EFL Championship

Championship Opta Stats: Best bets for Saturday's 3pm KOs

Leicester boss Enzo Maresca
Enzo Maresca will be hoping that his side can extend their lead at the top of the table

Using the Opta Stats, Jack Critchley has picked out a recommended bet in each of the nine Championship matches taking place on Saturday afternoon...

Watford vs Leicester

Watford's poor home form to continue

Opta Stats:

"Watford have lost 10 of their last 15 league matches against Leicester City (W3 D2), including each of the last three in a row"

"Having only lost two of their opening 11 home league games this season (W5 D4), Watford have since lost three of their last four at Vicarage Road in the Championship (D1)"

Watford's play-off push has been vanquished in recent weeks with the Hornets winning just one of their last seven. Valerian Ismael's side haven't been beaten heavily during that sequence, yet they've ended up on the wrong side of games against bottom-half sides. In fact, 13th placed Cardiff are the highest-ranked opposition that they have faced since mid-December and they have a tough week ahead with a midweek visit to Norwich following this home game against the leaders. At Vicarage Road, the hosts haven't scored more than a single goal since the end of November and it's almost exactly three months since they last kept a clean sheet here.

Leicester were exceptional last weekend as they put five past struggling Stoke. The Foxes have scored eight times across their last two matches despite missing a number of players through injury or AFCON. Although their away form hasn't been impeccable, they have been victorious in four of their last six and they should be able to take advantage of the Hornets' malaise.

Betfair Bet:

QPR vs Norwich

Entertaining match at Loftus Road

Opta Stat:

"Norwich City have lost three of their last four away league games by a 1-0 scoreline (W1) after scoring in each of their first 11 matches on the road this season, averaging over two goals a game (23 in 11 - 2.1 per game)"

Following their horrendous slump at the end of 2023, QPR have picked up in recent weeks and have managed to put together a three match unbeaten streak. Marti Cifuentes has made some January additions and performances are expected to continue improving. The R's have found the net in four of their last five at this venue and have out-shot their opponents in two of their last three. The arrival of Joe Hodge has given them some much-needed dynamism in the final third.

Norwich have been excellent at home, yet their away performances haven't neccessarily followed suit. Although they've failed to score in three of their last four on the road, they went down to 10 in the first half against WBA and struggled to break down the best home side in the division (Leeds). They've shown how dangerous they can be with a victory at Hull and an impressive 2-2 draw at Ipswich.

Betfair Bet:

Middlesbrough vs Bristol City

City to frustrate the hosts

Opta Stat:

"Bristol City are winless in six league games (D3 L3), their longest such run since August 2021 (12). Away from home, the Robins have won just one of their last 10 in the Championship (D4 L5)"

Earlier in the campaign, Middlesbrough could be usually replied upon to collect maximum points at home. However, that hasn't been the case in recent weeks having failed to win in five of their last six matches here. Boro have netted 2+ goals here just once since October 3rd and they need to be more clinical in the final third.

Bristol City went 120 minutes in midweek before being eliminated in a penalty shootout by Nottingham Forest. The Robins are likely to be tired and that may filter into their performance. They are struggling for goals, yet they've only conceded seven in their last six. They might not trouble Boro's defence, but they are unlikely to be swept aside easily.

Betfair Bet:

Hull vs Swansea

Two good footballing sides to produce an entertaining spectacle

Opta Stat:

"Hull City's Jaden Philogene has been directly involved in 12 goals in just 15 Championship appearances this season (7G 5A) with the 21-year-old scoring once in all three of his league appearances against Swansea for three different clubs (Stoke, Cardiff and Hull)"

Hull's financial situation has been heavily analysed on social media this week. However, on the field, they have been fairly impressive. Liam Rosenior is an astute leader and his side is now jam-packed full of talent. The Tigers have now won back-to-back matches and they've kept a clean sheet in each of those victories, yet they could find it difficult to keep swashbuckling Swansea off the scoresheet.

The Swans were fairly impressive in their 1-0 defeat to Plymouth last week and they are creating plenty of chances under Luke Williams. Nevertheless, having conceded 13 times in their last five away matches, they will always give away opportunities.

Betfair Bet:

Sunderland vs Plymouth

Improving Black Cats to edge out the visitors

Opta Stat:

"Sunderland's Jack Clarke (33) has created more chances following a carry of 5+ metres with the ball than any player in the Championship this season, whilst Plymouth's Morgan Whittaker (46) has recorded the most shots following such a carry in the competition this term. Whittaker has been directly involved in 11 goals across his last eight league appearances (8G 3A)"

This game is likely to be of interest due to Jack Clarke vs Morgan Whittaker, but it'll also be intriguing to see which of these two relatively new managers can pick up maximum points. Sunderland have tightened up defensively under Mick Beale and have conceded just six in their last seven. The Black Cats eased past Stoke in their previous home clash and did create chances against Middlesbrough last weekend.

Plymouth were in FA Cup action on Tuesday night and played 120 minutes against high-flying Leeds. Ian Foster's men have been improving and changing style in recent weeks, although their 1-0 win against Swansea at the weekend was a bit of a smash and grab. The Pilgrims are likely to concede a few opportunities and the hosts may edge this.

Betfair Bet:

Leeds vs Rotherham

Another clean sheet for the Whites

Opta Stat:

"Rotherham United are winless in 27 away league matches (D11 L16), the joint-longest such run in their Football League history, also going 27 without a win on the road in October 1978 and August 2017. Indeed, the last side to go 28+ away games without winning in the Football League were Gillingham from August 2009 to October 2010 (30)"

Leeds were in FA Cup action in midweek, but their squad is deep enough to cope with this hectic schedule. The Whites have been in sensational form, winning each of their last five matches. They've scored 10 times and conceded just a single goal during that sequence. Daniel Farke's side cannot afford to lose momentum at this stage of the season and, with promotion rivals Ipswich's form beginning to falter, Leeds will see this as a good opportunity to collect maximum points.

Rotherham have improved under Leam Richardson and they have made things a lot tighter in recent games. The Millers won't make this easy for the hosts, yet they lack quality in the final third and could struggle to penetrate the hosts' rearguard.

Betfair Bet:

Southampton vs Huddersfield

Terriers to test the impressive Saints

Opta Stat:

"Southampton have won each of their last eight home league games, their longest such streak since a run of 19 from February to November 2011"

The Saints are still on the march and Russell Martin's side have now ousted Ipswich from second spot. They were ruthless in the FA Cup in midweek and have an incredible depth to their talented squad. At home, they've won each of their last five and conceded just a single goal during that sequence. They will see this as a chance to extend their unbeaten sequence to 22. Twelve Championship managers have lost their jobs since the Saints were last defeated and on current evidence, they look set to return to the top flight.

Huddersfield were excellent under caretaker boss Jon Worthington. The Terriers picked up some much-needed points in their basement battle with Sheffield Wednesday, but this is a much sterner test for the West Yorkshire outfit. They lost 4-1 to Leicester fairly recently, but they looked decent going forward in that contest. They fail to convince at the back.

Betfair Bet:

Cardiff vs Preston

BTTS in South Wales

Opta Stat:

"Preston's Will Keane has scored more Championship goals in 2024 than any other player (5); the striker has seven goals in his last seven league appearances after failing to score in any of his 10 outings prior"

Cardiff made some much-needed January additions and they'll be looking to use last weekend's 1-0 victory over Watford as a springboard. The Bluebirds don't keep many clean sheets at home and have recorded just a single shutout since the end of October. Aaron Ramsey made return to the XI this weekend and, with Famara Diedhiou re-acclimatising to life in the Championship, they are likely to find a way through.

Preston have improved in recent weeks and although Ryan Lowe still hasn't convinced some sections of the support, his side have improved their output in the final third. They've netted seven in their last four, although they rarely keep a clean sheet on their travels.

Betfair Bet:

Blackburn vs Stoke

Potters to take advantage of Rovers' uncertainty

Opta Stat:

"Blackburn are winless in eight league games (D2 L6), last going longer without victory in February 2016 (run of 9) under Paul Lambert"

At the time of writing, there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding the future of Blackburn boss Jon Dahl Tomasson. Regardless of his position, Rovers' form across the last five days has been abysmal and they are conceding far too many goals.

Stoke aren't much better off and the initial promise of the Schumacher tenure has quickly dissipated. Nevertheless, they appear to be in slightly better shape and have a better squad with fewer injuries. They should get something from this encounter.

Betfair Bet:

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Prices quoted in copy are correct at time of publication but liable to change.