Saturday Championship Tips: Upwardly mobile Owls to triumph in West London

Sheffield Wednesday boss Darren Moore
Darren Moore will be hoping his side can continue their recent improvement

Championship expert Jack Critchley believes that Darren Moore's resurgent Owls can take all three points back to South Yorkshire on Saturday afternoon...

"The Owls xG numbers have been slowly improving in recent weeks, and only four teams (including Norwich and Brentford) have been producing better numbers across the last eight Championship fixtures"

Sheffield Wednesday to register back-to-back Championship victories

QPR 2.245/4 v Sheffield Wednesday 3.613/5; The Draw 3.55/2
Saturday, 15:00

Sheffield Wednesday clinched their biggest victory of the season on Easter Monday as they battered Cardiff at Hillsborough. The Owls have been battling relegation all season, and they still have a chance of remaining in the division, although with Birmingham, Derby and Nottingham Forest having all hit form in recent weeks, their chances of avoiding the drop appear to be diminishing. Despite this, Darren Moore's appointment has given the squad some much-needed confidence, typified by Callum Paterson's committed displays. The Scot has featured in a variety of positions, recently deputising at both right wing back and in the centre of the park, and his versatility cannot be underestimated.

Wednesday's 5-0 thrashing didn't come out of nowhere, with the Owls having put in a number of promising performances prior to Monday's success. After taking a point from Huddersfield, they picked up a vital victory at Oakwell, before going down to a creditable 1-0 defeat at Vicarage Road. They remain 13 points from safety, and with just 21 points left to play for, things are starting to look bleak, however, they have hired a manager who looks capable of delivering promotion back to the second tier next season.

Adam Reach is one of a handful of players who have undoubtedly benefitted from Moore's arrival, and although the former Middlesbrough man may just be putting himself in the shop window ahead of his contract expiration this summer, he's now helping to silence those fans who have been critical of his performances this season.

The Owls xG numbers have been slowly improving in recent weeks, and only four teams (including Norwich and Brentford) have been producing better numbers across the last eight Championship fixtures.

QPR are safely entrenched in mid-table and the West Londoners are already planning for next season. The play-offs aren't an impossibility, however, they are 13 points shy of the top six, and Mark Warburton will probably be satisfied with a top half finish this year. The R's have massively improved since the turn of the year, and there have been a number of players who have come to the fore over the last couple of months.

Although they put in an underwhelming display against Nottingham Forest on Easter Monday, the likes of Lee Wallace and Chris Willock still managed to impress. Warburton's men have found the net in eight of their last nine matches, and they are likely to create chances across the 90 minutes here.

They were absolutely superb against Coventry on Good Friday, with Ilias Chair and Stefan Johansen causing problems for the Sky Blues, and they will be hoping for a similar performance this weekend. However, they could be vulnerable to a much-improved Sheffield Wednesday side, and the visitors are very attractively priced.

The Owls are 3.613/5 on the Exchange and look well worth backing to continue their fight against relegation.

Barnsley to boost play-off hopes at Oakwell

Barnsley 2.35/4 v Middlesbrough 3.55/2; The Draw 3.259/4
Saturday, 15:00

Valerien Ismael has been nominated for the Championship Manager of the Month award for the fourth time this season, and the Barnsley boss has overseen a terrific resurgence at Oakwell this year. The Tykes have been transformed and have gone from relegation fodder to play-off contenders in the space of six months.

Barnsley have been particularly effective away from home in recent weeks, and have now been victorious in six consecutive matches on their travels. At home, they've started to stutter, however, this appears to be the perfect opportunity to get back to winning ways in South Yorkshire. They've won four of their last seven at this ground, however, more recently they've been held by both Derby and Reading, and were also edged out by a much-improved Sheffield Wednesday on March 20th.

Across the last eight games, Barnsley have been producing the third best xG numbers, and although they can no longer be classed as under-the-radar, they are still able to catch the opposition out with their dynamic style of play.

At Kenilworth Road, they fired in 17 shots, and swarmed all over their hosts. 11 of those efforts were taken within the six-yard box, and they also missed a number of chances to extend their lead. Daryl Dike was sensational throughout the 90 minutes, although his failure to complete his hat-trick from the penalty spot was only a small blot on his copybook.

Alex Mowatt has also been key to Barnsley's improvement this season, whilst the two Callums, Styles and Brittain, have provided plenty of width. The Tykes' defence has also improved immeasurably, with Mads Andersen having put in a number of commanding performances alongside Michal Helik and Michael Sollbauer.

Middlesbrough picked up a decent point against high-flying Watford on Easter Monday, as Neil Warnock's side continued their good run of form at the Riverside Stadium. Despite this, the Teessiders are now winless in three, and their hopes of reaching the play-offs are hanging by a thread.

Away from home, their form is a complete mixed bag, with a 4-1-4 record from their last nine matches on the road. They've lost the last three on their travels, and they were particularly ineffective at the Vitality Stadium, registering just a single effort on goal. They also produced very little at the Den prior to the international break, and that doesn't bode well for this weekend's tricky away tie.

Barnsley's 2021 form has been terrific, and this appears to be the ideal opportunity to put an end to their winless run at Oakwell. The hosts can be backed at 2.35/4 on the Exchange and can inflict yet another away defeat on Boro.

Blues to boost survival hopes at St.Andrews

Birmingham 2.962/1 v Stoke 2.6813/8; The Draw 3.052/1
Saturday, 15:00

Under Aitor Karanka, Birmingham were sleepwalking towards relegation. However, Lee Bowyer's arrival has helped edge them closer to safety, and despite being handed a tough-looking fixture list, the former Charlton boss has still seen his side pick up four points across the Easter Weekend.

The Blues were the better side against play-off chasing Swansea, and comfortably won the shot count. Luckily, Lukas Jutkiewicz's errant spot-kick didn't prove too costly, with his strike-partner Scott Hogan able to keep his cool in injury time to help fire the West Midlands outfit to a hugely important three points. They were able to follow this up with another notable result against high-flying Brentford on Tuesday night. Admittedly, it was a backs-to-the-wall job throughout the majority of the 90 minutes, however, they still left West London with a point, and that should give them plenty of confidence heading into this weekend.

Bowyer hasn't been afraid to give fringe players the opportunity to impress with the likes of Riley McGree and Steve Seddon having been given game time in recent weeks. Alen Halilovic, who was often overlooked by the previous regime, has also been given a new lease of life, and the midfielder could provide a much-needed spark in the final third over the coming weeks.

Stoke's recent form has also been impressive, however, their unbeaten run was ended by Millwall on Easter Monday. The Potter's are poor on the road, although they did comfortably beat struggling Bristol City at Ashton Gate on Good Friday. Michael O'Neill's side haven't had much luck with injuries this season, although they still possess plenty of individual talent such as Nick Powell and Steven Fletcher.

The visitors have won just once on the road since the beginning of December 7th, and they are worth opposing again here. The hosts have looked much improved and can be backed on the Draw No Bet market at 2.001/1 on the Sportsbook.

You can follow Jack Critchley on Twitter @jcritch7

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