Things are hotting up in the EFL Championship, and most teams have just 11 games to go, less than a quarter of the season. As usual, we have another big batch of fixtures to get stuck into this weekend and some potentially crucial games at both ends of the table.
The weekend starts early on Friday night as Brentford travel to Blackburn Rovers, while Cardiff City and Watford clash in Wales this Saturday. That’s a clash between teams currently eighth and second and should be a cracker. League leaders Norwich City are in action on Sunday, as Daniel Farke takes his Canaries to Hillsborough to play struggling Sheffield Wednesday in what looks like a mismatch. But this is the Championship and anything can happen. Here are our tips!
Blackburn Rovers v Brentford
19:45, Sky Sports, Ewood Park
The Championship action begins when Blackburn host Brentford at Ewood Park on Friday night. The Bees will be hoping to get back on track with three points on the road after four defeats in six. They are still well inside the play-off places but not long ago they were beginning to look like favourites for the title.
Both teams have certainly had their struggles of late. Rovers have lost six of their last nine, while Brentford have suffered three straight away defeats. Nevertheless, we have to believe that class is permanent and so our money is going on the away win here at 21/20.
Luton Town v Swansea City
12:15, Sky Sports, Kenilworth Road
Saturday’s early kick off comes from Kenilworth Road, as Nathan Jones’ Luton Town welcome Steve Cooper’s Swansea City to Bedfordshire. The Swans, who are joint second (though technically third on goal difference, despite their game in hand), are the favourites to get the points in this one.
Swansea have had a great season so far, collecting 66 points from 34 fixtures. Only Norwich and Cardiff have picked up more away points, and the Welsh side should come out on top in Luton. The Swansea victory is generously priced at 6/5 and with the hosts down in 16th that price looks more than fair.
Birmingham City v Bristol City
15:00, St Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium
Birmingham City and Bristol City square off at St Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium on Saturday afternoon. With the pair in poor form, both would love maximum points from this one but the need of the hosts is greater as they are hovering just above the bottom three.
The Blues have the worst home record in the league, taking a mere 12 points from a possible 51. As for the Robins, they have lost eight of their last 10 in the Championship. Much as both would love the win, a point would keep them both edging towards safety so take a punt on the draw at what look like hefty odds of 11/5.
Bournemouth v Barnsley
15:00, Vitality Stadium
Promotion chasers Bournemouth and Barnsley square off in a tasty Championship fixture at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday. The Tykes are in sixth, with the Cherries two points behind in seventh. Could this be a six-pointer which ultimately decides who makes the play-offs and who doesn’t?
This promises to be a cracking Championship encounter on the coast, but we fancy the home side to shade it. Barnsley were held to a 0-0 draw by Derby in midweek, ending a long winning run and we feel the hosts have more than enough quality to inflict another negative result on the South Yorkshire side. Check out the decent odds of 15/4 for the Bournemouth with and both teams to score.
Cardiff City v Watford
15:00, Cardiff City Stadium
Another standout fixture is the Cardiff v Watford affair at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday. The Bluebirds are unbeaten under Mick McCarthy, while Xisco Munoz’s men have won five of their previous six.
Cardiff have won seven and drawn four of 11 Championship games since McCarthy arrived in South Wales. The high flying Hornets are in excellent form, but we can see City holding them to a draw (11/5) at the weekend.
Derby County v Millwall
15:00, Pride Park
Two evenly matched teams square off at Pride Park this weekend when Derby County host Millwall. This is a tough one to call, though Wayne Rooney’s Rams are the slight favourites with the bookies despite the fact Millwall are some seven places higher up the table.
Derby have certainly improved under Rooney, but County have picked up just one win from their last six. Gary Rowett’s Lions have been solid on the road this season, and our money is going on the away win here at 21/10.
Middlesbrough v Stoke City
15:00, Riverside Stadium
Neil Warnock’s Middlesbrough and Michael O’Neill’s Stoke City meet at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday. Both clubs still have play-off aspirations, so this is an important fixture for the pair. They head into the game in ninth and 10th respectively and with time running out they can afford few slips if they are to move up the table.
Middlesbrough have been poor at home in recent months, losing five, winning one and drawing one of the last seven. As for Stoke, they are without an away win in nine (six draws, three defeats). Middlesbrough could edge this home fixture, and the Boro win by one goal is available at 13/5.
Nottingham Forest v Reading
15:00, City Ground
Nottingham Forest and Reading do battle at the City Ground on Saturday. The Royals may be riding high in fifth, but Forest, who are in 17th spot, are the favourites in this one. That is sure to tempt some to back the hosts but Reading have defied expectations for a long time now and the market may just be underrating them.
Chris Hughton has made the Reds tough to beat, although they have lost two in a row. Reading have done remarkably well to stay in the top six pretty much all season, and Veljko Paunovic’s troops will be gunning for a fourth consecutive Championship victory on Saturday. Back Reading to prevail at the surprisingly healthy price of 9/5.
Queens Park Rangers v Huddersfield Town
15:00, Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium
Mark Warburton’s Queens Park Rangers have shown a big improvement lately. Can the R’s pick up another three points when they entertain Carlos Corberan’s Huddersfield Town at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium this Saturday?
QPR have been in fine fettle of late, winning eight of their past 12 to more or less secure their spot in the second tier for another campaign. Huddersfield have been woeful away from home this term, with only bottom club Wycombe Wanderers taking fewer away points up until now. Rangers have won without conceding on five occasions in 2021, and the Londoners are priced at evens to win to nil this weekend.
Wycombe Wanderers v Preston North End
15:00, Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium
Gareth Ainsworth’s Wycombe take on Alex Neil’s Preston North End at Adams Park this Saturday. The Chairboys are rock bottom and on their way back down to EFL League One. It is now just a question of whether they can salvage a bit of respect.
Wycombe’s home was a fortress in the third tier last term, but the Buckinghamshire club have picked up just three home wins from 17 this season. Preston have impressed on the road, winning eight times and scoring 24 goals. North End are available at 12/5 to be winning at half time and full time this weekend and that looks like superb value.
Sheffield Wednesday v Norwich City
12:15, Sky Sports, Hillsborough
The final Championship fixture of the round takes place at Hillsborough on Sunday, as Darren Moore’s Sheffield Wednesday entertain Farke’s Norwich. Three points for the Canaries will take them another step closer to the Premier League and they will expect to get the job done against opponents looking likely to leave the division by the less glamorous door.
Wednesday are down in 23rd place at present, seven points adrift of safety. They have lost six in a row now and even without their six-point penalty for off-pitch issues they would still be in serious trouble. As for Norwich, they are currently a huge 10 points clear at the top. City have won seven in a row since losing at Swansea on 5th February and there can surely be only one winner here. Back the leaders to win -1 in Sheffield at 6/4.