Hull v Nottingham Forest
The Boxing Day schedule remains a long-standing tradition in English football and this encounter between Hull City and Nottingham Forest puts together two traditional football clubs looking for some EFL cheer. Hull had an early Christmas present last Saturday when comprehensively defeating Birmingham City 3-0 at home, whilst Nottingham Forest’s recent woes continued to the point where they’re now winless in five.
Grant McCann continues to do a more than decent job with the Tigers following his appointment from Doncaster Rovers last summer. Hull are a team full of offensive talent, headlined by Jarrod Bowen, who has been heavily linked with a move away from the club in the January transfer window. If that’s the case, this could be one of his last games for the club.
The time to usually catch Hull at a good time is when they appear at the KCOM Stadium. They have nine Championship victories to their name this season, six of which came in front of their own supporters. They’ve won three straight at home, and four of the last five, with only high-flying West Bromwich Albion defeating them in that period.
Nottingham Forest are on their worst run of form of the season, of that there can be no doubt. The unusual thing is that it has very much come out of the blue, as Sabri Lamouchi’s team were unbeaten in four (winning three) prior to their current slump. Perhaps a bigger worry is that across their last five they haven’t necessarily faced any of the expected fancied teams in the division. However, this typifies the Championship just nicely.
Forest’s recent run does highlight the Championship and how volatile and unexpected it can become. The fact they are five without a win means they should really refocus even more in order to at least halt this losing run extending beyond two. They last time they lost two in succession, they won their next two.
Hull aren’t always the most consistent of teams. The fact they won so convincingly last time could potentially lead to them taking their eye off the ball on this occasion. Form won’t count for much during this now hectic period, especially when teams are likely to be heavily rotated. I’m backing Forest to avoid defeat here on a +0.5 handicap and we can get defeat odds on that considering their recent results. Hull don’t normally produce back-to-back results and performances, whilst Forest only have two away losses this season.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Nottingham Forest +0.50 at 1.840
Leeds v Preston
Leeds United and Preston North End are the Championship evening action on Boxing Day and this is expected to be an intriguing battle between two teams currently within the promotion picture. Whilst only a few spots separates them, Leeds have a nine-point advantage over Preston, which is why Leeds are very short odds to claim three points.
Naturally whenever Leeds loses or drops point there is something of a public inquest. Leeds are such a high-profile team at this level, and having Marcelo Bielsa as their boss certainly adds to that. They wasted a 3-0 lead to draw at home to Cardiff, and backed that up with a narrow away loss at Fulham. Losing at Craven Cottage is no disgrace however, especially as it was a game Leeds generally had the better of.
The Whites can usually be backed to respond following a setback. All of their previous league defeats this season has been instantly responded with a victory. They’ll perhaps be glad to be back in front of their passionate Elland Road support on this occasion as they haven’t lost here since August, going unbeaten in seven, winning six.
A sudden four-game losing streak for Preston did raise some alarm bells in certain quarters but manager Alex Neil was never over-the-top in his concerns. They’ve had some horrendous injury worries of late, and that is slowly starting to improve. Suspensions haven’t helped either, but they do actually have quite a big squad at Deepdale, which is a big plus.
They’ve turned things around now by going unbeaten in three, including two wins. Last weekend, they drew away at Cardiff, but any viewer of that match will tell you that Preston were much the better side and Cardiff’s first and only shot on target came within the last few moments. Before kick-off, a draw wouldn’t have been a bad score for Preston given they’ve slipped up in some away games, but more performances like that will see them add to their two away league wins.
As mentioned, Leeds are very short odds to win in this game. As such, all the value is really on the side of Preston on this occasion, and we have to take that into account. So much so, we can still get odds-against quotes of Preston +1.25, and I personally am very shocked to see that the case. We have to get on this price. Crazy things happen at this time of year, and Preston have been heavily under-valued by the bookmakers. They’re ultimately in better recent form than Leeds, and Preston will relish being the underdogs.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Preston +1.25 at 2.030
Reading v QPR
In terms of location, this is really a local derby between Reading and Queens Park Rangers, although the fans of the two clubs don’t necessarily how any rivalry of note, nor do the two clubs. Still, it means QPR fans won’t have far to travel for this Boxing Day encounter with Reading. Reading secured their joint-biggest win of the campaign last time out against Derby, whilst QPR threw away a lead to draw at home to an actual rival in Charlton Athletic.
Firstly, we’ll focus on Reading, who have largely been a much improved outfit since decided to part ways with Jose Gomes. His somewhat surprising replacement was Mark Bowen, who is normally an assistant manager by trade, but he has settled into the role well. An early Derby red card certainly helped their cause, but they did the job in a very strong manner when winning 3-0. That’ll give them a big confidence boost facing a QPR side who’ll offer a sterner test.
The Derby result was also positive as it ended a two-game losing run at the Madejski Stadium, although one of those losses came to Leeds. On the flip side, this latest home win backed up two solid away draws at Barnsley and Stoke, two sides who are also battling relegation like Reading, so all-in-all Reading are in a decent place mentally right now.
The same can’t necessarily be said of QPR, mainly due to some of their defensive issues which they’ve been demonstrating recently. This did somewhat come out of nowhere as QPR did win two in succession with clean sheets against Preston and Birmingham respectively, but their last two games ended in a 5-3 loss at then-bottom Barnsley and the 2-2 draw with Charlton. Boss Mark Warburton asked for a defensive improvement following the Barnsley match, but they conceded in the 95th-minute to throw asking a winning position.
QPR just cannot be trusted defensively right now, even though they are certainly capable of it. The reality is that they’ve conceded 44 league goals this season, which is an average of 1.91 per game. They’ve shipped seven in their last two, and they are an attack-minded team, so they’re not going to suddenly change to a more defensive structure to try and combat this. Attack is their best form of defence.
Reading will play to win, and so will QPR. I anticipate an end-to-end encounter on this occasion. Reading are averaging 1.83 goals per home game since Bowen took charge, so they enjoy it here. Their home league games over the season anyway are averaging exactly 3.00, whilst QPR league fixtures overall averaging 3.52. I really like the look of Over 2.5 Goals here, and the price isn’t as low as expected, too.
Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Over 2.50 at 1.810
Preview by: @JamesOR1.
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