Bore draw in West London
QPR 1.9110/11 v Birmingham 4.77/2; The Draw 3.1511/5
It's been an underwhelming start to the campaign for QPR with the West Londoners slipping to yet another defeat on Wednesday night. With just six wins in 26 Championship outings, the Superhoops have struggled to impose themselves on games. Perhaps more worringly, Mark Warburton admitted that he wasn't able to explain the reason for his side's disappointing loss to Preston in midweek, and he won't have long to galvanise his players ahead of another potentially tricky home tie on Saturday afternoon.
Last season, QPR were one of the most inconsistent sides in the division, although you could almost always guarantee entertainment at the Kiyan Prince. However, this time around, they don't appear to be playing with the same level of gusto, and they have recorded the second fewest shots in the Championship across the opening six fixtures. On Wednesday evening, they failed to register an effort on target, and although Albert Adomah rattled the woodwork late in the game, the winger and boyhood-QPR supporter never really looked confident of finding the back of the net.
With just two goals in their last four matches, it's fairly obvious where the problems lie, and facing a defensively resolute Birmingham outfit this weekend is far from ideal. Warburton is a manager who tends to ask his sides to play on the front foot, and he usually isn't afraid to let his teams play with plenty of freedom in the final third. However, in recent weeks, he has opted to deploy two defensive midfielders with Dominic Ball and Geoff Cameron keeping things ticking over in the centre of the park. Although this worked exceptionally well at Bournemouth, where they were able to restrict the high-flying Cherries throughout the 90 minutes, it isn't a tactic that neccessarily goes down too well with supporters in seemingly winnable-looking home fixtures.
Nevertheless, the hosts have only lost twice in their opening six games, and they do appear to be tougher to beat this season. They gave away two soft penalties against the Lilywhites in midweek, but it is now over 180 minutes since they conceded a goal from open play, and that should come give fans a small crumb of comfort.
Some supporters are also concerned about the lack of energy in recent performances and with six games in 28 days, the likes of Lee Wallace, Yoann Barbet and the aformentioned Cameron may benefit from a rest in the coming weeks.
Birmingham also slumped to a midweek defeat with a rejuvinated Norwich striking late to secure all three points at Carrow Road. Adam Clayton's dismissal was a blow, and the tenacious midfielder will be forced to sit out of this one as a result. The Blues have become an archetypal Aitor Karanka outfit, and they have become exceptionally good at restricting the space, and suffocating the opposition. However, they aren't so potent at the other end of the field, and with just three goals to their name (two from open play), fans are quickly becoming frustrating by their side's lack of firepower. Striker Scott Hogan came in for some criticism on Tuesday night, however, the former Rochdale forward isn't able to operate as a lone striker. It was an experiment which was briefly tested during his loan spell at Stoke before being quickly ditched. Last season, he benefited from playing alongside lofty team-mate Lukas Jutkiewicz, although Karanka's insistence on starting games with just one up front, isn't likely to get the best out of the Republic of Ireland international.
The Spanish gaffer is very much a safety-first manager, and his sides tend to be typically low-scoring. During his first 20 games at Nottingham Forest, the Tricky Trees scored just 18 times, and they also failed to notch in five of their first six matches under the former Middlesbrough boss. His favoured 4-2-3-1 formation appears to have followed him to St.Andrews, and he appears to be taking a very similar approach in B9.
However despite this, Karanka does have a good record against his opposite number, and he is yet to lose any of his four meetings with the QPR boss.
This isn't likely to be one for the neutrals, and with the visitors likely to keep the Rangers' attack relatively quiet, this one could easily end all-square. Neither side looks confident in front of goal, and if there is a winner of this contest, it is likely to be decided by a set-piece. The draw is available at 3.1511/5 on the Exchange and that looks the best option in this one.
Huddersfield to continue their unbeaten run
Huddersfield 2.915/8 v Preston 2.6213/8; The Draw 3.259/4
Huddersfield have overcome a poor start to the campaign by collecting 10 points from their last four matches, and Carlos Corberan must be commended for the way he has moulded a relatively unfancied side into a decent second tier outfit. The Spaniard is extremely animated on the touchline, and his passion and energy has clearly been transmitted to the players. At the beginning of the season, fans were suggesting that they could see what the former Leeds coach was trying to do, although he didn't neccessarily have the personnel to execute his plan. Although he's been able to strengthen in both defence and midfield, his side still look short of a potent striker. They've now won back-to-back home games, and they will be feeling confident of continuing their unbeaten run on Saturday afternoon.
Corberan praised his sides effort and endeavour in midweek as well as their commitment to the carrying out his instructions. It's evident that all of the players are buying into his vision, and are also pulling in the same direction. Harry Toffolo has been particularly impressive over the last couple of weeks, and the all-action full-back was deservedly included in the EFL Championship Team of the Week alongside team-mate Richard Stearman. Although he had a relatively quiet 90 minutes in midweek, Carel Eiting has been slowly adapting to life in the second tier, and is likely to play a key role this season.
The Terriers registered 20 shots against Derby on Tuesday night, 15 of which came from inside the box. Although they don't currently possess a clinical striker, they do have plenty of players who are capable of producing moments of magic, and Juninho Bacuna's midweek strike was a goal worthy of settling any tie.
Huddersfield's only two defeats this season have come against Brentford and Norwich, and they are going to be exceptionally hard to beat this year. Corberan will demand 100% effort from his players, and although this is a relatively quick turnaround, they should be ready to go again on Saturday afternoon.
Preston have now clocked up successive away wins, and appear to enjoy playing in West London. Although they easily saw off QPR on Wednesday evening, some fans admitted that their side weren't at their best, and were lucky to collect three points. On the balance of play, they probably just about deserved to win the game, but this is likely to be much tougher.
Alex Neil doesn't like singling out players in his post-match interviews, however, the Scot couldn't hide his delight at the performance of new signing Emil Riis. The Norwegian was a bundle of energy throughout the 90 minutes, and is an exciting addition to the Lilywhites squad. Scott Sinclair, on his 450th career appearance, scored PNE's second goal of the game and was also impressive at the Kiyan Prince on Wednesday night.
It was a routine victory for Neil's men, however, this is a fairly quick turnaround, and although they won without really getting out of second gear in midweek, they will have to be at their very best in West Yorkshire.
The hosts are on a good run of form, and I don't expect that to end this weekend. There's a togetherness about Corberan's side, and although Preston will be stubborn opposition, I'm expecting Huddersfield to register a third successive home victory. The Terriers can be backed at a generous 2.915/8 on the Exchange to collect all three points.
Coventry and Blackburn to deliver an entertaining 90 minutes
Coventry 3.211/5 v Blackburn 2.285/4; The Draw 3.45
Mark Robins called for his side to be more attack-minded against Swansea in midweek, and although the Sky Blues weren't able to secure their second Championship victory of the campaign, they did produce a much-improved performance. Robins admitted that the display will give his side plenty of confidence heading into this weekend's fixture, and if they can make a similiarly fast start, they could easily find themselves two or three goals up by the half hour mark. They also had two goals chalked off, and saw Swansea scramble an effort off the line.
With the manager visibly delighted with his side's efforts, the players will surely respond on Saturday afternoon, and having now scored in each of their first three matches at St.Andrews, they will be expected to notch again here. Jordan Shipley's injury is a slight concern, although Liam Kelly looked perfectly capable during the final 30 minutes.
Matt Godden continues to lead the line superbly, and although Callum O'Hare had a quiet game on Tuesday night, he is perfectly capable of producing a match-winning moment.
Blackburn were beaten 3-1 at Vicarage Road on Wednesday night, although the Lancastrians put in a decent display, and that should give them plenty of confidence coming into this weekend's tie. They out-shot Watford 19-10, and were the better side throughout, however, the Hornets got the rub of the green, and took their chances superbly well.
Tony Mowbray's side put last Saturday's insipid home performance firmly behind them, and if they play with the same level of intensity this weekend, they will surely find the back of the net at least once. Ben Brereton's industry caused Watford's defence all manner of problems, and loanee Harvey Elliott also looked impressive throughout.
BTTS has landed in each of Coventry's first three home games, and Rovers have netted seven times on the road so far. Both Teams to Score is available at 8/11 on the Sportsbook, and looks the best option in this potentially entertaining match-up.
You can follow Jack Critchley on Twitter @jcritch7