It was another hotly contested round of fixtures in the Championship during the week, with Middlesbrough replacing Brighton at the top of the league on goal difference after a tight 1-0 home win over Burnley. The games come thick and fast over the next few weeks, and there’s another huge match this weekend as the top two go head to head at Brighton’s AMEX stadium.
Another side to keep an eye on are Derby, who sailed into 3rd after a 4-0 drubbing of Bristol City on Tuesday night, and they visit a resurgent Ipswich on Saturday in what promises to be a thrilling encounter. Meanwhile, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s QPR will be looking to go one better than the two draws they’ve managed since he took charge, when they visit the lowly Robins. The R’s are our top pick this weekend, and they represent great value to come away from Bristol with all three points.
Bristol City v QPR
Charlie Austin came to the rescue again on Tuesday night with two goals to complete a comeback, after Rangers fell two behind at home to league leaders Brighton. That came off the back of a 0-0 home draw with Burnley, and QPR will appreciate the relative drop in class when they visit the Robins on Saturday. There was an element of luck to each of Brighton’s two goals as they forged a second half lead, with a probable foul in the build-up to the first and a wicked deflection on the second. Austin’s presence will always give fans and players a bit of hope though, and the marksman duly delivered with goals in the 65th and 88th minutes to earn the draw and to land our pre-match bet.
That’s two wins and two draws in the last four for the West Londoners, and they are starting to turn things around after a dismal run which led to Chris Ramsey’s sacking. They’re 12th in the table, but only six points outside the play-offs.
Bristol City are having a predictably tough time of things since promotion last year, and we backed Derby to beat them on Tuesday night, earning ourselves a nice result with the Rams 4-0 victory. That made it three defeats in the last four for the Robins, and they are just one point and one place above the bottom three. They have the second worst home record in the division, with only two wins from ten in front of their own fans (drawn 3, lost 5).
QPR are far from brilliant away – they recently embarked on a five-game losing run on the road – but the most recent away trip yielded a positive 1-0 win at Reading, and with a new man in charge they’ll be looking to build on that. The odds are more than tempting, for a side which still contains the quality of Green, Fer, Hoilett, Phillips and Austin.
Brighton v Middlesbrough
Brighton have served us well lately with stalemates against Derby and QPR earning us a tidy profit, and we’re happy to back the draw again in this top-of-the-table clash at +230 with Betfred, BetVictor and Totesport
Chris Hughton and his men are still unbeaten after 21 games, and having almost reached the halfway point of the season, that’s an impressive record. Middlesbrough have lost four games, but they’ve managed two more wins than the Seagulls, and that has taken them above their rivals by the most slender of margins.
Critical to Middlesbrough’s recent success is their miserly defence, which has conceded just five goals in the last ten Championship games. They’re also on a run of five consecutive clean sheets, and will play their usual defensive, counter-attacking game in the Saturday lunchtime kick off. They’ve also been decent on their travels this term, with a record that reads won 5, drawn 2, lost 3.
Brighton have been excellent at home though, winning 8 of 10 matches and only drawing twice, so Boro will have a hard task coming away with a win. The Seagulls unbeaten run consists of 11 wins and 10 draws, and six of the last ten matches have ended all square.
The two teams are locked together on 43 points at the top of the table and there’s little to choose between them. Avoiding defeat in this game might be more important than winning as far as the managers are concerned, and rather than being a game full of action, this could easily end up being a dull and tactical affair.
Ipswich v Derby
Both teams have been in great form lately, and both have risen quietly up the table. A concerted run by Derby has seen them climb to 3rd in the table, just two points off the leading duo; while a run of 5 wins in 7 has seen Ipswich work their way into 6th place and the final play off spot. Mick McCarthy’s Suffolk side were unfortunate to lose out in the play off semi’s last year, and he has got them back in the kind of form that got them there last season.
Derby have continually improved under Paul Clement, and he oversaw a resounding 4-0 win over Bristol City in the week, with Tom Ince bagging a hat-trick for his night’s work. Derby have only failed to score three times in the last ten matches, while Ipswich have scored in eight of their last ten. This bet would have landed in three of the last five meetings between the two, and it’s a match that looks primed for goals.
QPR to beat Bristol City
Saturday 19th December, 15:00 GMT
Brighton and Middlesbrough to Draw
Saturday 19th December, 12:30 GMT
Ipswich v Derby Both Teams to Score
Saturday 19th December, 15:00 GMT
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