We have some juicy clashes in the Championship this weekend: 2nd vs 4th, Steve Cooper’s return to Swansea, and Ryan Lowe debuts at Deepdale in the Preston dugout. Here are Benjamin Bloom’s predictions – get yours in on the F365 Championship Predictor Game.
Luton v Fulham
Fulham lead the way in the Championship after the top of the table clash with Bournemouth last week, whilst Luton got their first win in five at Blackpool. The fact the two sides are first and fifth in terms of goals scored and first and second in xG hints means I’ll go for a Fulham win with both teams to score.
Bournemouth v Blackburn
This looks a really fascinating clash at the Vitality with Bournemouth way out in front in the league table with Fulham but Blackburn much better off in the current eight-game form table. Both sides have been very good in front of goal with Solanke and Brereton-Diaz starring, so I think Bournemouth’s superior defence wins the day here.
West Brom v Reading
West Brom reclaimed third place last weekend with their first win in five at Coventry after three games without a goal. Reading are not in great shape down in the bottom six and were frustrated with a couple of penalty calls in their draw against Hull last time out. I’m sensing a Baggies return to form but think it’ll be close.
Sheffield United v QPR
Sheffield United and QPR will have to wait until Monday night to play their game so they’ll have a very clear idea of the situation across the weekend being the last two to play. This game screams both teams to score with the goals flying in at both ends for both sides during this season. The Blades have picked up and won three in a row, but perhaps against lesser opponents than QPR have been. This feels like a draw to me.
Stoke v Middlesbrough
It’s a really nicely poised game between Stoke and Boro. The two sides are in sixth and ninth with Boro trending up after back to back wins under new boss Chris Wilder. The form table and Stoke’s strong defensive record would have them as favourites, but the Wilder factor makes me think Boro will return home with something.
Huddersfield v Coventry
A tale of two teams just sliding down the table a little from the lofty positions they’d established earlier in the season. The two sides are 11th and 7th in the table but 21st and 13th in the eight-game form table. Coventry will want to get Viktor Gyokeres scoring again, whilst Huddersfield will want a return to the home form that saw them win six out of eight. I think home form just takes it.
Peterborough v Millwall
Millwall will see this trip to Peterborough as a chance to squeeze up a little tighter to the top six. The Lions are four points and two places away from the top six and have only lost three times in the last 17 Championship games. The Posh are all out of sorts, with no wins in seven and no goals in the last five.
Swansea v Forest
Steve Cooper returns to Swansea having lost only once in his 13 games in charge so far at the City Ground. After working their way up into the top ten, Swansea’s only win in the past five has come at second-bottom Barnsley, and something tells me the scene is set for Cooper to return and conquer.
Derby v Blackpool
Blackpool were the darlings of this division not so long ago, with Neil Critchley making light work of the transition from League 1 up to the Championship. Pool haven’t won any of the last six, and whilst they have played three teams currently in the play-off spots in that run, the defeats in the last two against Birmingham and Luton may be more concerning. With both sides in the bottom six for goals scored and Derby’s decent defence, I think I might play my joker on this one.
Birmingham v Cardiff
Cardiff look like they are building an identity under Steve Morison, but despite his three wins in seven in charge, they still sit one place above the relegation zone. Birmingham continue to confuse, they can be streaky and unpredictable, but good underlying xG numbers and superior recent form puts them just as favourites in my estimation ahead of this one.
Hull v Bristol City
Hull’s spectacular winning streak ended with a draw at Reading last week, whilst Bristol City perplexingly improved their excellent recent home form having not been able to win at Ashton Gate for most of the year. The Robins can’t strike a balance between home and away form under Nigel Pearson and have now lost four on the bounce on the road. Both sides will think they can win, so let’s go for neither of them to actually do it.
Preston v Barnsley
Ryan Lowe’s first game as Preston boss sees Barnsley visiting Deepdale. Preston’s form can possibly be disregarded and those people who believe in the ‘new manager bounce’ will suspect three points for North End. Barnsley are struggling by whatever metric you want to use, and I think Lowe and Preston will be able to capitalise on the Tykes at a low ebb.
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