The Championship is really starting to take shape now, and after eight games the table is starting to get stretched. Of last year’s relegated sides, Newcastle and Norwich are both up with the pace behind early leaders Huddersfield. The Canaries are in second place with 17 points, two points off the top; while the Magpies are one place and two further points behind them.
The other club to drop out of the top flight, Aston Villa, are having nothing like such a good time and currently languish in 18th place with a meagre 8 points. That’s just three points above the relegation zone, and one win from eight games so far is indicative of the job that Roberto Di Matteo has on his hands. Villa and Newcastle meet for the first time this season in the Televised Saturday evening game, and it’s the Magpies who appear to be holding the upper hand.
Meanwhile, back in 5th place on the same 15 points as Newcastle, Birmingham are quietly having a great start to the season. The Blues have only lost one game all season, and three wins in the last four have propelled them into the play off places. Saturday brings them an away game at Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink’s QPR, who are on the back of three straight defeats. Our other tip in England’s second tier this week involves two sides – Rotherham and Cardiff – who have been involved in several high-scoring games this season. It’s not too early to call it a relegation battle, and a price og odds-against about over 2.5 goals is more than reasonable.
Aston Villa v Newcastle
First up, Betfred are offering odds of +160 about a Newcastle win at Villa Park.
Under Rafa Benitez and with a squad that looks as good as that of several lower Premier League sides, Newcastle are primed for a sustained title challenge this season. The run of six wins in a row that culminated in a 6-0 thrashing of QPR at Loftus Road, saw them fly up the table and progress in the EFL Cup. That run was interrupted by a shock 2-0 home defeat to Wolves last weekend, but lessons were clearly learned as they took instant revenge by beating Wanderers by the same scoreline in the EFL Cup in midweek. Away from home they’ve won the last three Championship games since the opening day 1-0 loss at Fulham, and they have a good record at Villa Park having won 2 and drawn 2 of the last four fixtures there.
For Villa and Di Matteo it’s going to be a hard slog trying to catch up the 10+ points they already find themselves off the front-runners. Their only league win this season was a 3-0 home victory over Rotherham back on the 13th of August, and they’ve drawn five of their eight fixtures. Home form throughout 2016 has been poor. A run of six straight defeats during the back end of the Premier League season was brought to an end, ironically, with a 0-0 draw against Newcastle, but things haven’t really improved all that much since then. Their last three home Championship games have ended all-square, with draws against Huddersfield, Nottingham Forest and Brentford.
Man-for-man Newcastle are the better side and they’re a good price to prove that in front of the TV cameras.
QPR v Birmingham
Birmingham have suffered just the one defeat this season at home to Wolves, but three wins from the last four since then have helped them up to 5th on the table, just four points off the top. They’ve beaten good sides in that run such as Norwich and Sheffield Wednesday, and they’re unbeaten in four Championship road games this season.
QPR have lost a lot of players over the last few transfer windows, and although replacements have been brought in, they don’t quite have the quality of their predecessors. Rangers have managed to win three games in the league this season but they’ve been beaten four times already, and a haul of 10 points leaves them in 16th position. The 6-0 defeat to Newcastle was a hammer blow, and they’ve since lost two games to Huddersfield and Sunderland (EFL Cup).
Rotherham v Cardiff
Over 2.5 goals is +111 with 188Bet and it’s well worth taking the odds-against on these two leaky defences.
Four straight defeats have left Cardiff rock-bottom of the Championship table, and they’ve conceded in every game this season apart from the opening 0-0 draw with Birmingham. Leeds, Preston, Norwich and Reading have taken three points off the Bluebirds, and they conceded three goals in two of those matches.
All of Rotherham’s games so far this season have exceeded the 2.5 goal line except for the 1-0 win over Brentford. It looks like another long, hard season for the Millers, who were inspired to safety last term by a great late season run under Neil Warnock. Their last four games have seen 18 goals between them at an average of more than four per game, and that has contributed to a haul of just six points which puts them in 21st place, just outside the bottom three.
Four of the last five meetings between these two teams have had three or more goals, and in a match where three points are vital, both sides are expected to attack and score goals.
Newcastle to beat Aston Villa
Saturday 24th September, 17:30 GMT
Birmingham or Draw
Saturday 24th September, 15:00 GMT
Rotherham v Cardiff – Over 2.5 Goals
Saturday 24th September, 15:00 GMT