It's the final set of Championship fixtures before the November international break and Jack Critchley has picked out his best bets in the 3pm games...
"Only three sides have taken fewer shots than Reading this season and having failed to register an effort on target in Bermondsey, Veljko Paunovic must find a way to improve his side's attacking output"
Bouyant Blues to bag all three points
Reading have slipped to 19th in the Championship table and Royals fans are starting to nervously glance over their shoulders. Luke Southwood and Tyrell Ashcroft aside, there were very few positives to take from their midweek defeat to Millwall and the Berkshire outfit have now failed to find the net in three consecutive outings. Only three sides have taken fewer shots than Reading this season and having failed to register an effort on target in Bermondsey, Veljko Paunovic must find a way to improve his side's attacking output.
In stark contrast to Saturday's visitors, Birmingham are upwardly mobile and the Blues come into this game full of confidence. They've won three consecutive matches and have conceded just a single goal during that sequence. Riley McGree has been instrumental to Brum's recent improvement, and although some fans are worried that the club will be unable to retain his services beyond January, he should continue to produce match-winning performances over the next couple of months. Bowyer's tactical tinkering has helped his side improve defensively, and they should be able to keep the shot-shy visitors at arm's length here.
Recommended Bet: Back Birmingham to beat Reading @ 2.1211/10
Tykes to tame toothless Tigers
Although Barnsley were comprehensively out-shot by Derby in midweek, the Tykes stood firm and managed to secure just their second victory of the season. The departure of Markus Schopp has prompted a significant improvement, with many fans suggesting that the players looked far happier on Wednesday night. Although confidence remains fragile, their midweek victory at Oakwell should give them the a significant boost and they should be able to kick on and secure back-to-back Championship successes.
Hull slipped up against West Brom, although they defended reasonably well throughout the majority of the 90 minutes. The Tigers managed just a single shot on target at the Hawthorns and a lack of firepower continues to hold them back. Only Peterborough have managed fewer efforts on goal this season and they could struggle to find a way past their improving hosts.
Recommended Bet: Back Barnsley to beat Hull @ 2.47/5
Tykes to tame toothless Tigers
Blackburn were on the receiving end of a midweek masterclass from Fulham and Tony Mowbray has very little time to pick his side up ahead of the visit of Sheffield United. It was just Rovers' second home defeat of the campaign and there is likely to be some sort of reaction on Saturday afternoon. Prior to the sending off, the hosts were creating chances and they are likely to ask questions of the Blades' defence here. They have scored in each of their previous seven home matches and the visitors are far from watertight.
Sheffield United continue to be enigmatic and their recent record of W2, D1, L2 perfectly encapsulates their inconsistencies this season. Slavisa Jokanovic's side are a work in progress and although they've been playing some decent stuff, they are always liable to make mistakes. They've netted in four of their last five away games and they are likely to enjoy playing against a side who tend to keep the ball on the ground.
Recommended Bet: Back BTTS in Blackburn vs Sheffield United @ 1.75/7
Cherries and Swans to exchange blows at the Vitality
Some Bournemouth supporters suggested that their side became a little too complacent in midweek as they slipped to their first defeat of the campaign against Preston. The Cherries remain top of the table and have a two point lead over Fulham. The Dorset outfit have been breached on just 10 occasions this season, however, nine of those goals have arrived at the Vitality. They've also conceded in four of their last five matches here, with each of those goals being conceded after the break.
Swansea continue to catch the eye and Russell Martin was delighted with his side's performance on Tuesday night. The Swans play a superbly eye-catching style of football and they have the highest possession count in the division. Both Olivier Ntcham and Ethan Laird have significantly improved their squad and they'll quietly fancy their chances of picking up something against the league leaders. Although they may not take all three points, they should be able to get on the scoresheet.
Recommended Bet: Back BTTS in Bournemouth vs Swansea @ 1.9720/21
Terriers to edge out directionless Bluebirds
Carlos Corberan felt that his side lacked maturity as they squandered a one goal lead against Peterborough in midweek. Regardless of Tuesday's disappointment, he can be pleased with his team's recent performances and they've conceded just four times in their last six outings. Sorba Thomas' wicked deliveries have also turned the Terriers into set-piece kings this season and they will be hoping that the Welshman can continue his sensational form on Saturday.
Cardiff capitalised on Stoke's sloppiness to pick up a point last weekend, however, they reverted back to bad habits on Wednesday evening. The Bluebirds have now failed to register in six of their last seven matches and they could struggle to find a way past the defensively resolute visitors. Steve Morison remains in temporary charge and although they've shown flashes of improvement in the final third, they still appear to lack cohesion and togetherness.
Recommended Bet: Back Huddersfield to beat Cardiff @ 3.052/1
Sky Blues back to winning ways at home
Despite suffering a 2-1 defeat to in-form Swansea, Coventry fans can be reasonably pleased with their side's performance on Tuesday night. The Sky Blues fired in 11 shots and asked questions of the Swans' back-line on a fairly regular basis. Mark Robins admitted that his side need to be quicker out of the blocks and he'll be hoping that his side are fired up for Saturday's clash with struggling Bristol City. The hosts have won six of their first eight matches at this ground and they should be able to claim their seventh home success of the season on Saturday.
Bristol City were second best in every department against Birmingham on Tuesday night and although they don't have far to travel for this encounter, they need to significantly improve ahead of Saturday's visit to the CBS Arena. Some Robins fans accused their players of lacking heart and there was a worrying lack of effort after they conceded the opening goal of the game. Nigel Pearson must ensure his side stop making defensive errors, although with very little time on the training ground this week, that may be easier said than done.
Recommended Bet: Back Coventry to beat Bristol City @ 1.845/6
Hatters and Potters to share the points
Nathan Jones is a hugely demanding coach and the Welshman was understandably frustrated with his side's first half performance against Middlesbrough on Tuesday night. He mixed things up during the break, and his team duly delivered a match-winning performance in the second 45. The Hatters don't tend to do streaks and they are yet to win or lose back-to-back games this season. Having drawn six of their opening 16 encounters, the Bedfordshire outfit have become incredibly tough to beat and they are likely to keep things tight on Saturday afternoon.
Stoke beat Blackpool at Bloomfield Road on Wednesday night and managed to limit the Seasiders to just a single shot on target. Michael O'Neill's side continue to baffle, however, the Northern Irishman will be pleased with his side's response to blowing a three goal lead against Cardiff. The Potters looks far more assured at the back and they are unlikely to go down without a fight at Kenilworth Road. They have a 2-2-4 record on the road, although they've conceded just eight times so far on their travels.
Recommended Bet: Back Draw in Luton vs Stoke @ 3.1511/5
Lions to edge out struggling Rams
Millwall beat Reading on Tuesday night, however, despite the 1-0 scoreline, the Lions thoroughly deserved their three points. Gary Rowett's men have won four times on their own patch with each of those successes achieved by a one goal marginWith such fine margins, they're relying on their defence to deliver outstanding performances on a weekly basis, however, it's midfield maestro Billy Mitchell who has caught the eye in recent weeks.
Derby lost just three of their opening 14 matches, however, the Rams have now suffered back-to-back defeats and they must find a way to arrest the slide. Wayne Rooney's side have failed to win any of their last six matches and their small squad may be starting to feel the pinch. They've been uncharacteristically sloppy at the back recently and with the majority of their games also decided by a single goal, they may find themselves on the wrong end of another narrow defeat here.
Recommended Bet: Back Millwall to beat Derby @ 1.794/5
Plenty of action at both ends by the Trent
Nottingham Forest have twice come from behind to snatch a point in recent weeks and Steve Cooper will be delighted with the character shown by his squad. The Tricky Trees have struggled to recreate their free-scoring form from mid-October, however, they continue to avoid defeat and have players such as Lyle Taylor and Lewis Grabban, who are always capable of finding the back of the net. Having scored in eight of their last nine matches, the hosts will be expected to find a way past Preston's rearguard this weekend.
PNE became the first team to inflict defeat on leaders Bournemouth in midweek and they will be full of confidence heading into this clash. Although the derby defeat to Blackpool left a bitter taste in the mouth of many fans, the Lilywhites have won three of their last four matches and Frankie McAvoy must be praised for turning things around in Lancashire. They've scored six times in their last four matches and although they are unlikely to be prolific this season, they should have enough about them to register here.
Recommended Bet: Back BTTS in Nottingham Forest vs Preston @ 1.784/5
Fulham to continue their free-scoring form
The Cottagers cruised past Blackburn in midweek and they are now just two points shy of leaders Bournemouth. Although they were the beneficiaries of Blackburn's gung-ho approach to playing with ten men, they looked dangerous every time they entered the opposition's half. They've now scored 11 times in their last two away games and with an average xG of 1.94 on the road, they should create plenty of chances once again this weekend. Blackpool are the only side to have kept the Cottagers off the scoresheet and it could be a long afternoon for the hosts.
Peterborough battled back to pick up a point against Huddersfield in midweek and Posh have been far better in front of their own fans so far this season. Their last three home matches have contained ten goals and they have managed just two clean sheets so far. Although their xG numbers aren't particularly impressive, they have plenty of individual quality and should be able to ask questions of Fulham's back-line.
Recommended Bet: Back Over 2.5 Goals in Peterborough vs Fulham @ 21/1
Unconvincing Baggies to edge past struggling Boro
Although WBA's midweek performance cannot be described as vintage, Valerian Ismael's side got the job done and with a number of injuries to key players, they will be pleased to have put three more points on the board. They have won each of their last three matches here without conceding and have kept clean sheets in five of their last seven home games. They have the individual talent to win games and even if they put in another below-par performance on Saturday, the likes of Karlan Grant or Callum Robinson are likely to come to the rescue.
Middlesbrough continue to tread water and the Teessiders were defeated 3-1 in midweek despite taking the lead at Kenilworth Road. They've managed to beat the division's weakest teams, however, they regularly come unstuck against top half opposition. They've taken just two points from a possible 21 when facing sides above 14th place in the current Championship table and they could be in for a tough 90 minutes this weekend.
Recommended Bet: Back West Brom to beat Middlesbrough @ 1.774/5
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