The Skybet Championship returns for another round of matches this weekend, and it’s hard to believe we’re already three games into the season. Ipswich have carried on the good form from last season and head the table, along with Brighton and recently relegated Hull, on 7 points. It’s a measure of how competitive this league is that no-one still has a 100% record after just three matches, and as ever, this is going to be one of the tightest leagues in Europe.
Looking ahead to Saturday, Brighton have a good chance of another three points as they take on Blackburn at home; Ipswich have a much tougher tie away at a Preston side that is yet to concede this term; and Hull face an away trip to the capital for a match-up with Charlton. However, none of those sides stand out for us at the weekend, and we’re turning our attention to a couple of strong home teams, and another that is too big for a game on its own ground.
QPR v Rotherham
QPR are never far from controversy, and they could still face football league sanctions for breaching financial fair play rules. They are also actively looking to sell star striker Charlie Austin in an attempt to balance the books for the Championship, all while manager Chris Ramsey looks to build a squad capable of challenging for promotion. But its not all doom and gloom at Loftus Road, and the 3-2 win away at Wolves – in which Austin scored – is bound to have injected some much-needed confidence.
QPR began life in the Championship with a demoralizing away defeat to Charlton, and it didn’t get much better in their next game at home to Cardiff, where they let a two-goal lead slip to draw 2-2. The game at Wolves could prove to be a turning point, as Rangers fought back from their own two-goal deficit to win 3-2 with a double from Matty Phillips and a second of the season for Charlie Austin. That will have given them a huge boost and they can resume winning ways at home on Saturday.
Rotherham have had a pretty miserable start to the campaign, and after surviving by the skin of their teeth last year, it’s going to be another long hard season. They lost their first two games – 4-1 to MK Dons and 2-1 to Nottingham Forest – before holding Preston to a 0-0 draw at home to grab their first point in midweek. A trip to QPR is the last thing they need right now, and with Austin and Phillips in such good form, the Millers have a tough task.
Middlesbrough v Bristol City
Middlesbrough are a little bit shorter at the odds, but they should have too much quality for Bristol City at the Riverside on Saturday. They can be backed at -150 with Coral to take all three points.
Boro have gained five points from their first three games and sit 5th in the early table. They’re looking for promotion, and will have no illusions about needing to win this kind of game at home. They opened their account this season with a 0-0 draw at Preston (which looks a better result in the light of Preston’s three clean sheets in three games so far). The next game was a comfortable 3-0 home win over Bolton, and they were just minutes away from beating Derby in midweek. Kike scored his third goal in two games to give them a first-half lead, but they conceded an 88th minute equalizer to draw 1-1. They’ve got some real quality throughout the squad and look set for a very good season.
Bristol City are also hoping for a good season and they’ve been keen to add a top quality striker to their squad in recent weeks. However, they’ve been turned down by Dwight Gayle of Crystal Palace and Andre Gray of Brenford, and it’s going to be tough to attract players having just arrived from League One. They find themselves in the bottom three already after consecutive defeats to Sheffield Wednesday and Brentford, although they did fight back to rescue a point against Leeds during the week. Having gone two goals down they scored twice in the last five minutes to snatch an unlikely draw, and that would have almost felt like a victory. A long trip to the North East probably wouldn’t have been the chosen fixture to try and build momentum, and another loss is on the cards.
Cardiff v Wolves
The Bluebirds have drawn all three games so far this season, but they are getting better with each game and are too big at the prices for a home win. They opened with a fairly lacklustre home draw against Fulham, relying on Craig Noone to come off the bench and score an 86th minute equalizer. They came back again at QPR, this time from two goals down, to earn what was eventually a creditable away point. The Welsh club finally took the lead in a game away at Blackburn, but this time they were worn down and conceded a late equalizer for a 1-1 result. Wolves will provide equally stiff competition, but Cardiff may just be worth a punt at a big price.
Wolves beat Blackburn on the opening day, but were fortunate to take a point off Hull in a 1-1 draw, and went down 3-2 at home to QPR last time out. The latter two opponents were in the Premier League last season so Wolves may appreciate a return to calmer waters, but Cardiff away may not be the best place to start.
QPR to beat Rotherham
22nd August 15:00 GMT
Middlesbrough to beat Bristol City
22nd August 15:00 GMT
Cardiff to beat Wolves
22nd August 17:15 GMT
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