind leaders Brighton.
There has bee something of a wobble in recent times, with league defeats to Blackburn (twice), Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday. But those results have been interspersed by Championship victories over Birmingham, Wigan, Burton and Forest. Overall Newcastle have won a healthy six of the last ten road games, and nine of thirteen this season.
Brentford are 14th in the table, and things have certainly improved after a fairly poor October and November. After losing four on the spin – culminating in a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Norwich on 3rd December – the Bees have played six matches with a record of 3-2-1. Saturday’s FA Cup 5-1 beating of Eastleigh will have inspired confidence, but the transfer speculation around top scorer Scott Hogan is surely unsettling.
Manager Dean Smith has said that the striker (who has hit 14 goals in 25 games) will stay at Griffin Park unless the club’s valuation is met. Rumours are circulating in the press that West Ham have made several unsuccessful bids, but it looks as though the player will go and the club are simply trying to get maximum value for their prize asset. How much effect that has on Hogan, the other Brentford players, and the result of this game remains to be seen, but Newcastle are more than good enough to win here regardless of the opposition line up.
Preston v Brighton
Next up Brighton look a decent price at 5/42.25+1251.251.25-0.80 with Betfred, Betway and Betfair to leave Preston with all three points on Saturday afternoon.
The Seagulls are having another wonderful season, and are eight points clear of third placed Reading. The painful memories of last year’s play off semi final defeat will still be fresh, and Hughton’s men will be desperate to hang on to one of those automatic promotion slots. They can do no more than win football matches, and it’s now six victories on the spin. In a similar vein to lat term, Brighton have embarked on a long unbeaten run too, and you have to go back to the 10th of September for their last league defeat at home to Brentford. Away from home the Seagulls have won 7 of the last 9, and could barely be in better form coming into this match.
Preston sit 11th in the Championship table, but consistency is a problem. They’ve won just four of the last thirteen games, losing five and drawing the other four. At home it’s just one win in seven, and although they are a tough nut to crack, it’s five defeats in thirteen home games and Brighton have the firepower to claim victory.
Rotherham v Norwich
Finally we’re backing over 2.5 goals when Rotherham host Norwich, at 77/1001.77-1300.77-1.300.77 with Marathonbet.
Rotherham have scored 25 times this season but they’ve conceded a divisional high 55. That’s 80 goals in 25 games at an average above 2.5 per game. They’ve lost eight and won two of the last ten, and such is their position at the bottom that they must go into each match to attack for three points.
Norwich have scored an impressive 41 goals this term, but they’ve conceded 37 – more than anyone else in the top half. Over the Canaries 25 games that’s an average of over 2.5 goals per match. That leaky defence could well be the issue for Norwich in terms of promotion, but it’s useful in terms of this match.
four of each sides’ last five games have exceeded the over 2.5 goal line, and it would be no surprise at all to see another high-scoring affair here.
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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