It’s back to the bread and butter of the Championship on Saturday after the divisions clubs had mixed fortunes in midweek cup games. Leeds were the big winners in the Carabao Cup with a penalty shootout victory away at Premier League Burnley, and they aim to stay top of the pile in the second tier when they take on Ipswich at Elland Road on Saturday afternoon.
It’s the other side at the head of affairs which interests this tipster though, and Wolves are strongly fancied to rack up another win when they host a struggling Barnsley side at Molineux. The Wolverhampton club invested heavily in the summer and the strategy is paying off as manager Nuno Espirito Santo has forged a winning side from a new-look squad. For the first time in several years Wolves look capable of challenging for a return to the top flight. The same cannot be said of Barnsley who sit in 20th, just two points above the drop zone. Consolidation in the Championship is a more realistic prospect for the Tykes, but Saturday’s trip to one of the divisions in-form sides is a tough task.
Former Premier League clubs Aston Villa and Sunderland are both having a hard time so far this season, but at least Villa have put together an unbeaten league run of five games. Steve Bruce opted to rest the majority of his first team in the 2-0 Carabao Cup defeat to Middlesbrough in midweek – a policy which will be expected to pay off with three points at home to Nottingham Forest in Saturday’s evening TV match.
Sunderland are winless in five league games and welcome third-placed Cardiff to the Stadium of Light this week. The Black Cats are showing no signs of bouncing back after relegation and currently sit just two points above the bottom three. By contrast the Bluebirds are flying high under Neil Warnock and are in a strong position to challenge for a play off spot. They are without a win in three games, but have only lost once all season.
Wolves v Barnsley
Wolves are this weekend’s banker at -222 with Marathonbet to beat Barnsley.
Wanderers have been in excellent form this season and have already claimed the scalps of Middlesbrough, Hull and Derby in the league and Southampton in the Carabao Cup. Their only defeat has come at the hands of in-form Cardiff, and they currently share first position in the table with that opponent and Leeds – all on 17 points.
Barnsley beat Wolves here 4-0 at the beginning of last season, but had lost on each of their prior seven visits – a result which is more likely this time around in light of recent form. The Tykes have managed some good results on home ground this term, notably the wins over Forest and Sunderland, but those have been their only two league victories of the season. Away from home it’s been a different story where they’ve lost three and drawn one of four road fixtures.
Aston Villa v Nottingham Forest
More was expected from a big-spending Aston Villa this season and Steve Bruce is under pressure to deliver results sooner rather than later. His team can be backed at -120 with Betway to get the better of Nottingham Forest and should be good enough to capitalise on one of the worst defences in the league.
Forest are in a decent position in 10th place after some good results this term, but they are on a run of three defeats in four in the league and were smashed for five at Chelsea in the Carabao Cup in midweek. The goals against column shows 13 conceded in 8 games – more than anyone apart from Burton, Bolton and Hull.
Villa rested a host of first team players for their midweek cup defeat to Middlesbrough, and that is a strategy that will only be accepted by the faithful if the Villains go on to win this home tie and continue their climb up the table. After a brief flirtation with the relegation zone the claret and blues are up to 13th place having racked up two wins and three draws from the last five games. Home form has been their bedrock over the last two seasons and they remain unbeaten at Villa Park in the league. There should be enough quality among the Villa ranks to get the better of a Forest side which cannot keep a clean sheet for love nor money.
Sunderland v Cardiff
The Black Cats are in disarray at the moment, and are yet to score a win on home soil in any competition in 2017. That is a stark indication of the task facing Simon Grayson as he attempts to drag his side away from the lower reaches of the table. Their solitary win this season came away at Norwich, and it’s four defeats in five in all competitions leading up to this match.
Cardiff’s incredible early season form has subsided a little after three games without a win, but they’ve only been beaten once – away at Preston. Draws against Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham read fairly well in context considering that those two both competed in last year’s play offs. Typical of a Neil Warnock side, the Bluebirds are hard to beat and are fancied to come away with a point from the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
Wolves to beat Barnsley
Saturday 23rd September, 15:00 GMT
Aston Villa to beat Nottingham Forest
Saturday 23rd September, 17:30 GMT
Sunderland and Cardiff to Draw
Saturday 23rd September, 15:00 GMT