Bristol City to ask questions of Fulham’s back-line
Despite winning four of their first five games and looking like genuine title contenders, Fulham have hit a small stumbling block and have suffered two defeats in their last three Championship matches. Against Blackpool, the Cottagers were shut down by a determined Seasiders outfit, whereas seven days ago, they were undone by two moments of magic from Ovie Ejaria. The West Londoners created several chances in that contest, and having taken the highest number of shots on target (53) in the division, it’s hard to imagine them drawing a blank at Ashton Gate on Saturday afternoon.
Bristol City are still winless at Ashton Gate since late January and despite their recent away day heroics, they haven’t been able to collect maximum points here, despite being handed some seemingly winnable fixtures. This is likely to be their toughest test to date. The Robins have conceded just three times here so far, although shot-shy Blackpool and Swansea don’t possess the same level of firepower as today’s opponents. Nevertheless, the hosts will be buoyed by their 2-1 victory last weekend and with both Andreas Weimann and Han-Noah Massengo having impressed in recent weeks, they will fancy their chances of finding a way past Fulham’s creaky defence.
Recommended Bet: Back BTTS in Bristol City vs Fulham @ 1.910/11
PNE to take something back to Lancashire
Despite losing their first three Championship outings, Preston have managed to recover and they are now unbeaten in five. Although PNE’s numbers going forward aren’t particularly eye-catching, it’s their defensive solidity which has enabled them to ease their way into mid-table. They’ve conceded just four times in their last five matches, despite facing in-form duo West Brom and Sheffield United. The Lancashire side have an xGA of just 0.85 across the last four matches and they are likely to make life difficult for Birmingham. Brum will be looking to bounce back from an unexpected thumping at the hands of Peterborough last week and they’ve now conceded seven times in their last two outings. They weren’t particularly convincing against Derby following the international break and they cannot afford another underwhelming display against confident opponents.
Recommended Bet: Back Preston Draw No Bet vs Birmingham @ 2.55
Bournemouth and Luton to produce an absorbing 90 minutes
Bournemouth have capitalised on Fulham and West Brom’s respective wobbles, with the Cherries moving to the top of the embryonic Championship table. Scott Parker’s men have been free-scoring so far this season, however, they produced a different type of performance to see off Cardiff in south Wales last weekend. The Dorset club don’t concede many goals, however, they have failed to keep a clean sheet in three of their four home matches and they could struggle to keep a lively Luton side off the score-sheet on Saturday afternoon. The Hatters were involved in one of the most entertaining games of the season last weekend, drawing 3-3 with Swansea despite racing into a 3-0 lead. Nathan Jones’ men have been famed for their away performances across the last twelve months and having scored in each of their opening four matches on the road, they should play their part in an entertaining affair.
Recommended Bet: Back BTTS in Bournemouth vs Luton @ 1.9210/11
Spoils to be shared by the seaside
There are signs that Blackpool are slowly getting to grips with life in the Championship and the Tangerines come into this game having won two of their last three outings. Neil Critchley’s men appear better on the road, and their home performances have been largely underwhelming so far. The hosts have had a fewest shots on target (20) and with this weekend’s opponents Barnsley having produced the joint-second fewest (21), this is unlikely to be a classic. There are signs that the Tykes are also finding their feet under coach Markus Schopp, and they have now drawn back-to-back matches. Although they were arguably lucky to take something against Stoke, they were the better side against Blackburn last week and that should give them the confidence to pick up at least a point on the Fylde Coast.
Recommended Bet: Back Draw in Blackpool vs Barnsley @ 3.39/4
Rovers to beat out-of-sorts Bluebirds
Although they were tipped to struggle by some pundits this season, Blackburn have made a solid start to the 2021-22 Championship campaign. Tony Mowbray’s men have been bolstered by some decent loanees, and the form of Ben Brereton-Diaz has also been key to their form. Rovers have suffered just a single defeat so far this season, and they’ve scored exactly two goals in three of their opening four matches at Ewood Park. Their home games have been suitably entertaining and having produced an xG of 1.65 here (compared to 0.55 on the road), they could be tough to beat in front of their own fans. Cardiff have hit the buffers and Mick McCarthy’s men have lost three of their last four matches. Fans have complained about team selection and the lack of intensity in their performances is a concern. They will find it tough to get anything here.
Recommended Bet: Back Blackburn to beat Cardiff @ 2.3611/8
Forest and Millwall to cancel one another out at the City Ground
Nottingham Forest have appointed Steve Cooper as Chris Hughton’s successor and the former Swansea boss has been tasked with guiding the Tricky Trees away from immediate danger. Under caretaker boss Steven Reid, the East Midlands outfit beat Huddersfield last weekend, with a shift in formation enabling them to collect maximum points for the first time this season. It’s hard to know whether Cooper will have an immediate effect, however, he has reportedly taken training this week and should have had enough time to put some of his ideas across. Under his tutelage, the Swans were incredibly tough to beat and he is likely to take the same approach here. Millwall are the division’s draw specialists and some fans have complained about Gary Rowett’s lack of adventure in the final third. They’ve drawn five of their opening eight matches and another stalemate beckons.
Recommended Bet: Back Draw in Nottingham Forest vs Millwall @ 3.1511/5
Blades to edge past resolute Rams
It’s taken a while for Sheffield United to click into gear, however, a couple of deadline day signings have helped to reinvigorate the stodgy Blades. Morgan Gibbs-White has been excellent so far and the loanee has also helped to bring out the best in Billy Sharp. The South Yorkshire side have scored 11 of their 12 goals in the last two weeks and they will fancy their chances of finding the net here. They’ve produced an average xG of 1.81 across the last four matches, compared 0.98 across the last eight and they have certainly improved their output in the final third since the international break. Derby look set to be handed a significant points deduction, however, they are scrapping for every ball and they are unbeaten in six of their opening eight matches. They kept WBA off the score-sheet in their last away game, however, they rode their luck at times and they may not benefit from such good fortune against their impressive hosts.
Recommended Bet: Back Sheffield United to beat Derby @ 1.674/6
Misfiring Hull to come up short in the Potteries
Stoke have made a positive start to the season and they currently sit fifth in the Championship table. However, they’ve failed to win either of their last two matches and Michael O’Neill must find a way to get his side back on track. Although this game may come too soon for him, fans will have been delighted to see Tyrese Campbell back in action this week and they certainly have enough firepower within the squad. Although their away performances still require some fine-tuning, they currently possess the fourth best home xG and aren’t likely to lose many games in the Potteries this season. Hull have been producing very little going forward and Grant McCann’s side have the lowest xG across the last four matches. Matt Ingram has made the most saves in the second tier and the Tigers’ goalkeeper will look to frustrate the hosts once again this weekend. Hull could keep things tight, however, the hosts have a little more quality going forward.
Swans and Terriers to strike in west Wales
Swansea have been slowly improving under Russell Martin and the welsh side showed plenty of spirit to come back from 3-0 down last weekend at Kenilworth Road. Their xG numbers have significantly improved across the last four matches and they are now unbeaten in four of their last five matches. New signings Olivier Ntcham and Ethan Laird have added some impetus going forward, whereas Jamie Paterson appears to be improving with each passing week. Last weekend was the first time that Martin’s men have scored more than a single goal in a game, and they will take plenty of confidence into this clash. Their defence still looks a little shaky and Huddersfield will be looking to take advantage of that generosity. The Terriers slipped up against Nottingham Forest last weekend, however, they’ve produced an average xG of 1.49 across the last four matches and having notched three times at Bloomfield Road ten days ago, they will fancy their chances of finding the back of the net here.
Recommended Bet: Back BTTS in Swansea vs Huddersfield @ 1.9420/21
You can follow Jack Critchley on Twitter @jcritch7