After another round of midweek fixtures the Championship continues on the weekend, with the race for promotion starting to take shape. As always there are one or two surprise contenders along with the usual suspects as the prize of Premier League football looms on the horizon.
Brighton continued their unbeaten start by coming from behind to beat Bristol City 2-1 on Tuesday night, with Bobby Zamora coming off the bench to grab the winner for the second game running. Birmingham notched their fourth consecutive win away at Bolton to climb into 2nd place in the table, replacing Reading who were held to a 1-1 draw away at Rotherham. The likes of Middlesbrough, Hull, Derby, and Burnley are hot on the tails of those three, and a mere 8 points separates the top eight at the moment.
We’re following three of the promotion contenders at the weekend, with Brighton, Hull and Reading all fancied to finish Saturday with another three points in the bag.
Brighton v Preston
First up it’s Brighton who are quoted at -125 with Skybet to continue their winning run at home.
Chris Hughton and Brighton have exceeded expectations this season, but they remain four points clear at the top of the league, and are unbeaten in 12 games this season. The return to fitness of Bobby Zamora has had an instant impact, with the veteran striker coming off the bench to score the winners against Leeds and Brighton in the last two. Spirits are high down by the seaside and it’s a long journey for Preston all the way down to the South coast.
Preston are finding life tough in the Championship after promotion from League One last term, but they did at least find their first win of the season in midweek with a 3-0 away victory at Charlton. That was a vital result in keeping them out of the relegation zone, but Charlton are woefully out of form themselves so it’s a bit too early to say that Preston have turned a corner. Prior to that result they’d lost their previous three away games, and in Brighton they are traveling to a strong home side.
Chris Hughton has overseen a run of five wins in the last six home matches, and at just short of evens his side are a decent bet for the weekend.
Hull v Birmingham
Birmingham have been in excellent form of late, with a run of four straight wins taking them to the heady heights of 2nd in the league, but their record might be subject to a little more scrutiny. Those four wins have come against Bolton, QPR, Brentford and Leeds; four sides who are struggling for form right now. On Saturday they come up against one of the divisions best teams in Hull, who still have plenty of Premier league quality in their ranks.
The Tigers are making steady progress under long-term manager Steve Bruce, and they have every chance of bouncing back at the first attempt. They’ve only lost once in the last ten (to leaders Brighton) and sit 4th in the table, six points off the top. They gave Ipswich a resounding 3-0 beating in midweek, with Bruce hailing the performance as excellent, and they’ll be looking to attack Birmingham from the off. They’re unbeaten in nine on their own patch, with six wins and three draws, and this game will be a real test of Birmingham’s credentials as promotion challengers. One suspects they may just fall short against the Championship’s best teams, and Hull are a decent price to grab three points in front of their own fans on Saturday.
Fulham v Reading
The Royals have been in superb form this season, winning six of the last eight to position themselves in third place. They’ve only suffered defeat twice this term, and in Nick Blackman they have the division’s form striker. He’s managed ten in his last ten games, and scored a spectacular goal to open the scoring at Rotherham in midweek. His side were eventually pegged back by the Millers and held to a 1-1 draw, but the game prompted Rotherham’s new boss Neil Redfearn to label Reading the ‘best side in the division’. Royal’s manager Steve Clarke was equal in his praise for Rotherham’s fighting spirit, but he will be very pleased with how his team’s season is going.
Fulham are a typical Jekyll and Hyde team, in that you never know exactly what you’re going to get. They’ve secured some dramatic victories this season already, but have been equally prone to throwing in the odd shocker too. They’re currently 14th in the table, having won 3, drawn 4 and lost 4. They’re among the highest scorers in the division with 17 goals but they’ve also conceded 16. This is where Reading may gain an advantage, as they’re also big scorers with 18 to their name so far, but they’re defence is markedly tighter having let in just 8 in 12 games in the league.
Fulham have lost two of the last three on home ground, while Reading have been successful on four of their last five away trips. The Cottagers always have the capacity to surprise, such is their inconsistency, but we’re prepared to side with Reading who have been a model of consistency this season.
Brighton to beat Preston
Saturday 24th October, 15:00 GMT
Hull to beat Birmingham
Saturday 24th October, 15:00 GMT
Reading to beat Fulham
Saturday 24th October, 13:30 GMT
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