The weird and wonderfully unpredictable Championship is starting to bear its teeth and this weekend’s batch of games promise yet more excitement.
After a week off, Friday football returns with a west London derby featuring Queens Park Rangers and Fulham. Only three miles separate these teams but there is a feeling they could be a long way apart at the end of the season.
The R’s inconsistency must be a worry for Ian Holloway and with the Cottagers starting to show the promotion form many predicted in the summer, an away win looks tempting at 5/4.
Nine games take place at three on Saturday and we’ll start with the one that looks the easiest to call and that’s Aston Villa’s clash with Bolton.
Much was made of Villa’s summer transfer activity but they finally seem to be getting it together.
The Trotters have been hamstrung by off-field issues and unfortunately, their survival bid already looks somewhat of a lost cause.
Leaders Cardiff will also expect to extend their recent run when Derby visit, having seen off Leeds in midweek. The Rams in contrast still appear to be finding their feet and are becoming somewhat unreliable.
Another home win is likely at Deepdale where Preston host Sunderland. The game will mark Simon Grayson’s first trip back to the ground since moving to Wearside and there must be something inside him wishing he had not left the relative safety of Lancashire.
The Black Cats are seven without a win in all competitions and it could be another tough afternoon, with PNE 20/23 to back up their midweek triumph at Hull with another three points.
Ipswich are also at home and will be looking to continue their strong start to the season on home turf when Bristol City come to town.
The Tractor Boys have won three out of four at Portman Road this term but despite their record, are still a handy 43/20.
That’s possibly because City are in super form, arriving in Suffolk on a run of 10 unbeaten in all competition and at 7/5, may just sneak all three points, with Bobby Reid a tasty 41/20 to score at anytime.
There’s also somewhat of a derby when Sheffield United travel down the M1 to inconsistent Nottingham Forest.
The Blades have been excellent since finally winning promotion back to the Championship and have won five of their last six.
Forest started well but have lost their last three and that lack of confidence against an in-form United could cost them, with the visitors a tempting 9/5 to win.
Another away looks on the cards when Wolves travel to Burton. The Brewers appear to be slowly slipping towards the relegation spots, while Nuno Santo’s men went down at the aforementioned Sheffield United on Wednesday.
Going down to 10 men at Bramall Lane did not help Wolves but they have class throughout their squad and are 10/13 to get back on track.
Although Bolton and Sunderland’s struggles have already been mentioned, Birmingham look a team on the way up. The division’s 22nd placed side beat Sheffield Wednesday in midweek and although he may not want the manager’s job full-time, Lee Carsley is impressing in his temporary role.
Saturday afternoon sees them head north to Hull, a team who have been hit hard by injuries and some questionable transfer business, especially with regards to outgoings.
The Tigers’ inconsistency means this really is a step into the unknown and maybe splitting the difference with the 12/5 draw might be the way to go.
Millwall and Barnsley is another interesting game, with the Lions sitting pretty in mid-table and on a run of four unbeaten, while they have won their last three at home.
The Tykes looked like they could upset the relegation odds again after another chaotic summer of comings and goings but have settled into a downward spiral, failing to win any of their last four across the board.
Finally of the three o’clock games, Middlesbrough take on Brentford in a game that could go either way.
Boro are showing that money cannot buy happiness and were shocked by Norwich on Tuesday, while the Bees finally won last week, while they drew at home to Derby last time out.
A look at their teamsheet suggests Garry Monk’s men will eventually get their act together and could well be too good to miss out on at 20/21.
Then at 5:30, Reading take on Norwich in a clash between two of the most unpredictable teams in the division. The Royals have stuttered with pretty much the same side that lost the play-off final, while Daniel Farke is a manager who seems to generate raised eyebrows at will.
However, the Canaries do appear to be getting to grips with the German’s tactics and also won 7-1 when these sides met in April.
Finally on Sunday we can look forward to a Yorkshire derby between Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds.
The Owls were shocked by Birmingham in midweek, a defeat that came on the back of their derby defeat to Sheffield United and will be desperate to get back on track.
Leeds have looked good so far this season, but mainly at home, and seem to struggle on the road.
Despite winning at Hillsborough last term, they are so unreliable and perhaps punt for the home win at an extremely decent 13/10.
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