Championship expert Jack Critchley believes that in-form Birmingham can heap yet more misery on relegation-threatened Derby County at Pride Park...
"The Rams have lost four consecutive matches, and have scored just a single goal in the process. Firepower has been an issue throughout the course of the campaign, and the strugglers are the division's lowest goalscorers with just 31."
Rams to slump to fifth consecutive defeat
Derby fans were quick to vent their frustration following their side's 3-0 collapse to mid-table Preston North End on Tuesday night. The Rams are in real danger of relegation this season, although Rotherham's loss to Middlesbrough on Wednesday night has helped to ease the situation somewhat. Regardless of the Millers' misfortune, the East Midlands outfit are still only four points clear of danger and with games against Cardiff and Sheffield Wednesday still to come, they are far from safe.
Much of the anger has been aimed towards the club's owners, although Wayne Rooney and Liam Rosenior haven't escaped criticism either. The Rams have lost four consecutive matches, and have scored just a single goal in the process. Firepower has been an issue throughout the course of the campaign, and the strugglers are the division's lowest goalscorers with just 31. Although their 2-2 draw against Brentford in mid-March appeared to be a step in the right direction, they have been unable to build upon that point, and successive tame displays against Blackburn and Preston have made supporters increasingly nervous about the possibility of seeing their side slip into League One. Calls for Steve McClaren to replace the under fire Rooney have intensified and it remains to be seen whether the experienced coach will be drafted in before the end of the campaign.
Although Matt Clarke made a number of key interceptions and Colin Kazim-Richards worked tirelessly without much reward, the majority of the starting XI looked bereft of ideas of Tuesday night. Changes will surely have to be made ahead of this fixture, however, the Rams appear devoid of quality and experience in several key areas. Derby's home form isn't too bad, however, the pressure is likely to weigh heavily on the shoulders of this young squad and that could easily filter into their performance on Saturday afternoon.
Birmingham were denied a third consecutive victory on Wednesday night by an injury time penalty from Lewis Grabban. With a nine point gap on the bottom three, Brum's Championship status is reasonably secure and they can probably start planning for next season. Nevertheless, Lee Bowyer is unlikely to let his players take their foot off the gas until the club is mathematically safe.
The former midfielder hasn't done anything particularly radical at St. Andrews, however they are playing with an increased passion, and the players now appear to be fighting for the cause. Under Aitor Karanka, the Blues struggled to create chances, although it's a completely different story since the management switch. Against Forest, they fired in 18 shots, and created several meaningful opportunities, and although they weren't at their best against Rotherham six days ago, they still managed 14 efforts on goal.
Ivan Sanchez was excellent in midweek, and the Spaniard thrived in a more central role. Jonathan Leko, who replaced the injured Scott Hogan was the only player who failed to make an impact on the game and he is unlikely to have done enough to play himself into the XI here.
The visitors have conceded just a single goal in their last four matches, and with Derby's struggles in the final third, they should be able to keep another clean sheet here. The hosts have been poor, whereas Brum have looked reinvigorated until the stewardship of Bowyer. At 3.211/5 on the Exchange, Birmingham are worth backing to return to winning ways on Saturday afternoon.
Wycombe to continue their fight against relegation
Wycombe produced another stunning performance on Wednesday night as Gareth Ainsworth's men came from a goal down to snatch all three points against Bristol City. The spirit embodied by the team is undeniably strong, and the scenes at the full time whistle were incredible to watch. Adebayo Akinfenwa is the man who kept his cool from the penalty spot, however, it was a complete team performance with Uche Ikpeazu, Admiral Muskwe, Jason McCarthy and Joe Jacobson all rolling up their sleeves and giving their all.
Despite the fanfare, the job is far from complete, and the Chairboys cannot afford to anymore blips between now and the end of the season. They are currently six points from safety, and with in-form Bournemouth still to come, this game will be chalked up as a 'must win'.
Ainsworth thought that his side deserved the win the game, and he also continues to genuinely believe that his side can beat the drop this year. Unfortunately, his side lost each of their first seven games in the Championship and have always been playing catch-up. Their recent form is excellent, and crucially, they have started scoring goals again. They netted just five times in their opening 13 matches, however, they've now plundered nine goals in their last five outings. They've drawn a blank in just one of their last eight matches, and having been buoyed by their midweek success, they will be expected to make a fast start to this contest.
Cardiff's season finished a couple of weeks ago and Mick McCarthy is likely to have one eye on the summer transfer window. The Bluebirds significantly picked up under the former Ipswich coach, however, they were unable to sustain their play-off push, and currently sit tenth, 13 points off the top six. They've won just one of the last nine, although they're unbeaten in each of their last three. Following the embarrassing 5-0 reverse against Sheffield Wednesday, the Welsh side have picked up three consecutive draws, and have managed to find the net in each of those games.
They were competitive against high-flying Brentford and looked on course for all three points, however, an Alex Smithies error let the Bees back into the game. Keiffer Moore is likely to keep the Wycombe back-line on its toes this weekend, whilst Ciaron Brown has comfortably settled into the starting XI over the last couple of weeks. Joe Ralls and Will Vaulks are also likely to provide some much-needed quality in the centre of the park.
Cardiff are no pushovers and have toughened up since their humbling at the hands of the Owls. However, Wycombe should be able to get onto the score-sheet once again. The visitors are full of confidence, and are unlikely to give anything less than 100% here. BTTS looks the best option and it's available at a tempting 21/20 on the Sportsbook.
QPR and Norwich to play out an end-of-season thriller
QPR fans have been delighted with their side's recent performances, however, many supporters are understandably frustrated that the R's waited until the latter stages of the campaign to start playing some of their best football. Mark Warburton has stressed the importance of momentum, and he has challenged his side to take their current form into the 2021-22 season.
Only Watford and Norwich have picked up more points this calendar year, with the West London side having accumulated 41 points since January 1st. They've also won their last three home matches, scoring 3+ goals in each of those encounters. However, they haven't just reserved their best form for the Kiyan Price Foundation Stadium, and arrive here off the back of successive away victories. Warburton's men were dominant at the Liberty Stadium on Tuesday night with the in-form Lyndon Dykes leaving it late to fire in a much-deserved winner for the visitors.
Even with ten men, they still managed to edge past Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium last weekend, with Joe Lumley performing heroics in the QPR goal. At this point of the season, the majority of sides tend to prefer to face opposition who have very little to play for, however, QPR have failed to read the memo, and very few teams will enjoy playing them between now and the start of May.
Norwich's work is done. Promotion was confirmed last weekend despite the Canaries losing 3-1 to in-form Bournemouth. Daniel Farke has done a remarkable job of guiding the Canaries back to the Premier League, and although they are yet to be crowned champions, they can reflect on a tremendous Championship campaign in which they've been easily the most consistent performers in the division.
The East Anglian side arrive here off the back of consecutive defeats although the table toppers have faced their nearest challengers Watford as well as the most in-form side in the division. Norwich have won six of their last seven away games, and have only failed to score four times on their travels this season. Despite drawing a blank in midweek, they should be able to hit the back of the net this weekend and with only six teams having failed to find a way through at this ground, they shouldn't have too many problems breaching the hosts' defence.
It ended 1-1 at Carrow Road at the end of December, and we could see a similar outcome once again. QPR are scoring for fun and Lydon Dykes is full of confidence. Norwich are in a relaxed mood, but they still have their eyes on securing the Championship title. This could be a very potentially entertaining 90 minutes and at 1.768/11 it is worth backing BTTS on the Exchange.
You can follow Jack Critchley on Twitter @jcritch7