Take a Right Royal Price on Reading to beat Ipswich

Reading's 1-0 win at Birmingham was their third Championship victory in a row.

Reading's 1-0 win at Birmingham was their third Championship victory in a row.

Reading have slowly worked their way into a position where they can be considered genuine title-contenders under Jaap Stam, and they headline this week’s Championship betting preview. The Royals travel to Suffolk to take on an Ipswich side which has lost three of its last four, scoring just one goal in the process.

Reading lost two league games in a row – to Derby and QPR – after suffering a 4-0 thumping at Manchester United in the FA Cup, but they’re back on track after wins against Fulham, Cardiff and Birmingham. The Royals have also brought in some extra quality for the run-in, after the loan signings of Lewis Grabban from Bournemouth, Jordan Mutch from Crystal Palace, and Reece Oxford of West Ham. Ipswich have made seven January signings, but loans from other Championship clubs – including Reading – don’t inspire confidence. Former Newcastle defender Steven Taylor, signed on a short-term deal might add some much needed steel, but the news that manager Mick McCarthy wants to have summer talks with owner Marcus Evans about his future suggests all is not well in Suffolk.

Another club on a downward trajectory is Birmingham, and we’ll be backing against the Blues on Saturday when Fulham travel to the Midlands. Sometimes in football the decisions of club owners leave fans scratching their heads, and Birmingham apparently dropped a huge clanger when they sacked manager Gary Rowett in mid-december. His replacement Gianfranco Zola has overseen a run of 10 without victory since he took over, and one has to suspect that all is not well in the dressing room.

Finally, Norwich have put together back-to-back wins to pull themselves within reach of the play offs, but they face a daunting trip to Wales to play Cardiff. Neil Warnock has dragged the Bluebirds away from the relegation zone with four wins in six in the Championship, and they will be a good match for the Canaries. The smart move is to back over 2.5 goals here, as the two sides have a history of high-scoring encounters.

Ipswich v Reading

First up odds of +180  with Paddy Power are too good to pass up about a Reading win at Ipswich.

The Berkshire club have steadily risen up the table under former Manchester United and Holland centre back Jaap Stam, and have held a place in the top six since late October. They now occupy third position and just five points separate then from leaders Brighton. Both the Seagulls and Newcastle have games in hand over the Royals, but the gap to the two runaway leaders is being slowly reduced by the chasing pack.

Reading have won 11 of the last 15 league games, including three of the last five on the road – at Blackburn, Bristol City and Birmingham. The two away games they’ve lost in that five-match sequence were at Derby and Manchester United (FA Cup), and those results read well in the context of this game. Lewis Grabban is an excellent signing to add an extra goal threat, and he has already proved his ability at this level.

Ipswich fans have been venting their frustration at Mick McCarthy, but this tipster has always suspected that the tractor Boys have been punching above their weight after several seasons of under-investment. Their January additions smacked more of squad-filling than quality signings, and while the experienced boss will welcome the numbers, his team may still fall short of the required quality.

Birmingham v Fulham

Fulham are also a good bet at +115  with BetVictorBetfred and Betway to compound Birmingham’s misery.

It’s a good job that the Blues amassed 34 points before parting ways with Rowett, because they’ve managed just three points since. Currently 12th with 37 points, they should be safe enough to stay up but it looks like any team spirit left at the same time as Rowett. Zola has said he expects a response from his team after the 1-0 home defeat to Reading, and they’ve also been active in the loan market, but something more is clearly amiss at the club.

Fulham notched an impressive 2-0 victory at Burton during the week – their third away success in five matches after wins at Cardiff and Ipswich. In ninth position they are only three points outside the play offs, and have a fifth round FA Cup tie against Spurs to look forward to after beating Hull 4-1 in the last round. All is rosy again at Craven Cottage right now, and if they get their noses in front Blues heads could easily drop.

Cardiff v Norwich

Finally over 2.5 goals is a great price at +110  with Betfred and Paddy Power when Cardiff host Norwich.

The Welsh club earned their third league win in a row at home with the 2-0 victory over Preston, although they were beaten 2-1 by Fulham in the FA Cup in-between. Six of the Bluebirds last ten games on home soil have had three or more goals, and they come up against a team here that is bound to attack.

Norwich were among the favourites to win the division at the start of the season, but if they are to bounce straight back to the Premier League, the play offs now look the most likely route. An elongated mid-season blip cost them their position in the top six, and in 10th place they are still three points off 6th placed Derby County. Victories against Wolves and Birmingham at Carrow Road have lifted the mood, but the Canaries still haven’t sorted out the away form. The Norfolk club is winless in 10 road games – seven defeats and three draws. However, they need the points so can be expected to play an open game, and it’s worth noting that the last four meetings between the pair have had three or more goals – the last three each having five or more goals.

Tips Summary

Reading to beat Ipswich
Saturday 4th February, 15:00 GMT
Odds:  +180

Fulham to beat Birmingham
Saturday 4th February, 15:00 GMT
Odds:  +115

Cardiff v Norwich – Over 2.5 Goals
Saturday 4th February, 15:00 GMT
Odds:  +110