Huddersfield v Blackburn
Whilst it was defeat for Huddersfield Town on Boxing Day it was still a performance that manager Danny Cowley felt it warranted more than the 1-0 defeat they received. Whilst losing the game was bad enough, arguably losing key midfielder Jonathan Hogg due to injury was perhaps the most damning fact of it all.
Hopefully he is OK in the near future to return, but they can’t afford to feel too sorry for themselves as they quickly must prepare for the visit of Blackburn Rovers. Tony Mowbray’s side maintained their unbeaten run and extended it to eight games, although back-to-back home draws slightly tempers enthusiasm.
As touched upon, Huddersfield lost, but it has still been a good adjustment to life under Cowley. We have a won six, drew six and lost six record at the helm, but the majority of those losses came to fancied outfits such as Leeds United, West Brom, Sheffield Wednesday and Bristol City. They’re competitive and never easily beaten.
The same can be said of Blackburn but the numbers are firmly backing that up. Mowbray has now found a way for them to pick up points away from home, having secured seven from their last three away from Ewood Park, having previously lost four in a four beforehand.
Team news is absolutely vital at this time of year from a betting perspective, and the reality is that it is going to be tough to make strong assumptions of anything until an hour before kick offs. Cowley has had a settled eleven of late, mainly forced because of injuries. He’ll make a change of two here. Mowbray has been heavily rotated, and whilst they’re unbeaten of late, this still makes them unpredictable, as making six or seven changes could go one way or the other.
Blackburn’s run will end at some point and I believe it will when travelling to Yorkshire. This will be Blackburn’s third game in six days, and whilst they’re rotating, this won’t do much for team cohesion and it’ll make them unpredictable. Cowley has lost only two home matches in charge, that coming to Leeds and Sheff Wed. Whilst Blackburn have improved away of late, they’ll still be missing key forward Bradley Dack and his absence makes them considerably weaker. Huddersfield -0.25 is the play, mainly due to scheduling reasons as they’ve had more rest days of late compared to Blackburn. Rovers will rotate more and that makes them a big risk for any bettor who wants them on side.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Huddersfield -0.25 at 2.060
Nottingham Forest v Wigan
There was some panic setting into the Nottingham Forest ranks following a run of five without a win but that was soon forgotten about when they came away from Hull City on Boxing Day with an excellent 2-0 victory. That was vintage Forest and what we come to expect from them based on earlier season showings.
Whilst that win ended one run there is still another sequence that they’ll be keen to end. That is their home form as they’ve won just one of their past five at the City Ground, which has so normally been a fortress for them. That run included a home draw to injury-hit Middlesbrough and loss to Cardiff, albeit that was a game that largely dominated.
They will fancy their chances of doing so considering Wigan Athletic will be the visitors on Sunday. Paul Cook’s side are in a very bad run of their own, and they won’t have felt sorry for Forest for the small winless run they had in comparison. For the Latics, it is 12 with no win, of which last came at home to Nottingham Forest in October.
It isn’t for the want of trying however, as Wigan have put themselves in great positions in so many matches. However, they continue to concede late goals, and the 1-1 draw with Derby on Boxing Day was another two point’s loss scenario as they were leading until the last few minutes. They’ve lost well over 20 points this season from winning positions, which is a massive concern.
Now Forest are back on track, they’ll look to continue that despite likely having to rotate their squad. Whilst they are odds-on to win this game, those odds could climb once Sabri Lamouchi names his starting eleven. He does have a big squad at his disposal, and he will likely make changes knowing they play again on New Year’s Day. This may make them vulnerable, as it has done earlier this season when making alterations.
Wigan are one of only two teams in the Championship yet to win away from home this season. They have earned creditable draws however away to the likes of Blackburn, Millwall, Bristol City and Hull, so they’re certainly capable of being a presence if they can stand up mentally. They too could make some changes, and they do have a little bit of depth to call upon.
With rotation possibly on both counts, I do think the goals angle is the safer one to approach rather than any outright market. Under 2.5 Goals is deemed good value based on the numbers of these two teams this season. Both teams are below 2.50 in terms of average goals within their Championship games. Forest’s games at home average just 2.10, whilst Wigan have netted only nine goals on the road.
Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Under 2.50 at 1.810
West Brom v Middlesbrough
Sitting top of the Championship table is generally a good omen for any side, yet West Brom may still be slightly disappointing in their form of late. Whilst they are without defeat since the game to Leeds in October; their only league loss of the campaign, a run of three draws in their last four will slightly frustrate Slaven Bilic considering the high standards he sets.
Bilic elected to rest a couple of players for the trip to Barnsley on Boxing Day, a game they drew and whilst they were leading until the 90го minute, it was a game Barnsley were good value for the draw, so there is certainly area for improvement for the Baggies despite enjoying top spot.
They do have some injury concerns as well, such as to key central defender Kyle Bartley, whilst Nathan Ferguson sat out the match with a niggling problem, too. Losing two of your regular starting back four is never easy, so WBA had excuses. They’re back on home soil now at least, but haven’t kept a clean sheet at The Hawthorns this season.
Middlesbrough are a team who have started to show more of what would have been expected them before a ball was kicked this season. Jonathan Woodgate was coming under some pressure from supporters, but back-to-back wins and two defeats in nine has eased the pressure somewhat. They still remain without some key players due to injury and suspension, but the younger players are stepping up and making a presence in the first-team scene.
Of their six Championship wins this season, five came with a clean sheet. This obviously highlights the importance of defence, but gaining a shutout at the league leaders will be a massive effort, especially given West Brom’s offensive strength. How Boro approach this game tactically will be key, as whilst West Brom do concede, playing too open will only suit the home side and I do fear Boro may look to go that way.
Whilst form has improved of late, there is still an area Middlesbrough must improve upon and that is their record away from the Riverside Stadium. Only they and Wigan are yet to win away from home in the Championship. The concern is that they’ve been to Leeds and lost 4-0, Swansea 3-1, whilst conceding at least twice at QPR, Derby, Birmingham and Bristol City.
West Brom are currently the best team in the league as things stand and having rested a few in the Barnsley game, Bilic will demand a stronger showing here as they look to get back on track in terms of recording more consecutive wins. I fear Boro could feel the Baggies backlash and a -1.25 handicap on the home side could be the way to go. They’re the joint-highest home scorers in the division along with Preston and remain undefeated here, as well.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: West Brom -1.25 at 1.960
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