Opposing Birmingham has become quite the profitable strategy in the Championship, and it paid dividends in midweek as they were beaten 3-1 at Brighton. The Seagulls made it a perfect winning treble on Tuesday night alongside Aston Villa and Wolves, and we’re reinvesting some of that profit in another Birmingham loss at the weekend.
It’s been 21 matches and just 2 wins since Gianfranco Zola’s ill-fated spell at the Blues began, and they host a Derby side on Saturday which has won the last two under new gaffer Gary Rowett. It was a steady start for the former Birmingham boss at his new club with a 2-2 draw against Forest, but wins against QPR and Fulham suggest improvement. The Rams are yet to give up on a play off spot and are a decent price to snatch all three points.
In other games Newcastle visit Sheffield Wednesday, with the former chasing the title and the latter trying to hold on to a place in the top six. Both were winners in midweek as the Magpies overcame Burton Albion despite a strange refereeing decision, and the Owls registering a 2-0 win at Rotherham. Meanwhile Reading take a trip to Norwich with the aim of maintaining their position in the end of season competition. The Canaries are still without a permanent manager since sacking Alex Neil and have surely given up hope of reaching the play offs having fallen nine points adrift with just six games to go.
Birmingham v Derby
There is clearly an added spice to the game with Gary Rowett returning to the club where he lost his job earlier in the season. He had Birmingham on the edge of the top six when he was surprisingly given the bullet, and in hindsight, plenty connected with the club will wish he was still in charge. As it stands he brings his new Derby side here in search of points for a top six finish, while the Blues are looking over their shoulders at the relegation zone.
A world class player, and one of football’s nice guys, Gianfranco Zola has not been successful so far in his stint at Birmingham. After taking over in December he has now overseen 21 matches, but recorded just two victories. three successive Championship draws brought some respite, but it was back to losing ways in the week as they went down 3-1 to Brighton. They’ve lost three of the last four at home and have just one win in the last ten in front of their long suffering fans.
Derby have had a troubled season but retain the potential to be one of the divisions big challengers. After parting company with Nigel Pearson the Rams brought Steve McClaren back to the club, but his reign lasted just five months and he was sacked in March after a run of poor results. Gary Rowett has been brought in to steady the ship, and one of England’s brightest young managers has already made an impact. A somewhat laboured 1-0 win over QPR last Friday night was followed up by a much more impressive 4-2 beating of Fulham on Tuesday, but Rowett simply demanded more defensive intensity. He had said prior to those two wins that Derby were not out of the play off picture, and although they have seven points to make up, it’s not yet impossible.
County’s away record has been poor recently but they’ve played at Newcastle, Brighton, Villa and Leicester (cup) in four of the last six. Rowett’s only away fixture so far resulted in a 2-2 draw at Nottingham Forest, where the Rams led 2-1 until the 94th minute, so with a two home wins under his belt one expects better performances on their travels.
Sheffield Wednesday v Newcastle
Sheffield Wednesday are a top six side but Newcastle are too tempting to pass up at +148 with Marathonbet.
The Owls have been struggling to hold on to 6th place, and even dropped out of the play off places recently when Fulham got their noses in front. Saturday’s 2-0 win at Rotherham helped Wednesday leapfrog the Cottagers back into the top six, but the result shouldn’t mask a poor run of form. Prior to the Millers win, Sheffield Wednesday had won just once in seven games, losing four times. Rotherham have lost nine on the spin and are already relegated so victory there shouldn’t necessarily suggest an imminent return to form.
Newcastle are going toe-to-toe with Brighton for the title, with just a point separating the pair. The Magpies may have been relegated to 2nd place by the time this kicks off if the Seagulls beat QPR on Friday night, so there is plenty of incentive for Rafa Benitez’ side. They may have been held to 0-0 draws by Birmingham and Reading in the last two road games, but the previous two resulted in wins at Brighton and Huddersfield – testament to what Newcastle can do when they turn on the style.
Norwich v Reading
Both teams to score is a good call when Reading visit Norwich at -139 with Bwin.
Norwich are a real Jekyll and Hyde team this season, performing with merit at home but struggling on their travels. A return to Carrow Road will be welcome, but a nine-point gap to the play offs looks a little too big to bridge. Reading have no such worries as they are in possession of a nine-point lead over 7th placed Fulham, and need just a few more results to guarantee their place in the top six.
The last three meeting between the sides have seen both find the net, while the bet would have been a winner in six of the last eight games Norwich have played at Carrow Road.
Derby to beat Birmingham
Saturday 8th April, 15:00 BST
Newcastle to beat Sheffield Wednesday
Saturday 8th April, 17:30 BST
Norwich v Reading – Both teams to score
Saturday 8th April, 15:00 BST