More home joy for Blues fans at St.Andrews
Birmingham 3.1511/5 v Fulham 2.447/5; The Draw 3.3512/5
It's been a mixed campaign for Birmingham City so far with the Blues sitting in 12th place coming into this fixture. The West Midlands outfit have been superb at St.Andrews, winning five of their opening seven matches here and suffering just a single defeat in front of their own fans. Only Preston and Cardiff have taken more points from home games than Pep Clotet's side this season, and the home support will be quietly confident that their team can take something from this fixture.
Last weekend, they lost 4-2 at the Cardiff City Stadium despite registering an XG of 2.9 and were more than a match for the Welsh side throughout the 90 minutes.
Brum have some very technical players with the likes of Ivan Sunjic and Dan Crowley improving with every Championship match, and although the latter is yet to get off the mark, he's managed to register three assists and has chalked up an 84% pass success percentage rate so far. In home games, the hosts are able to dictate the pace of the game and that enables their possession-hungry midfielders to get on the ball and create chances.
They come up against a Fulham side who are struggling for form and have failed to score in three of their last four. Scott Parker's men have seen plenty of the ball in recent weeks, although 63% average possession will count for nothing if the Cottagers fail to make the top six. Despite their recent struggles, Fulham are still only seven points off the Championship summit, and a victory here would take them back into the play-off spots.
The West Londoners have a poor record at this stadium and have lost each of their last two visits to St.Andrews. The Blues have also won four of their last six meetings with Fulham and look a little overpriced at 3.1511/5 on the Exchange. The visitors have recently failed to find the net at Oakwell and at the Riverside Stadium and worryingly, they also drew a blank against rock-bottom Stoke.
Despite their struggles in front of goal, they still possess the division's top goalscorer in Aleksandar Mitrovic and the Serbian striker will be hoping to add to his tally of 11 goals on Saturday afternoon. Birmingham will aim to frustrate the prolific marksman throughout the 90 minutes and if he is starved of service, Fulham may be forced to draw their third consecutive blank.
No side has scored more than a single goal at this ground since April 19th, and the hosts have to be favoured in this one. Using the Sportsbook, the Blues can be backed at 6/5 on the Draw No Bet market, and that is surely the best way of approaching this one.
Middlesbrough's troubles to continue in West London
QPR 1.9420/21 v Middlesbrough 4.1; The Draw 3.814/5
Jonathan Woodgate came out fighting in his post-match interview last weekend as the media gathered to question the rookie boss on his future at the Riverside Stadium. It's been a poor start for the former Leeds defender, and his problems are beginning to mount up.
Not only have his side failed to find the net for over a month, he also had a plethora of injury problems to deal with. Darren Randolph, Ashley Fletcher, George Friend and Ryan Shotton are all missing whilst George Saville's red card at Pride Park last weekend also rules him out of this one. Furthermore, Marcus Browne pulled up whilst competing for the academy this week, leaving the squad looking worringly threadbare for this trip to the capital.
The Teessiders are still only two points adrift of safety, although Reading, Huddersfield, Wigan and Barnsley have all shown signs of life in recent weeks, and a managerial change in the Potteries could also help Stoke pick up a few points over the coming months. They are worrying times for the Middlesbrough faithful, who struggling to comprehend the notion that their side could be competing in League One next season.
The north-easterners are averaging 12.7 shots per game this season, although no player in their squad has scored more than four goals. Even prolific striker Britt Assombalonga, who averages over two shots per game, has been guilty of spurning opportunities in recent weeks, and he hasn't found the net since the beginning of last month.
QPR were easily swept aside at Elland Road last weekend in a very one-sided contest. Mark Warburton's young side were never going to find it easy to break down the Whites and were always expected to struggle in West Yorkshire. Although their recent form has taken a slight nosedive, they always offer a threat, and crucially, they score goals.
At home, they have netted on 15 occasions and only West Brom have prevented them breaking through. The likes of Eberechi Eze and Ilias Chair provide plenty of magic with Jordan Hugill and Nahki Wells offering some much-needed experience in the final third. The prolific pair have 14 goals between them this season which is more than the entire Middlesbrough squad, and Teesside-born Hugill will be particularly keen to hit the target at the Riverside on Saturday afternoon.
QPR should have too much firepower for the visitors here and can be backed at 1.9420/21 on the Exchange. It's hard to see toothless Boro keeping them out for 90 minutes and their injury-hit squad looks set to struggle in West London.
Royals to continue their resurgence under Bowen
Reading 1.9420/21 v Luton 4.1; The Draw 3.814/5
Mark Bowen was a surprise appointment at the Madejski and the Welshman's arrival was greeted with plenty of scepticism from Royals fans. However, he has made a decent start to his tenure and the Berkshire club are unbeaten since he replaced Jose Gomes last month.
The new boss still has plenty of work to do as the club remain on the fringes of the relegation zone, however the initial signs are positive and his insistence on his side winning second balls is beginning to bear fruit. He went back to basics for their surprise victory against Preston and those tactics worked very effectively against the Lilywhites. Their 2-1 victory last weekend was also a fairly attritional display, although he may be forced to take a different approach against a Luton side who prefer to keep it on the deck.
He's recalled a number of players who had been unfairly sidelined under the previous regime and Sam Baldock's return to the side is beginning to look like a masterstroke. The striker has been excellent and has scored twice in just 186 minutes of football this season. The former MK Dons marksman is averaging 3.7 shots per game and is likely to get plenty of opportunities against the Hatters.
Only Charlton have kept Reading off the scoresheet at home this season, and with their new-found confidence, they will be expected to find the back of the net with relative ease. They scored two first-half goals against Millwall and probably should have extended their advantage after the break.
Luton's away form is a little troublesome. They've lost six of their last eight games on the road and are conceding goals for fun. Graeme Jones admitted that his side are in a 'relegation scrap' last weekend and they can't afford to drop too many more points on their travels. They've conceded at least two goals in four of their last five away games and have recently shipped three to both Fulham and QPR.
The Hatters have lost five straight games at this stadium and although the majority of those defeats arrived over a decade ago, historically, it hasn't been a happy hunting ground for them.
The visitors do offer a goalscoring threat, so it could be a safer option to back Over 1.5 Reading Goals on the Sportsbook which is currently available at 3/4. This would have paid out in five of Luton's away games this campaign.
You can follow Jack Critchley on Twitter @jcritch7