Ipswich v Birmingham
Friday 18 September
Sky Sports 5
The topsy-turvy nature of the second tier was illustrated again as Town bounced back from the five-goal thrashing in front of the cameras at Reading last Friday with a gutsy 1-0 win at Leeds on Tuesday. Mick McCarthy has set-up then up in a more attacking manner this season but they'd been leaking goals as a result and hadn't kept a clean sheet until the victory at Elland Road, which lifted them back up to fifth in the table.
The Tractor Boys beat Sheffield Wednesday and Burnley at home back in the second week of the season but lost 3-2 to Brighton in their most recent game at Portman Road.
The return of last season's Championship top-scorer Daryl Murphy made an immediate impact at Leeds - not just in attack but also at the other end where his ability to win headers from opposition corners and free-kicks shouldn't be underestimated. He'll be vying for a starting spot with David McGoldrick and Freddie Sears, who missed the Leeds game with a hamstring injury but has four goals to his name already this season.
The Blues have surprised some people with their bright start to the season and were unbeaten until Tuesday's 1-0 defeat at home to revitalised Nottingham Forest, which was also the first occasion they have failed to score this season. Away from home they earned an impressive 2-2 draw at Burnley, where they twice led, and then recorded a very efficient 2-0 win at MK Dons in their most recent away outing.
Demarai Gray was rested for the midweek loss but is likely to be back in the starting line-up at Portman Road and he forms a twin threat down the flanks with David Coterill, while Jon Toral, on-loan from Arsenal, has been the standout player this season for Gary Rowett's side, continuing the form he showed when at Brentford last season.
The market makes the home side a shade of odds-on here at 1.981/1 which is too short for me - they are only two points and two places above their opponents after all and we know just how evenly-balanced the division is. The Blues can be backed at 4.3100/30, while the draw is available at 3.65.
Birmingham have only played the two away games so far as their match at Brentford was postponed and a win at MK Dons and a draw at Burnley is a very decent return so I'm inclined to get them onside somehow in this clash - I know Mike Norman regularly made a profit in his weekly column by backing Brum on the road in the previous two seasons.
The market that catches my eye is the double chance one where draw or away is priced up at 1.991/1 - so nearly evens on Rowett's men taking something home to the West Midlands. That looks a good price on a side who have shown they are a match for anyone they have encountered so far this term.
Over/Under 2.5 goals
Ipswich might have been expected to go into their shells in midweek after that heavy defeat last Friday but McCarthy boldly set them up in the attacking 4-4-2 formation he has opted for so far this season, with two genuine widemen, resisting the temptation to go 4-5-1 and play an extra midfielder. Prior to that 1-0 win their last four matches had gone over the 2.5 line, which is priced at 1.981/1 here, and there has been a definite change of style this season with Town's very positive approach.
With Birmingham scoring in every game up to that midweek loss and their 4-5-1 formation with two quality wingers of their own being well-suited to playing away from home, I think we'll see another open and entertaining Friday night fixture. That should lead to goals and makes 'overs' my second recommended bet here.
Back over 2.5 goals at 1.981/1
Back Draw or Away in the Double Chance market at 1.991/1
You can read my previews of all the live Championship games here along with Mike Norman's Saturday 3pm tipsheets