Cardiff V Wolves
Saturday 22 August
Live on Sky Sports 1
The Bluebirds have the look of a classic mid-table side about them - and not just because they have drawn their three games so far this season. There's no doubt Russell Slade has them committed and a lot fitter than they were last season - evidenced by the sterling late comeback at Loftus Road last Saturday - but they are still short on quality to challenge for a top six spot in my opinion. They will have been disappointed not to come back from Blackburn with all three points on Tuesday - Joe Mason's early goal not cancelled out until late on at Ewood Park in a match that was high on huff and puff but low on genuine moments of quality.
Keeper David Marshall returned from suspension and showed his class with a couple of smart saves and Slade will be hoping he isn't lured away from the Welsh capital before the transfer window closes. Striker Alex Revell is clearly not up to this level but has been preferred to Kenwyne Jones so far this season, which is not endearing the manager to some of the fans, who aren't convinced he is a big enough name to succeed at this level.
Kenny Jackett's outfit were among the fancied sides for promotion pre-season though I'm not sure they have improved enough on the squad which finished seventh last season to aim any higher than for a play-off spot. Early results have tended to back up that assertion with a win at Blackburn, followed by a decent draw at home to Hull then a surprising defeat at the hands of QPR on Wednesday at Molineux, when they squandered an early two-goal lead.
Benik Afobe put them ahead in that one - his third of the season already, while Conor Coady, Man of the Match for the home side in front of the cameras against Hull last Sunday, has become an instant hit with the fans thanks to his all-action performances so far. On loan Arsenal keeper Emiliano Martinez replaced Carl Ikeme in goal after the latter's howler at Blackburn on the opening day and looks set to start again here.
The market can't pick a favourite here with Wolves having drifted to 2.89/5 following that midweek defeat and the home side now slightly shorter at 2.747/4, while the draw is priced up at 3.45. That's pretty much what you'd expect with home advantage and the extra 24 hours preparation for this game balancing out the visitors' slight edge in terms of quality.
With a gun to my head, I'd probably plump for another draw here given the number so far this season and with little to choose between most of the sides in the division from what we've seen. If Wanderers are a side with genuine top two aspirations they should probably be winning at places like this but only six of the 35 games so far have been won by the away side and Jackett's men haven't convinced me yet they are worthy of backing in this one.
Both Teams to Score
This bet has landed in each of the six league games involving these two sides so far this season and at 1.910/11 looks a cracking bet here. City seem able to discover ways of scoring without necessarily possessing a particularly eye-catching attack and in front of their own fans they should be capable of finding the net. Wanderers have looked a bit vulnerable at the back so far this year, lucky to concede just the one at Blackburn before QPR - admittedly through high-class attackers in Charlie Austin and Matt Phillips - beat Martinez three times in midweek.
The draw with Hull was also surprisingly open with plenty of chances at both ends and in comparison to last season when a tight defence was the foundation of their success. Jackett's men seem to be playing to their attacking strengths this time round in Afobe, Nouha Dicko and James Henry, while their back four - with two 20-year-olds (Kortney Hause and Dominic Iorfa) desperately needs Danny Batth back from injury.
Afobe has picked up where he left off last season and attracted firm interest from at least one Premier League club in Norwich. Wolves claim he's not for sale but until the transfer window closes nothing is certain and this is another opportunity for the 22-year-old to show admirers what he can do.
He's available at 2.915/8 to score anytime with the Sportsbook, which I think is a very good price and am happy to put that up as my second recommended bet in this one. Wanderers certainly look good going forward this season and although Jackett is instinctively a safety-first manager I think he realises where their best opportunities currently lie and will give his men licence to attack again here.
Back both teams to score at 1.910/11 *Best bet
Back Benik Afobe to score anytime at 2.915/8 with the Sportsbook
You can read my previews of all the live Championship games here along with Mike Norman's Saturday 3pm tipsheets