Newcastle opened up a nice gap at the top of the Championship with back-to-back away wins over Brighton and Huddersfield, but have thrown it away in the last two fixtures. A 0-0 draw at another promotion rival, Reading, was acceptable, but the 3-1 home defeat to Fulham came as a shock to most.
Brighton’s comfortable wins against Rotherham and Derby in the last two fixtures have seen the Seagulls take full advantage to draw level on points with the Magpies. Both are six points clear of third-placed Huddersfield, who have kept up the pressure with successive 1-0 wins over Aston Villa and Brentford.
It’s Newcastle that make most appeal this weekend, with some bookmakers offering very generous odds about a victory on the road at Birmingham. The Blues have still won just 2 of 16 games since Gianfranco Zola took over as manager, and while a point at Cardiff last week was a good one, Birmingham remain just six points clear of the bottom three.
Our other tips this weekend concentrate on the relegation battle, where both Blackburn and Burton look good value calls to win at home. Rovers welcome local rivals Preston, who are still just about in the hunt for an unlikely play off spot. North End are only six points away from the top six, and well poised to capitalise if any side makes mistakes. However, Rovers are unbeaten since Tony Mowbray took charge and moved out of the drop zone with a late draw at Fulham in midweek. Burton are another side making a good fist of survival, and they protect a six-game unbeaten run when Brentford visit on Saturday. The Bees are off the back of two defeats – including the 2-1 midweek home loss at the hands of Wolves.
Birmingham v Newcastle
Newcastle are a best price of 79/1001.79-1270.79-1.270.79 with Unibet to pile more misery on Gianfranco Zola.
The Italian manager has had a tough time since taking over from Gary Rowett, and the suspicion is that the former’s sacking was as unpopular with the players as it was the fans. Rowett has been given the top job at Derby this week after the Rams sacked Steve McClaren, and the Blues must soldier on and make sure they don’t fall any deeper into the relegation zone.
Brum now occupy 17th place in the table, six points above Bristol City in the bottom three, but the Blues have the worst ten-match form of any side in the bottom half bar Rotherham. They’ve lost seven of the last ten overall, and four of the last five at home. Wigan, Leeds, QPR and Reading have all left the Midlands with three points in recent weeks, and Newcastle are more than a match for any of those teams.
The Magpies might have let the celebrations start a shade early after those excellent away wins at Brighton and Huddersfield, but the 3-1 home defeat to Fulham will have served as a reminder that they are not over the line yet. Thankfully for Rafa Benitez, his team have the best away record in the whole division, winning 13 of their 19 road games.
Blackburn v Preston
Blackburn are simply too big at 17/102.70+1701.701.70-0.59 with Marathonbet to get the better of a Preston side which doesn’t always fare well on its travels.
The Whites have had a brilliant season in the second tier, defying expectations to be in the top half and still with an outside chance of play off football. They’ve only lost twice in the last ten – at Cardiff and Fulham – and beat Reading 3-0 in front of their own fans last week. However, away form is much less impressive. It’s only been two road wins in the last ten, and none in the last six.
Blackburn have had rather a turn of fortunes since dispensing with the services of Owen Coyle and offering the hot seat to experienced manager Tony Mowbray. They are unbeaten in six games (Drawn 4, won 2), coming from behind to grab 2-2 draws at Norwich and Fulham in recent weeks. At home they’ve beaten Wigan and Derby by 1-0 scorelines, and will approach this game with three points in mind. Having finally hauled themselves out of the bottom three, they are still only safe by a point and have plenty of work to do to survive.
Burton v Brentford
It’s a similar scenario for Burton, who are a decent price at 7/42.75+1751.751.75-0.57 with Marathonbet to beat mid-table Brentford.
The Bees are in 14th place and in little danger of relegation. Equally they have little chance of making the play offs, and it’s easy for teams to fade at this stage of the season when there’s nothing to play for. Two home defeats in a row have come at the hands of Huddersfield and Wolves, with boss Dean Smith admitting his side were second best in the latter for most of the game.
Nigel Clough is on the verge of leading Burton to a successful Championship season in the form of survival in the division for another year. That would have been his remit at the start of the campaign, and the Brewers are 19th, three points above Bristol City and the drop zone. It’s two wins and four draws in the last six, with the victories both coming at home against Norwich and Notts Forest. That last-time-out 1-0 win over relegation rivals Forest showed that the players are coping with the pressure, and this match presents a great opportunity to take three valuable points from a Brentford side with little motivation.
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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