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The title chase in the Championship continues to hot up, with Burnley the new leaders after a 2-1 win at Bolton over the weekend. Middlesbrough also landed the spoils with three points at Fuham, and with Hull only able to draw at home to Sheffield Wednesday on Friday night, it means just a point separates the top three teams.
We landed two out of three bets in the division on Saturday afternoon with Burnley and Boro doing the business, although Derby let us down with defeat at Wolves, and they’ve now been leap-frogged by Brighton who secured a thumping 4-0 win away at Bristol City. There’s no full fixture list in midweek this week, with most teams given a well-earned rest, but there are three games over the next three days, each of which can have a huge bearing on the title race and each of which presents a decent betting opportunity. By virtue of the fixture list Middlesbrough have two games in hand over Burnley, and will play a double-header of fixtures before the Clarets take to the field again next Saturday. We’re keen on the Smoggies chances of snatching six points and putting themselves back in pole position, while on Thursday night there’s a particularly tight-looking game between Birmingham and Hull.
Blackburn v Middlesbrough
First up it’s the only match on Tuesday night in the second tier, and Middlesbrough are a very tempting +145 with BetVictor to come away with a win from Blackburn.
Aitor Karanka has built a highly talented squad on the Riverside and after last year’s play-off heartache everyone at the club will be hoping to go one better this season and earn automatic promotion. It all looked to be going swimmingly a month or so ago, but a five game winless run in which they only managed two goals brought them back to the chasing pack. They’ve since been overtaken by Hull and Burnley but it all changed last week with a 3-1 win at home to Cardiff, which they followed up with a 2-0 win at Fulham on Saturday. All of that means that Boro have thrown their hat back into the ring and have the opportunity this week to forge ahead at the top again.
Albert Adomah put Karanka’s men ahead after three minutes and it was effectively ‘game over’ when Grant Leadbitter converted from the spot after twenty minutes. Middlesbrough concede very few goals – their record of just 17 goals against is the best in the division – and once they go ahead they are extremely hard to peg back.
Blackburn are showing signs of revival under experienced boss Paul Lambert, who is looking to rebuild his career after a torrid time at Aston Villa, but the rest of this season is about little else than survival. Rovers sit in 18th place in the league table, eight points above the drop zone, and once they get the required points total to stay up it will be about preparing for next season and a fresh start. They’ve lost three of the last five games to West Ham (FA Cup) and Hull at home and to Derby away. They interspersed those results with home wins over Fulham and MK Dons, but both of those two are in the relegation battle and are nowhere near the level of this Boro side.
This will be a tough battle, but Middlesbrough have won five of the last eight games on the road, and are well-versed in hitting teams on the break on their travels.
Birmingham v Hull
The Tigers have risen to second in the table after a very consistent run, but the goals have dried up a little in recent weeks and they’ve been held to 0-0 draws in two of the last three Championship games. They also secured a valuable FA Cup fifth round draw at Arsenal, and have a replay to look forward to next Tuesday. In between those draws they managed a 1-0 win at Ipswich, but that was their only goal in the last four games. They’ve been held at home by Sheffield Wednesday and Brighton in the last couple of weeks, and Birmingham will present them with a formidable challenge.
The Blues are ticking along nicely under Gary Rowett and currently sit just outside the play-off zone in 8th place, four points behind Sheffield Wednesday in 6th. They will still have very real ambitions on achieving a top six finish, although the 2-0 defeat at QPR on Saturday was a setback. However, they’ve won five of the last seven at home and are a difficult side to break down. With Hull on a run of three draws from the last four games, this looks like another low-scoring tense affair that could easily end in a stalemate.
Middlesbrough v Wolves
Middlesbrough’s result against Blackburn is unknown at the time of writing, but regardless of that game they can still be backed to beat Wolves on at the Riverside on Friday night at -161 with Skybet
Wolves served us up with a losing bet at the weekend when they arrested a three-game losing run to beat our selection Derby, but they will find it much tougher travelling to Middlesbrough. Wanderers have failed to win in five away matches, losing three and drawing two, and they’ve also been beaten on their last four consecutive visits to this ground.
Despite the recent wobble Boro are a solid proposition at home, recording 11 wins from 16 games in front of their own fans, and this will be viewed as the perfect opportunity to push on at the top of the table before the rest of the league plays on Saturday.
Middlesbrough to beat Blackburn
Tuesday 1st March, 19:45 GMT
Birmingham and Hull to Draw
Thursday 3rd March, 19:45 GMT
Middlesbrough to beat Wolves
Friday 4th March, 19:45 GMT
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