Rafa Benitez has led his Newcastle squad to the top of the Championship, but that hardly comes a surprise. After relegation last season it was clear that he had one of the best squads in the English second tier, and some excellent summer transfer dealings have paid dividends so far.
The Magpies are on a run of seven consecutive league wins, and sit three points clear of Brighton in second place, and a massive eight points ahead of Huddersfield in third. Automatic promotion is now the minimum expectation, and the Championship title the realistic target. Rafa takes his team to Leeds for an early Sunday kick off this weekend, and they are worth backing to return with all three points.
In other tips we’re looking at sides who have recently installed new managers. The cut and thrust of the Championship has resulted in a number of managerial casualties already this season, and ‘new manager syndrome’ is an interesting angle to take from a betting point of view. Players regularly raise their game when a new man comes in, and it’s not unusual for teams to go on a good run under a new boss.
Steve McClaren has been back at Derby County for a few weeks now, and they are this week’s home banker for the visit of rock-bottom Rotherham. Meanwhile, QPR have re-appointed Ian Holloway after sacking Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink. One of football’s great characters, Holloway knows how to inspire a dressing room and he starts his second spell at the club with a home tie against a Norwich side that have lost three on the spin. At big odds, QPR are worth a small investment to get his reign off to a flying start with a win on home soil.
Leeds v Newcastle
Newcastle can be backed at -105 with Marathonbet for their visit to Elland Road on Sunday.
This is far from an easy game because Leeds have shown steady signs of improvement under former Swansea boss Garry Monk, but Newcastle are a class apart in this year’s Championship. They’ve won 12 of 16 league games overall, and have a 100% record since beating Norwich 4-3 back in September. Dwight Gayle has notched 11 league goals already this season, and the Magpies are easily the division’s top scorers with 34 goals in 16 games. They’ve also got the second best defensive record – only Brighton have conceded fewer.
It wasn’t so long ago that this was a Premier League fixture, and for the first time in years Leeds fans could be forgiven for hoping for a return to the promised land. Under Garry Monk the Yorkshire club has risen to 6th in the table, and a play off place is well within their grasp this season. They’ve won the last three league games, against Wolves, Burton and Norwich, and haven’t been beaten at home since Huddersfield won 1-0 here back in early September. However, Newcastle will be by far their biggest test so far, and their season won’t rest on a result against the Champions elect.
Derby v Rotherham
Derby may be 16th on the league ladder, but they are just six points outside the play off places, and a charge up the table is by no means beyond them. The Rams are a decent bet at -200 with Coral to ease past a Rotherham side on a long losing run.
The Millers have lost eight of the last nine matches, with the only ray of light a 2-2 draw with Ipswich at the end of October. They’re in last place with seven points and are already a huge eight points from safety at this early stage. Overall they’ve won just one of sixteen games this term, losing eleven and drawing four. That’s relegation form through and through, and the writing is on the wall.
After going close to promotion over the last two seasons Derby have work to do to get in contention, but the long Championship season affords them plenty of time to get in touch with the top six. Steve McClaren started his second spell in charge of the club with a 1-0 win over Leeds, and his overall record so far in five games reads 3-1-1. He’s clearly had an impact and the last two results have been victories over decent sides in Wolves and Sheffield Wednesday. Rotherham simply can’t buy a win, and they’re unlikely to get anything from this one on Saturday afternoon.
QPR v Norwich
Finally, we’ll chance our arm at a long shot in QPR when they host Norwich at +250 with William Hill.
The Canaries are having something of a mid-season crisis, and are now winless in five league and cup games. They’ve lost the last three Championship games to Preston, Brighton and Leeds. Still 5th in the table, there’s plenty of time for Alex Neil to turn it around, but this is going to be a tough fixture to do it in.
QPR fans will fondly remember Holloway’s time in charge, and the charismatic manager has a knack of getting players to perform above their abilities. The atmosphere will be rocking at Loftus Road on Saturday afternoon, and you can guarantee that Ranger’s players will be busting a gut to impress the new guvnor. Man for man, Norwich probably have the better squad, but confidence is fragile. QPR have a fresh start after parting company with Floyd-Hasselbaink, and it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if Holloway inspires his new team to victory.
Newcastle to beat Leeds
Sunday 20th November, 13:15 GMT
Derby to beat Rotherham
Saturday 19th November, 15:00 GMT
QPR to beat Norwich
Saturday 19th November, 15:00 GMT