English Championship Betting Preview: Plenty of Draws and Both Teams to Score in week 31

Last updated: 18 Dec 12:59

The metaphorical caldron that is the New Den is where we begin our preview for Round 31 of the SkyBet Championship. Millwall host Cardiff on Friday night in a game that has the potential to see even more card-flashing than Cardiff’s win at Leeds last week, that I correctly predicted (I’m not bragging…okay, I am a little bit) to have more than 55 points at 13/5. A red card in this one looks a big price at 7/2 with William Hill, but an even better bet could be the 0-0 bore draw at 7/1 with Paddy Power. Both sides have kept two clean sheets in each of their last three games, and four of the last seven meetings between this pair have ended 0-0.

Barnsley lost their manager this week as Paul Heckingbottom moved across Yorkshire to take the Leeds job, just four days after signing a new contract at Oakwell. The post-Paul era begins with the visit of local rivals Sheffield Wednesday, who are yet to move out of neutral under new boss Jos Luhukay. Just one Championship goal in 2017 is a worrying statistic for the Owls, and a 3-1 home defeat to Birmingham City last time out suggests they’re nowhere near safe. Barnsley are in poor shape themselves – just one home win since the end of August is relegation form, so they will probably welcome the visit of a side who would be just as happy with a draw at 11/5 as they would be.

Heckingbottom’s new side may be miles ahead of his old one in the Championship table, but geographically he won’t be too far away from his former stomping ground when he takes his Leeds team to Bramall Lane to face Sheffield United on Saturday. This is crunch time for Leeds – lose this one and they could find themselves nine points adrift of the play-off places, and in Sheffield United they face a side desperate for a morale-boosting victory of their own. Back-to-back defeats, albeit to Villa and Wolves have derailed Chris Wilder’s promotion hopes, but I fancy them to outwork opponents like Leeds who specialise in flair players up top that wilt when the going gets tough. A workmanlike performance and three points for the Blades has a great chance at 3/4 with Ladbrokes.

Preston remain firmly in the hunt for a top-six finish, and they will be feeling confident of another step towards the fun and games of the Championship play-offs when they travel to Brentford. It’s not been the best week for Dean Smith’s Bees: A 3-0 loss to Derby was compounded by the sending off of attacking midfielder Sergi Canos, meaning he will be missing for this one, and they have been rocked by the imminent sale of in-form striker Lasse Vibe to Chinese side Changchun Yatai. The sale of Vibe will heap further pressure on the young shoulders of Ollie Watkins, who despite being Brentford’s top scorer, has only found the back of the net once in his last 15 games. Preston go into this one with back-to-back wins under their belt, as well as the motivation of a win potentially taking them into the top six. Motivation is a big factor at this stage of the season; so back the away win at 12/5 with Ladbrokes.

If you’re feeling extra frisky, may I suggest a bet on the Lilywhites to win with under 2.5 goals at 11/2. North End don’t score a hatful, but they’re hard as nails, and with Brentford struggling for goals and confidence, this has an away clean sheet written all over it.

A win for Preston would keep them within touching distance of Bristol City, so a positive result for the Robins at home to a battered and bloodied Sunderland side is an absolute must. You may well choke on your Saturday morning muesli when you discover odds as good as 4/6 (William Hill) for Lee Johnson’s side to take what look like three easy points against Chris Coleman’s Sunderland. The Black Cats have their tails well and truly between their legs at the moment, and five defeats in their last six has done nothing to brighten the mood on Wearside. Their only saving grace is the fact they are surrounded by a clutch of teams who are nearly just as bad as they are, so they are still only a couple of decent results away from climbing out of trouble. They won’t find such results at Ashton Gate though, and Bristol City are going into my Championship treble, which would have won you a tidy sum if you followed last week’s…

Just below Sunderland lie Burton Albion, whose encouraging display in defeat at Aston Villa has given them renewed hope of avoiding the drop. The Brewers travel to Ipswich this weekend, who don’t really have anything to play for thanks to some pretty patchy Championship form in recent weeks. Burton were also boosted by the goal-scoring debut of striker Liam Boyce, who poked home in injury time at Villa Park last weekend. I’m going to stick my neck on the line here and back the Brewers to win this one at a massive 16/5 with Paddy Power.

Ipswich’s local rivals Norwich face a tough trip this weekend when they travel to Pride Park to face Derby County. An eleven-game unbeaten run for the Rams has them sitting in pole position for the final automatic promotion place in the Championship, but Norwich pose a somewhat awkward test for Gary Rowett’s men. The Canaries go into this one on the back of consecutive 1-0 wins, so this could well be a tight affair between two teams that have been specialising in clean sheets recently. I still fancy a Derby win, but this will be hard work – Bet on the Rams to clinch it with both teams scoring at a tidy 7/2 with Ladbrokes.

If you’re a fan of players haunting their former sides, then stick a tenner on Derby’s Cameron Jerome to score at 11/5.

Nottingham Forest manager Aitor Karanka should be a happy man by the time he faces Hull City this weekend. A host of new signings for the Reds have now had a full week of training to settle in and get to know each other, so they should be firing on all cylinders for the visit of the out-of-form Hull. The Tigers have hardly been roaring away from home, with just one win on their Championship travels this season. One crumb of comfort for the visitors is their victory over Forest in the FA Cup this weekend, but that was against a completely different side, so my money is on the home side in this one at an extremely generous 6/5 with Paddy Power.

Wolves continue to dominate the division with their vastly superior squad, and you’ve got to fancy them to make light work of visiting Queens Park Rangers this weekend. If the fact that they’re playing Wolves isn’t enough to convince you to stay clear of Rangers, just remember Ian Holloway’s Hoops haven’t won an away game against a top-half Championship side since January 2017, and that should point you in the right direction. Benik Afobe is in line for a full debut following his return from Premier League Bournemouth, and he is top of my wishlist to score first in this one at 4/1 with Coral.

I’ve saved the best till last this weekend, and it should be a spicy local derby on Sunday between Aston Villa and Birmingham City at Villa Park. Both sides are desperate for points for different reasons. Steve Bruce’s Villa have gathered a head of steam in the form of four straight wins that has put them just a point off the automatic promotion places, while Birmingham are hoping to build on a great win at Sheffield Wednesday in their battle to avoid the drop. Valentine’s cards may well be on your agenda this weekend, but yellow and red cards are probably the order of the day in this one, and a red card to be brandished is 11/4 with William Hill. Villa boast a striker in form in Scott Hogan, and if you’re swaying towards a home win, may I suggest backing it with Hogan to score anytime, which is the second great 11/4 bet in this one.

Tip of the Day: If Villa are winning their second-city derby with Birmingham City this weekend, then you would be a fool not to boost the odds by backing Scott Hogan to score what would be his sixth goal in six games. Hogan to score in a Villa win is 11/4 with William Hill.

Championship Treble: £10 on Nottingham Forest, Preston and Bristol City returns around £120 with Coral. Be lucky!

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Teemu Maarela

Esports & Ice Hockey Specialist


Teemu is an enthusiastic Finn who spent his childhood around ice hockey and video games, and he has 10+ years of experience with sports betting industry. Teemu specialises in analysing esports and ice hockey games. He contributes to website in English, writing about his two passions - ice hockey and esports.
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