New Year joy for Rowett’s men
Despite taking the lead after just three minutes, Bristol City slumped to a disappointing defeat against QPR on Thursday evening. It’s been an underwhelming 12 months for the Robins, who have collected just 45 points since the beginning of 2021. Only six sides across the entire EFL have a poorer points return than Nigel Pearson’s men with an average of just 0.94 points acquired per match this calendar year.
Conceding sloppy goals has been a continuous problem for the hosts, and although they are generally tougher to breach at Ashton Gate, only three sides, including Peterborough and Reading have conceded more goals than the Robins so far this season.
Gary Rowett described his side’s victory at the CBS Arena as ‘incredibly satisfying’ and although he was forced to call upon 15-year old Zak Lovelace, the Lions boss can be proud of his side’s festive efforts. With players slowly returning to the fold, the Bermondsey outfit are set to go off as favourites for this tie, and they will be hoping to build on their excellent recent record against this opposition.
The visitors have won each of their last three meetings with Bristol City and they should be able to clinch back-to-back away Championship victories for the first tie since mid-October.
Recommended Bet: Back Millwall to beat Bristol City @ 2.68/5
Seasiders to bounce back from midweek misery
Blackpool thought they’d snatched a point against Middlesbrough on Wednesday, however, Neil Critchley’s men immediately switched off and paid the ultimate price. Irrespective of recent results, the Seasiders are playing well and despite some key absences in midfield, they can still call upon the likes of Shayne Lavery, Jerry Yates and Gary Madine. The Fylde Coast club have lost five of their last six, however, their performances have merited far more and their exasperated head coach will be quietly confident that they can turn things around over the next couple of weeks.
Hull’s recent matches have been called off due to COVID-related issues, however, the majority of players have returned to training this week and the fans will be hoping that the enforced break won’t prove to be too disruptive. The Tigers are unbeaten in six of their last seven and have eased their relegation worries in the process. Hull haven’t beaten Blackpool in their last nine attempts and although Grant McCann’s side should be raring to go, they could fall short against the determined hosts, who will be desperate to put their recent poor run of form behind them.
Recommended Bet: Back Blackpool to beat Hull @ 2.245/4
Entertaining 90 minutes at St. Andrews
Despite their recent problems, Birmingham have only actually lost one of their last five home matches. The Blues will be hoping to bounce back from their 4-0 hammering at the hands of in-form Blackburn last time out and having averaged just 1.09 goals per game at this venue so far, they simply must improve their levels of creativity. With Tahith Chong unlikely to be back anytime soon and Riley McGree having departed at the end of December, the hosts look desperately short of players who can deliver something a little different.
QPR delivered a knock-out blow against Bristol City in midweek, however, despite that result, the R’s are still struggling for personnel. Mark Warburton could only name five subs and with another quick turnaround here, that situation is unlikely to improve. The West London side sit just outside the play-offs and it’s their excellent away form which has enabled them to remain in top six contention. They have a 5-2-4 record on the their travels and have averaged 1.73 goals per game away from Loftus Road. They rarely keep a clean sheet on the road and despite Brum’s problems in front of goal, QPR cannot be trusted to keep the hosts off the score-sheet.
Recommended Bet: Back BTTS in Birmingham vs QPR @ 1.9210/11
Terriers to take at least a point back across the Pennines
Despite not being at their best on Wednesday night, Blackburn still managed to edge out Barnsley at Ewood Park. Rovers have won six in a row and they are now just four points off the Championship summit. Tony Mowbray will be hoping that his side can continue their stunning run of form, however, they could struggle to maintain those high standards against today’s in-form rivals. Nevertheless, they’ve suffered just two home defeats so far this season and are averaging 2.31 goals per game at this venue.
Huddersfield pulled off yet another shock on Thursday night as they edged past previously in-form Nottingham Forest. The Terriers have been defensively robust this campaign and have conceded an average of just 1.16 goals per game so far. Despite the absence of Naby Sarr, Carlos Corberan’s men still managed to keep a clean sheet against the Tricky Trees and there appears to be a quiet confidence within the camp. Even without the experienced defender and potentially in-form Danny Ward, the visitors may be the side to temporary halt the Blackburn juggernaut.
Recommended Bet: Back Huddersfield or Draw Double Chance @ 1.9110/11 (Sportsbook)
Under-fire Ismael to secure a much-needed victory
West Brom’s goalscoring issues continued to plague them last weekend as the Baggies slipped up against Derby at Pride Park. Valerien Ismael has come under fire this week and he must find a way to get his side firing on their travels. However, at home, they’ve been far more clinical and have averaged 1.55 goals per game at the Hawthorns. WBA also possess the best home defensive record in the division and their ability to keep the opposition off the scoresheet should enable to them to remain in promotion contention. They’ve conceded just once here since September 24th, however, reinforcements are desperately required at the other end of the field.
Cardiff were thumped by Bournemouth in midweek and the Welsh side will be hoping to exact revenge on the side who stuck four past them at the end of September. Although their form has improved since the managerial switch, they are now winless in three and have conceded eight times in their last three outings. They’ve managed to find the net in six of their last nine games, however, they could struggle to find a way through on Sunday afternoon. The Bluebirds don’t have a great record at the beginning of a calendar year and haven’t won any of their last four opening fixtures in January. That doesn’t look like changing anytime soon.
Recommended Bet: Back West Brom to Win @ 1.584/7
Tricky Trees and Tykes to share the spoils
COVID has hit Nottingham Forest hard in recent days and Steve Cooper’s depleted side suffered a disappointing 1-0 loss to Huddersfield on Thursday night. With reinforcements set to arrive in January, the East Midlands outfit will be hoping to bounce back from their underwhelming festive period, although they won’t be given an easy ride by a much-improved Barnsley outfit. The hosts are still creating chances, however, they need to be a little more clinical in the final third if they are to gatecrash the top six this season.
Barnsley have undoubtedly improved under Poya Asbarghi, even if that hasn’t been translated into results just yet. The Tykes worked hard against Blackburn, however, in-form Ben Brereton-Diaz proved to be the difference maker in the end. They’ve scored just three times in five matches, however, the form of Carlton Morris is a positive and the striker will be hoping to add to his tally at the City Ground. The South Yorkshire outfit will battle their way through this game and may take a point back to Oakwell.
Recommended Bet: Back Draw in Nottingham Forest vs Barnsley @ 3.711/4
Rams to continue their strong run of results
It feels like a long time since we’ve seen Reading in action. The Royals played just twice in December and are likely to suffer from significant fixture congestion later in the season. Their recent matches at the Madjeski have been disappointing with Vejlko Paunovic’s side having failed to win any of their last three outings here. They’ve scored just twice in their last four home games, and despite averaging 1.45 goals per game in Berkshire, they’ve struggled to find their usual rhythm in the final third since mid-October.
Derby have been excellent in recent weeks and despite the significant deficit at the bottom of the table, Wayne Rooney’s side have given themselves a sniff of remaining in the division. They’ve won four of their last seven matches and each of their last three. They’ve also conceded just four times since mid-November and despite the obvious lack of quality and depth within their squad, they are undoubtedly one of the most spirited outfits in the second tier. The Rams can continue to defy the odds and pick another important three points on Monday.
Recommended Bet: Back Derby Win or Draw Double Chance @ 1.75/7
Both sides to share the points in the Potteries
Michael O’Neill came under fire from some sections of the fanbase following his side’s dismal 2-1 home defeat to Derby. However, the Northern Irishman has done an excellent job of steadying the ship and having been without several first-team players for Thursday night’s loss, he can hopefully be forgiven for his side’s underwhelming display. It’s been a tough run of home fixtures for the Potters and although they failed to find the net against the in-form duo Blackburn and Middlesbrough, they can usually be relied upon to take something from these types of games.
Preston fans haven’t seen much of new manager Ryan Lowe yet, however, the Liverpudlian has been able to work on the training ground with his players ahead of this short trip to Staffordshire. PNE beat Barnsley in Lowe’s first game in charge, although it’s PNE’s away form that will be of significant concern to the former Plymouth boss. They’ve scored just nine times on their travels and Lowe’s sides tend to be better in front of a home crowd. Nevertheless, Stoke aren’t firing on all cylinders, so if they can take a point here, it will be considered a positive result for the new management team.
Recommended Bet: Back Draw in Stoke vs Preston @ 3.3512/5
Cherries to cruise to victory against Posh
Following a underwhelming run of form, Bournemouth have seemingly re-established their title credentials over the last seven days. Scott Parker’s men have won both of their festive fixtures and they’ve managed to keep clean sheets in each of those games. The Cherries were in complete control against Cardiff on Thursday night and despite the quick turnaround, they will have very few concerns about facing out-of-form Posh.
Peterborough’s away form is horrific. They’ve scored just six of their 20 goals on the road so far this season and have already suffered 11 defeats on their travels. Darren Ferguson appears unable to explain the reasons behind his side’s disappointing away day displays and they are unlikely to get much joy at the Vitality. They’ve failed to find the net in each of their five visits to top half sides this season and that sequence is expected to continue on Monday.
Recommended Bet: Back Bournemouth to Keep a Clean Sheet @ 2.111/10
You can follow Jack Critchley on Twitter @jcritch7