The Championship Betting: Birmingham to squeeze a win out of the "Manchester City" of The Championship
Andrew French previews the key clashes in The Championship this weekend and predicts that fellow betting.betfair.com columnist Gavin Mahon will be a disappointed man by Saturday afternoon after QPR visit Birmingham City.
It's difficult to believe at least one of the two teams involved in Saturday lunchtime's live Sky game won't be taking on Premiership opposition next season.
Birmingham, who came down last season and still have a squad full of class, host QPR, the 'Manchester City of the Championship' with huge ambitions and a bank balance that can cope.
The last time they were at home, the Blues had a taste of the unpredictable nature of the Championship when they were turned over by Blackpool. However, Alex McLeish's side have responded well since then, taking four points from a couple of tricky away games at Cardiff and Derby.
At the moment, they look more of the real deal when it comes to going up than Rangers, who certainly have bags of potential, but with so many fresh faces are suffering from a touch of inconsistency. Iain Dowie's outfit has managed just one point and one goal in the last three games.
As an option to back in this game, although I am tempted to suggest the London club can scramble a draw ([3.6]), I'm going to play safe and suggest a home win at [1.9].
I don't there will be much in it though. The Blues have only scored four in their quartet of home games so far, and have conceded a very miserly one in that period. Rangers have netted just twice in four away trips. Therefore, I'm looking at 1-0 at [7.8] and Under 2.5 goals at [1.85].
In two of their three home wins so far, Birmingham have not been in front at the break. With the draw still in the back of my mind, I'm looking at backing Draw/Birmingham at [5.5].
If it as tight as I think it will be, consider backing Kevin Phillips in the 'To Score' market. He hasn't been starting games for Birmingham, but what a great poacher to have on the bench to crack open a game.
Down at the foot of the table it's not been a happy return to the Championship for Nottingham Forest. Indeed, if they were to lose at home to fellow strugglers Crystal Palace on Saturday, Forest could find themselves cut adrift in the basement.
However, I am expecting some light relief for Colin Calderwood's team as although Palace beat derby rivals Charlton in midweek, they are still a shadow of the side that had a brush with promotion last term.
Although they have been dire away from home, Forest have been better at the City Ground, and with Palace still to register an away success, the East Midlands club will not get a better chance to kick-start their season.
So, at a quite attractive [2.68], I'd suggest backing Forest to win this one. And I'd throw in Over 2.5 goals at [2.14], given that both sides have leaky defences and are each averaging over two goals in their fixtures this season.
Although they couldn't beat Birmingham for me in the week, I still believe all the signs are there that Derby are adapting to life back in The Championship and have put their miserable start to the season behind them.
They visit Norwich, who have slipped beneath the Rams in the table and are struggling for goals, scoring just once in their last four outings.
Although form counts for plenty, class is more long-lasting (to paraphrase a popular cliché!), and if this had been the opening day of the season, there's little chance Derby would have been available to back at [3.3]. Their squad is still one of the strongest in the Championship, and at the price, they are a must-back for me.
I'm also going to take my three Match Odds bets and combine them in a treble on Betfair Multiples - backing Birmingham, Forest and Derby pays around [15.1].
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