Aston Villa are unbeaten in four games since Steve Bruce took charge, and one suspects that this is the start of a charge up the Championship league table. Currently 15th on the ladder, there’s plenty of work to do for the manager who earned promotion for Hull last term, but with 31 games remaining a promotion challenge is still more than possible. The Villains are a decent price to continue their good recent form at home to Blackburn on Saturday afternoon.
Another relegated club from last season, Norwich, have hit the rudders in recent weeks – a four match winless streak culminating in a 5-0 thumping at Brighton last week. However, sides often bounce back from humiliating defeats such as that, and the Canaries are sure to have fire in their bellies for the visit of Leeds this weekend. Added into the equation is an EFL Cup loss on penalties away at the Yorkshire club two weeks ago, so Norwich are primed for revenge on two counts.
Finally the Seagulls, whose 5-0 win was their fourth victory in five matches, are a fair price to get three more points when they travel to Bristol City in the televised tea-time match. Chris Hughton’s Brighton were unlucky not to earn promotion last term, and they’re flying high in 2nd behind Newcastle in this year’s renewed challenge.
Aston Villa v Blackburn
If Steve Bruce continues to have the impact he’s made in his short time at Villa, they won’t be available at odds of -143 with William Hill to win at home very often.
The experienced and much-travelled manager has taken charge of a club that has been on a downward spiral for a few years, but they may have reached the bottom and started making their way back up. It’s four games unbeaten since he was brought in to replace Roberto di Matteo (two wins, two draws), and last week’s goalscorer against Birmingham Gary Gardner says Bruce has restored the players’ confidence.
Draws with Wolves and Birmingham have been either side of two victories over Reading and Fulham, and on Saturday they welcome a Blackburn side deep in the relegation zone. Despite Villa’s lowly position they remain unbeaten at home in the league after five draws and two wins, but with renewed confidence they can start turning those stalemates into victories. It’s also worth noting that they’ve beaten Rovers on their last five visits to Villa Park.
Blackburn are having a tough season amid fan protests against their owners, and a lack of support for former Bolton and Burnley boss Owen Coyle. They’re 23rd in the table and have won just three of fifteen games so far this season. Recent form has been a little better – they’ve managed two draws and a win in the last four games – but the quality of opposition has to be taken into account. The victory was against a woefully out-of-form Nottingham Forest side, while draws with Wolves and Ipswich and a defeat to Bristol City don’t make great reading. They’ve lost five of seven away league fixtures this term, and another defeat beckons on Saturday.
Norwich v Leeds
Norwich are also a good price at home, one which surely reflects their recent blip in form. The Canaries are -118 with BetVictor.
After a run of seven wins in eight games, Norwich have lost two and drawn two of their last four. One of those was a loss via penalties to Leeds in the EFL Cup, and revenge will surely make up some of manager Alex Neil’s team talk. Norwich led once in normal time and once in extra time during that match, and had they taken their chances they should have been lining up in the quarter finals. The 1-0 home defeat to Preston was a shock, but the 5-0 loss at Brighton prompted Alex Neil to apologise to the fans. However, the best way to appease supporters has always been by winning football matches, and Neil will be delighted to be back at Carrow Road on Saturday. The Canaries have won five of seven home league games this season, and are fancied to make it six from eight.
Leeds are showing signs of improvement under former Swansea boss Garry Monk, sitting 9th in the table and only a point outside the play offs. After several awful seasons the fans can be forgiven for dreaming of a belated return to the Premier League, but there’s lots of football to be played before next May. Much of their good form lately has been at Elland Road though, with their away record reading three defeats in five road games. This is one of the tougher places to go in the Championship, particularly against a Norwich side that have a point to prove.
Brighton v Bristol City
The Seagulls had a steady start to the season, and three wins on the bounce have seen them take advantage of Norwich and Huddersfield’s poor form to jump into 2nd place in the table. Home and away wins over Wolves and Wigan were followed by that remarkable 5-0 victory last week against Norwich, and in Glenn Murray they have a striker in a hot vein of form. The frontman has now hit nine in fifteen Championship games, and Hughton has a good squad down on the south coast.
Bristol City have been punching above their weight this season, and they remain just inside the play off positions in 6th. However, three defeats in the last five games may be an indication that the early-season novelty has worn off, and this is where the hard work starts. Brighton won 4-0 here as recently as February, and as one of the division’s form sides, they are capable of taking the three points again.
Aston Villa to beat Blackburn
Saturday 5th November, 15:00 GMT
Norwich to beat Leeds
Saturday 5th November, 15:00 GMT
Brighton to beat Bristol City
Saturday 5th November, 17:30 GMT