Swansea to continue their remarkable week
It’s been a memorable seven days for Swansea fans who have just witnessed their side complete an unexpected double over their arch rivals as well as taking all three points from a tough-looking trip to the Den. Russell Martin’s side cannot gatecrash the top six, however, they are putting together an exceptionally strong finish to the campaign and that is likely to result in plenty of optimism ahead of the next season.
The Welsh side have been horribly inconsistent and their 15-9-15 seasonal record sums up their struggles. However, they’re currently embarking upon their most productive run of the campaign and have taken 10 points from a possible 12. Kyle Naughton has been superb at the back in recent weeks and has helped his side keep three clean sheets in their last four, whilst Joel Piroe continues to impress and is now closing in on 20 Championship goals.
With Michael Obafemi showing a terrific attitude and Andy Fisher slowly adapting to life in south wales, hopes remain high that Martin’s men can mount a serious promotion push next season.
Derby have had a full seven days to prepare for this assignment and Wayne Rooney will be hoping that his side can extend their unbeaten streak and keep the pressure on Reading. Nevertheless, the Rams’ away form is woeful and they haven’t collected a single point on their travels since January 3rd. Having failed to score in three of their last four on the road, this could be a tough afternoon for the almost-relegated East Midlanders.
Royals to take a step closer to safety
With Barnsley not in action, Reading gave their survival bid a significant boost in midweek as they edged past Stoke at the Madejski. Although the appointment of Paul Ince was questioned by many, including myself, it does appear to have worked and the Berkshire club come into this game with an eight point cushion over the bottom three. Nevertheless, with Barnsley still picking up points, the hosts cannot afford to take their foot off the gas just yet, and Ince will be keen for his side to secure their second home victory of the week on Saturday afternoon.
Andy Yiadom was singled out for praise by his manager in midweek, and the likes of Michael Morrison and Josh Laurent have also stepped up in recent weeks. Ince has rightly praised his side’s back-line and the Royals have undoubtedly tightened up conceding just three times in their last four outings. They’ve also been victorious in three of their last four matches at this stadium and this appears to be yet another winnable game against a side who have very little left to play for.
Cardiff will still be hurting following their bruising defeat in the derby and Steve Morison must find a way to galvanise his side. They’ve lost three of their last five on the road and although they had been playing reasonably well prior to last weekend’s defeat, they may be lacking the motivation for this trip down the M4.
Rovers aiming to avenge October’s defeat
Blackburn may have been left frustrated by Coventry’s last-gasp winner at the weekend, however, Tony Mowbray’s men have managed to rediscover their goalscoring touch and have netted five times in their last three outings. The return of Bradley Dack has given them a boost and the former Gillingham man has both scored a goal and registered an assist since returning to action last month. With Ben Brereton-Diaz also back in the fold, the hosts have a plethora of attacking options and they will take plenty of confidence into this Lancashire derby.
Rovers are still firmly in the play-off hunt and they will be keen to keep the pressure on the sides above them. They will also fancy avenging October’s 2-1 defeat at Bloomfield Road and are likely to make a fast start to this contest.
Blackpool are facing the prospect of a second successive derby fixture and although Neil Critchley’s men will be desperate to put Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat to Preston firmly behind them, they must drastically improve their performance at Ewood Park. The Seasiders created very little against PNE and looked disjointed going forward. They failed to register an effort on goal and will be without the services of goalkeeper Daniel Grimshaw for the foreseeable.
Robins to push Posh closer to the brink
It’s been a forgettable campaign for Bristol City fans, however, Nigel Pearson’s men have put in some decent displays at home. Over the last couple of months, they’ve beaten Middlesbrough here and held a much-improved West Brom outfit to a 2-2 draw. Nevertheless, the one common denominator is goals. Even in victory, the Robins struggle to keep a clean sheet and are often forced to do things the hard way. Last weekend, they gave high-flying Bournemouth a scare and they can take plenty of confidence from that display. The form of Andreas Weimann has been one of the rare bright spots this season and the Austrian is likely to play a significant role once again on Saturday afternoon.
Peterborough picked up a point at home to Luton in midweek and although they remain relatively erratic, they have undoubtedly improved under Grant McCann. Posh’s Championship tenure appears to be coming to an end, and although they will be keen to end on a high, they may just fall short at Ashton Gate. Although I’m tempted to back the hosts at 1.855/6, the hosts’ propensity to concede is a concern. As a result, 1.715/7 on BTTS looks far more appealing.
Another low-scoring 90 minutes at the Den
Although it isn’t mathematically impossible, Millwall’s late play-off push appears to have fizzled out. The Lions have failed to win any of their last three matches and have now failed to find the net in four of their last six. Gary Rowett’s men have always been a low-scoring outfit, however, their lack of firepower and creativity is something which must be addressed if they wish to progress to the next level. The majority of their recent matches have also been low scoring with last weekend’s 2-2 draw against Luton an obvious outlier.
Barnsley’s late season rally may not be enough to keep them in the division. Poya Asbarghi has undoubtedly improved the Tykes, however, they don’t have the tools to hurt the opposition, particularly away from home, where they’ve failed to score in three of their last four. They will battle throughout the 90 minutes, but it could be another frustrating afternoon for the travelling fans. This is unlikely to be a classic.
Unstoppable Forest to notch yet another win
There isn’t much more to say about Nottingham Forest. Steve Cooper’s men have been sensational during the second half of the season and they continued their assualt on the top six with a comfortable midweek victory over Coventry on Wednesday night. The Tricky Trees still have a couple of games in hand on the majority of their play-off hunting rivals and although they have tough trips to Kenilworth Road and Craven Cottage on the horizon, this has to be regarded as one of their easier assignments.
Forest simply cannot stop scoring at the City Ground and they have notched nine times in their last three home matches. They’ve also been excellent defensively with Joe Worrall and Scott McKenna running a tight ship alongside Tobias Figueiredo.
Birmingham are ending the season in decent form and have managed to remain unbeaten in four of their last five. However, Lee Bowyer’s men have won just four times on the road this season and they could struggle to unlock Forest’s back-line on Saturday afternoon.
QPR and PNE to cancel one another out
Preston boss Ryan Lowe said his players ‘went above and beyond’ during their derby success over Blackpool in midweek and he will hoping that his side can follow up that performance on Saturday afternoon. PNE have been hard to beat this season with only two sides having left Deepdale with maximum points since the opening weekend of the campaign. Patrick Bauer was immense against the Seasiders and he is likely to enjoy coming up against a side who have netted just five times in their last seven matches.
The pressure is mounting on Mark Warburton and he will be desperate to turn things around in Lancashire. QPR have lost six of their last seven outings and have completely dropped out of the play-off picture. They have struggled to create chances without key players and they could easily draw another blank here.
Tigers to make it tricky for the Teessiders
Although I can appreciate why Middlesbrough will be popular at 1.574/7 this weekend, Hull’s propensity to upset top half opposition on the road is an obvious concern. Strangely, the Tigers have lost six consecutive home matches, however, they’ve been far more effective on the road and are unbeaten in their last five. They’ve managed to hold Sheffield United to a goalless draw during that sequence and earlier in the season, they left the Vitality with all three points. Shota Arveladze’s men have played eight times on the road in 2022 and have conceded just four times (three of those came against Derby!) and I can’t see them making this simple for the hosts.
With Middlesbrough coming off the back of an energy-sapping 1-0 defeat to leaders Fulham, I’d much rather back Under 2.5 Goals at 1.910/11. This would have landed in six of Hull’s last eight away matches.
Baggies to notch consecutive home wins
West Brom cannot gatecrash the top six, however, there are plenty of reasons to be positive ahead of next season. The Baggies have rediscovered their superb home form and they have recently taken maximum points off the top two sides at the Hawthorns. Steve Bruce’s side have kept more clean sheets on their own patch than any other team and they will be confident of adding yet another one to that impressive total on Saturday afternoon.
Stoke continue to lurch from one extreme and another and they slipped up on their travels once again in midweek. The Potters lost at the Madejski and have now conceded 2+ goals in five of their last six away games. Michael O’Neill’s men have collected just four points on their travels since mid-January and that poor run looks set to continue here.