Newcastle 1.865/6 v Derby 5.04/1; The Draw 3.7511/4
Undoubtedly the match of the day in the Championship sees Newcastle host Derby, and at the prices I simply have to side with the away win.
I'll be honest though, if Newcastle are at their best then, as the Match Odds market suggests, they win this game. But there are plenty of reasons to oppose Rafa Benitez's men, and top of that list is their current form.
The Magpies are not exactly in freefall, but the fact is that they've won just four of their last nine matches in all competitions, and last Saturday they were thrashed 3-0 at League One Oxford in the cup. Admittedly Bentitez fielded a much-changed side that day, but back to relatively full strength in midweek Newcastle could manage just a 2-2 draw at home to lowly QPR.
And it's Newcastle's form at St James' Park that is also a big concern.
There are no fewer than 12 clubs in the Championship that have lost the same amount of, or fewer, games on home soil as Newcastle this season. Benitez's men have collected 28 points in front of their own fans while away from home that tally rises to 31.
Visiting teams know that frustrating Newcastle on home soil is the key to success; the longer the game goes without the home side scoring, the more impatient the fans become and that clearly translates to the players. Former Toon boss Steve McClaren will know all about this tactic and he can set his side up very defensively with a line-up more than capable of shutting the hosts out for long periods.
Of course, an early goal for Newcastle will render my reasoning for backing Derby irrelevant, but the Rams are in decent enough form to stay in this game and fight for the win regardless of how the match pans out.
Derby are up to sixth in the table following back-to-back league wins over Reading and Ipswich respectively, where they scored six goals in the process, and if they can get their noses in front at St James' Park I believe McClaren's men will take the world of beating.
Back Derby to Win @ 5.04/1 (best bet)
Birmingham 3.9 v Fulham 2.111/10; The Draw 3.65
My thoughts on this match are much the same as they were when Birmingham played at St Andrew's in midweek, so I make no apologies for pointing you in the direction of that particular preview.
One of my favourite angles in football betting is opposing teams that appear to be not performing to the best of their abilities for their manager, and I think with Gianfranco Zola and Birmingham we have a classic case in point.
I'm not suggesting for one second that Zola doesn't know what he's doing, or that the players don't like him, I'm simply of the opinion that like the rest of us, the Blues' players are mystified that former boss Gary Rowett was replaced, and as a result they've gone completely off the boil.
Birmingham were comfortably on the fringes of the play-offs at the time, but 10 games under Zola they're down to 12th in the table, out of the FA Cup, and without a single win. Sometimes you can almost bet blind in football, and this is a good example as I'd like to keep opposing Birmingham regardless of who they're playing until they turn the corner.
As it happens Brum face Fulham on Saturday afternoon, a team that can be quite inconsistent but one that rarely goes a few games without a victory.
Slavisa Jokanovic's men are just three points behind the play-offs following their midweek win at Burton, and given that the Cottagers have lost just one of their last six away games - that being a narrow loss to highflying Reading - I believe they are well worth backing to get the better of Zola's struggling side.
Back Fulham to Win @ 2.111/10
Bristol City 1.635/8 v Rotherham 5.95/1; The Draw 4.57/2
Bristol City still can't win, but they at least broke their eight-game losing streak with a spirited 2-2 draw with promotion-chasing Sheffield Wednesday in midweek.
Typical of how the Robins play, they were caught out a few times while seemingly in control of possession, and but for some wayward finishing from the Owls they could easily have conceded twice the amount of goals they actually did.
But going forward Lee Johnson's men looked quite dangerous at times, and that, plus their gung-ho style of play, bodes well for backers of goals in this fixture.
Quite simply, this is a game that both managers will feel they can win, and that achieving victory could just be the catalyst for an improvement in form.
Rotherham need the win desperately of course, and the chance to close the game on one of the clubs immediately above the drop zone might spur them into going all out here. A draw is absolutely no use to the Millers.
A victory for the home side will all but end Rotherham's tiny hopes of avoiding the drop, while at the same time it will indicate that the Robins are perhaps turning the corner. I just don't see how this game ends without a flurry of goals.
Back Over 3.5 Goals @ 3.02/1
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