Leeds looking to capitalise on Stoke's defensive naivety
Stoke 3.7511/4 v Leeds 2.0811/10; The Draw 3.613/5
Very few pundits would have predicted that Stoke would be sitting bottom of the Championship table after four matches. The Potters were expected to bounce back from a tumultuous season under Nathan Jones, but the fiery Welshman is struggling to get a tune out of his side.
On Wednesday, they collapsed after just seven minutes, conceding yet another early goal. Jones was left tearing his hair out just 18 minutes later, when Jack Butland let Billy Bodin's tame effort squirm under his body. It was a poor show from Stoke's defence, and it exposed the frailties of the diamond system once again. The former Luton boss has been extremely faithful to his favoured formation, but many fans are now calling for it to be scrapped. Although they still managed to concede a goal in the second half, the switch to five at the back certainly did improve their overall performance.
Jones is now under enormous pressure, and with the Potters having taken just one point from a possible 12, he needs a result here. Unfortunately, they face high-flying Leeds twice in seven days, and this is about as tough as it gets.
The Whites have made an unbeaten start to the season, and were victorious on Wednesday night courtesy of a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Brentford. Marcelo Bielsa's side play some lovely football, and with the arrival of Eddie Nketiah, they have another option going forward. They out-played the Bees, and won the XG battle by quite some distance. (1.3 XG compared to just 0.2)
Although Leeds will get the plaudits for their forward play, Bielsa's men have only conceded two goals so far with one of them coming late on against Bristol City, having already established a three goal lead. They arrive here off the back of two consecutive clean sheets, and they appear to be oozing with confidence at this moment in time.
The games don't get any easier for Stoke City, and they haven't beaten Leeds in any of their last seven meetings. The Whites are available at 2.0811/10 on the Exchange, and that looks a terrific price for them to continue their winning streak on Saturday afternoon.
Preston's home comforts to continue against the Owls
Preston 2.588/5 v Sheffield Wednesday 3.1511/5; The Draw 3.259/4
There are many sides in the Championship who can usually be relied upon to pick up a result in front of their own fans. Preston are not one of those teams which immediately spring to mind, however, they've been extremely effective at Deepdale since Alex Neil arrived. They were 3-1 winners on Wednesday night, and despite being given a helping hand by Jack Butland, they always looked the likelier of the two sides to pick up three points.
Only Sheffield United and Leeds have left this ground with maximum points since Boxing Day, and Lee Bullen's Sheffield Wednesday will be hoping to add their name to that list.
Preston don't do hard fought 1-0 victories. They've netted at least three goals in each of their last four home matches, and that run includes a wonderfully entertaining 3-3 draw with Saturday's opponents back in April. They also put three past Norwich in mid-February, and have a deep enough squad to cope with this hectic schedule. In midweek, the likes of Alan Browne and Brad Potts were left on the bench, whilst Jayden Stockley was an unused sub. Summer signing David Nugent wasn't involved, whilst Tom Bayliss was also omitted.
Sheffield Wednesday picked up a 1-0 victory at Hillsborough against Luton on Tuesday, and they will be hoping to benefit from the extra day of rest. The Owls were helped by some questionable defending, although they were out-shot 11-9 by the Hatters. Nevertheless, they've been very effective under Lee Bullen, with their only defeat so far coming at the Den.
Wednesday should play their part in an entertaining game, and they will ask a few questions of this Preston defence. The Lilywhites have netted at least two goals in each of their last three Championship games, and I'm backing that trend to continue here. It's 31/20 on the Sportsbook for Preston to Score Over 1.5 Team Goals, and that should also cover us for another high-scoring draw at Deepdale.
Fulham 1.684/6 v Nottingham Forest5.69/2; The Draw 4.03/1
Despite losing on the opening day of the campaign, Fulham have made an excellent start to the season under Scott Parker. The Cottagers hit four past a defensively-sound Millwall side in midweek, and their front three appears to be clicking. Aleksandar Mitrovic has now scored in each of his last three games, while summer signing Ivan Cavaleiro has netted three in his last two appearances.
Fulham were towards the top of most people's ante-post fancies this campaign, and the West Londoners have already done enough to settle any pre-season nerves. They have yet to concede at Craven Cottage this season, and also had enough quality to beat Huddersfield on their travels. They won the XG battle on Wednesday, registering 1.9, and are yet to record a figure below 1.5 so far.
Nottingham Forest have slowly got into their groove after an inauspicious start to the campaign. A 3-0 thumping of Birmingham was followed by a creditable draw against Charlton in midweek, and Sabri Lamouchi must be fairly content with what he's seen so far. Having said that, they've only kept one clean sheet in four outings so far, and may find Fulham's front three a real handful on Saturday.
The hosts have won each of the last three meetings between these sides, and are unbeaten in four against Forest. They beat the Tricky Trees 2-0 by the Thames in 2018, and have hit eight goals in their last three meetings with this opposition.
Fulham can be backed at 1.684/6 on the Exchange, although a slightly bigger 8/11 is available on the Sportsbook for the Cottagers to score over 1.5 goals in this tie. The latter is my preference in this potentially entertaining clash, with the home side expected to continue their good goalscoring record at Craven Cottage.
You can follow Jack Critchley on Twitter @jcritch7