It is the time of year when the football comes thick and fast and there is sure to be plenty of twists and turns in the latest batch of Championship fixtures.
Friday kicks things off with a pair of feisty encounters, both of which have plenty riding on them. The London derby between Millwall and Queens Park Rangers will certainly be tasty and they both need points as they look to climb the table.
This will undoubtedly be exciting, especially as Ian Holloway previously coached at the Den. However, it is games like this where the Lions have done the business this season and 11/10 looks good for a home win.
Down in the Welsh capital, Cardiff take on Preston, with Neil Warnock’s men keen to get back on track after two straight defeats. PNE themselves are on a role but were sluggish in their 0-0 Boxing Day draw at Barnsley.
Warnock will have been alarmed by his team’s recent slump and injuries have undoubtedly hurt them. The veteran boss is not one for excuses and his will power alone could mean a home win at 11/10.
There are nine games at 3pm on Saturday and plenty of value to be had, most notably Leeds’ trip to Birmingham. Eyebrows were raised when Steve Cotterill was appointed by the Blues and his comments about his players in recent days, most notably about their mental strength, is unlikely to have won him many friends in his dressing room.
It has been said many times before but Leeds finally seem to be on to a good thing, with Thomas Christiansen guiding them to six games without defeat, five of which have been wins.
It would seem foolish to expect anything other than an away win and that outcome at 13/10 seems almost too generous to turn down.
Another price that stands out is the 1/1 on offer for Middlesbrough to get the better of Aston Villa. This fixture will mark the start of Tony Pulis’ reign and, having been in the stands for Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Bolton, he will be back stalking the dug-out in his tracksuit at the weekend.
Villa again spent big in the summer but remain an enigma, with former player Lee Hendrie questioning the heart of the players following their Boxing Day defeat at Brentford. Things are unlikely to get much better here and although it could be tight, Boro should have the edge at home.
Elsewhere, and Fulham look good to continue their run when they travel to Hull. The Cottagers were tipped for big things in the summer but failed to find their form early doors, leading to doubts surrounding Slavisa Jokanovic’s future.
However, things have turned around with three wins in four, and in contrast Hull are back on the slide after a mini-revival under Nigel Adkins.
The Tigers did secure a goalless draw against Derby last time out but still seem a level below Saturday’s opponents and an away win is hugely tempting at 31/20.
Speaking of Derby and they face a trip to Suffolk to take on Ipswich, a team who remain strangers to consistency. The Rams have lost just one of their last nine, at home to the Tractor Boys, who could only draw last time out to QPR.
It seems a tough one to call but Gary Rowett is a coach who learns from his defeats and do not be surprised to see his side get back to winning ways at 27/20.
Sheffield United should also get the business done, despite Bolton’s recent resurgence. Both of these teams came up last season and have enjoyed contrasting fortunes, with the Blades mainly retaining their sharpness, while it took the Trotters some time to break into anything above a trundle.
Chris Wilder’s men went off the boil for a while in December but have rediscovered their form and, despite encouraging signs from Bolton, a home win is tough to look past at 10/17.
One game that is sure to be tense, due mainly to a lack of goals on both sides, is Barnsley against Reading. These two only have one win between them in December and are unlikely to provide too many thrills and spills on Saturday.
A look at the history books could give us a clue though and after winning 3-0 when these sides met in November, another win to zero for the Royals could well be the option at 3/1.
Another away win could be on the cards at the Pirelli Stadium when Burton welcome Norwich to Staffordshire. Nigel Clough’s side have produced some signs of recovery in recent outings but their lack of consistency continues to kill them.
The Canaries have struggled with the same issue but have more quality in their ranks and are rightly the 11/10 favourites for the points.
Brentford should also have enough to beat managerless Sheffield Wednesday at home, despite Owls caretaker Lee Bullen making a winning start to his time in the role.
The Bees are a confusing bunch but have won their last two and should justify their 10/11 favourites tag.
Last but not least for the afternoon kick-offs, it is Nottingham Forest against Sunderland. Neither are in any sort of form and both could do with a win to try and build some momentum heading into the new year.
Home advantage may well be vital and Forest at 1/1 look good to take the points.
Finally at 5:30 it is the Championship’s game of the weekend when leaders Wolves head to second place Bristol City. Both have impressed this term, with money proving to Wolves that you can buy success, while City have slowly but surely grown.
The momentum seems to be with the Robins but Wolves have an air of champions about them and their ability to grind out results has been impressive. It promises to be an incredibly entertaining game on the banks of the Severn but the extra class from the away side means it could be an away win at 7/5.
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