Saturday Championship Tips: Hornets to outgun the Bluebirds at Vicarage Road

Watford boss Vladimir Ivic
Vladimir Ivic will be hoping that his side can continue their excellent form at Vicarage Road

It's another quick turnaround in the Championship and Jack Critchley believes that Watford are a good bet to continue their excellent home form against Cardiff on Saturday...

"No side has scored more home goals than the Hornets so far this season, and the hosts often tend to turn on the style after the break. They've netted at least two second half goals in each of their last three matches here, and Cardiff could potentially find themselves under siege during the latter stages of this contest"

Watford to bounce back from midweek disappointment

Watford 2.1411/10 v Cardiff 3.814/5; The Draw 3.3512/5
Saturday, 15:00

Watford's inefficiency on the road continued in midweek as they failed to find a way past misfiring Nottingham Forest. Vladimir Ivic's side went into the match as clear favourites, yet they weren't able to find a way past Chris Hughton's struggling outfit. It was a poor game which was largely devoid of chances, and Hornets fans will undoubtedly view it as a missed opportunity.

Ivic's side currently occupy third place in the Championship table, yet their away record of 1-5-2 is a huge concern. They have become incredibly hard to beat on their travels, however, despite an embarrassment of riches going forward, they appear unable to finish off their opponents outside of Hertfordshire. The Serbian admitted that his side 'cannot be satisfied' with their away performances, and with just three victories on the road in the last 12 months, the club's promotion hopes are likely to depend on whether Ivic can find a way to get his side firing on their travels.

It's been a completely different story at Vicarage Road, and Ivic will be pleased to return to home comforts this weekend. Watford will be backed by 2,000 fans for the first time since late February, and with back-to-back home games on the agenda, they will be feeling extremely confident of picking up successive wins over the next seven days.

Watford are unbeaten at Vicarage Road, and currently boast a 6-1-0 record on their own patch. They've netted 14 times in their last five home matches, with the only negative being that they haven't kept a clean sheet here since the end of September.

No side has scored more home goals than the Hornets so far this season, and the hosts often tend to turn on the style after the break. They've netted at least two second half goals in each of their last three matches here, and Cardiff could potentially find themselves under siege during the latter stages of this contest.

Perhaps their most notable performance in recent weeks came against Stoke, and although the Potters have conceded an average of just 0.63 goals per game on the road, Watford still managed to fire three past Michael O'Neill's men and managed to win the game courtesy of an injury time Ismaila Sarr strike. Against Preston, the hosts registered 26 shots throughout the 90 minutes, with 45% of those efforts coming from inside the opposition's penalty area.

Last weekend Cardiff boss Neil Harris admitted that his job was under threat, and luckily for him, he got the desired response from his players courtesy of two emphatic home victories over Luton and Huddersfield. Those back-to-back successes have helped the Bluebirds climb into the relative safety of mid-table, and they'll be hoping to continue their ascent towards the top six on Saturday afternoon.

Cardiff have struggled on the road in recent weeks, and they are now winless in four outside of the welsh capital. They were desperately disappointing against Coventry at the end of November and were comfortably outshot by the Sky Blues. Although they were marginally the better side against Millwall earlier that week, they still struggled to assert their authority in the final third.

Their defensive record isn't bad, however, they've often struggled with creativity on the road, and haven't scored a first half away goal since September 19th. There were encouraging signs on Tuesday with Harry Wilson and Keiffer Moore linking up well, whilst academy graduate Mark Harris looked fairly comfortable throughout the first period.

The visitors have faced a number of low-scoring hosts on their travels so far this season with Coventry, Millwall and Derby not particularly renowned for their firepower. They conceded three times to QPR at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium and they may also struggle to cope with Watford's energy in the final third here.

The hosts are 5/4 on the Sportsbook to score over 1.5 team goals, and having landed in four of their last five matches at this stadium, it looks to be extremely tempting prospect once again.

Goals at both ends in the Potteries

Stoke 2.6213/8 v Middlesbrough 32/1; The Draw 3.185/40
Saturday, 15:00

Stoke picked up a hard-fought victory on Wednesday evening as they edged past a dogged and determined Wycombe Wanderers outfit. It helped the Potters to move up to eighth in the Championship table, and Michael O'Neill has challenged his players to break into the top six ahead of the hectic festive period. Nick Powell's header proved to be the difference between the two sides, and on the balance of play, they just about deserved to take all three points. O'Neill's men have been fairly reliable on the road in recent weeks, and are now three unbeaten outside of Staffordshire. They've also kept three consecutive clean sheets on their travels and have shut out the opposition in six of their eight away matches so far.

Despite their obstinate approach to away days, the Potters have been far easier to breach on their own patch. No side has conceded more home goals than Stoke so far this season, shipping an average of 1.86 goals per game at this venue. They've let in 13 home goals so far and have kept just a single clean sheet.

Admittedly, their home fixtures have been significantly tougher and they've so far hosted three of the top six at this ground. However, their inability to keep the opposition off the score-sheet remains a real concern for fans. The topsy-turvy nature of their 4-3 victory over Huddersfield in late November suggests that another open game may be in the offing here, and they are unlikely to change their approach due to the exceptionally quick turnaround. Despite keeping two clean sheets in the space of seven days, young goalkeeper Josef Bursik struggled here against Norwich ten days ago, and he'll be hoping for a much quieter afternoon this time around.

Despite their generosity at the back, Stoke do have plenty of firepower in their squad and have managed to find the net in each of their last six home matches. Having scored ten times in their last four, and with the likes of Tyrese Campbell and the aforementioned Powell in the side, they are always likely to create opportunities.

Middlesbrough returned to winning ways in midweek with an impressive 2-1 success over in-form Swansea. In sharp contrast to last season, the Teessiders are exceptionally reliable at the Riverside and boast a 5-2-1 record so far. They've conceded just twice since the beginning of October on their own patch, however, they are far weaker outside of the north east.

Last weekend's 3-2 defeat to Huddersfield was their first away defeat since September 11th, and with Neil Warnock suggesting that some of his players were suffering from fatigue, they could be vulnerable here. Boro's games have been exceptionally low-scoring this season and have averaged just 1.73 goals, however their last three matches have contained 11, and they may be dragged into another end-to-end contest on Saturday afternoon.

Both teams to score has landed in four of Stoke's last five home matches and at 2.0811/10 on the Exchange, it looks worth siding with once again.

Huddersfield to edge out QPR in a pulsating 90 minutes

Huddersfield 2.526/4 v QPR 3.185/40; The Draw 3.39/4
Saturday, 15:00

Huddersfield's inconsistencies this season have troubled their supporters and the Terriers arrive here off the back of another heavy defeat on the road. Carlos Corberan is working with a limited squad, however, he's getting the best out of players such as Josh Koroma, Lewis O'Brien and Harry Toffolo. The exceptionally talented Carel Eiting is also starting to slowly make his mark at this level.

They have won just one of their last six Championship encounters, and that sole success came against a very good Middlesbrough side. Their 3-1-3 record at the John Smith's Stadium isn't bad, but they haven't been able to keep a clean sheet since October 20th. Only low-scoring East Midlands duo Nottingham Forest and Derby have failed to register here, and QPR will be feeling extremely confident of finding the back of the net on Saturday afternoon.

The hosts haven't had any problems sticking the ball in the back of the net in West Yorkshire, and they've registered at least once in each of their last six home matches. Two of their three home defeats have come against sides who sit comfortable inside the top six, and this in theory, should be a little easier.

QPR sit directly below this weekend's opponents in the table, and arrive here off the back of successive defeats. They competed admirably against high-flying duo Brentford and Bristol City, yet they were just edged out in the second half. After a slow start to the season, they have gravitated back to their entertaining and high-scoring best, and across their last five fixtures, there have been 17 goals.

Mark Warburton's side have plenty of individual quality, and they have found the back of the net in each of their last seven outings. The form of Bright Osayi-Samuel has been a real positive for the R's in recent weeks, and fans will be hoping to see much more of Lydon Dykes after the Scottish striker finally netted his first goal from open play last weekend.

Both teams to score has landed in four of the last five meetings between these sides, and with neither team seemingly able to keep a clean sheet, this could be a very entertaining 90 minutes.

Huddersfield will fancy their chances of edging this contest, and they should be able to build upon their home victory over Middlesbrough. Using the Same Game Multi on the Sportsbook, we can get Huddersfield Double Chance and BTTS at 6/5.

You can follow Jack Critchley on Twitter @jcritch7

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