Leeds United begin life under Paul Heckingbottom at high-flying Sheffield United in one of two early Championship kick-offs.
The Elland Road outfit haven’t managed a win since Boxing Day, picking up just two points from the last 18 available, while they also suffered an FA Cup upset at the hands of League Two Newport County during that time.
The Blades have hit a patch of mixed form themselves and head into this Yorkshire derby on the back of a pair of losses so Leeds stand out at a tempting 4/1 to benefit from the new manager bounce and pick up all three points.
The other early kick-off sees Heckingbottom’s old club Barnsley host Sheffield Wednesday in a South Yorkshire derby. The Reds are winless in four they have a solid record against the Owls as the last two meetings between the two sides have ended in draws, with a stalemate available at 9/4 in this Oakwell encounter.
Before all that there is one match on Friday as Millwall entertain promotion hopefuls Cardiff. The Bluebirds managed to land a striker in the shape of Gary Madine during the January transfer window but Millwall are a tough nut to crack at home and are unbeaten in nine at The Den, during which time they’ve faced champions-elect Wolves and Sheffield United. The Lions are 8/5 to claim a win and a draw is available at 11/5.
Brentford entertain Preston at Griffin Park and both clubs still have legitimate hopes of gatecrashing the play-offs. North End go into this match on the back of two successive wins and the Bees have lost their last two although they do have three wins in their last four home games in the Championship and look a good bet at 11/10 to claim the win.
Second-placed Derby County are another home team that stand out at an odds-against price of 21/20 to overcome Norwich City. The Rams are unbeaten in six at Pride Park and, when they are bested on their own patch, it tends to be against teams lower in the division, having only lost to Reading and Ipswich since August.
Hull City overcame Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup a few weeks ago and may be able to raid the City Ground on Saturday. The Tigers find themselves deep in relegation trouble and have a lengthy injury list but Forest have lost their last four home games in a row in the Championship. There looks to be real value in the 41/20 for an away win in this one or, alternatively, the 9/2 on offer for a Hull win with both teams to score.
Bolton are hovering just above the drop zone and face a stern test at home against Fulham this weekend. Wanderers have a pretty woeful record against the west London side, with just one win in the last eight meetings between the two, and Fulham may be able to win with some room to spare if they can get ahead early enough. The -1 goal handicap away win is 9/4.
Ipswich are just about in the top-six hunt – despite losing five of their last eight – and they should have no issues downing struggling Burton Albion at Portman Road. The Tractor Boys are 20/23 to come out on top and 37/20 to win to zero.
Sunderland have at least marginally improved since former Wales boss Chris Coleman took charge and could be worth the risk at 9/2 at promotion hopefuls Bristol City, who were beaten at Bolton last time out and have lost three of their last five.
Middlesbrough are now winless in three at the Riverside ahead of Reading’s visit and a double chance on an away win or draw at 13/10 could be an option in this fixture.
There is one game on Sunday as Aston Villa host Birmingham City in the Second City derby. The reverse fixture finished 0-0 back in October but Villa have been in a rich vein of form of late, with six successive Championship wins, and with home advantage should be too strong for the Blues.
Derby clashes are notoriously tough to predict but a Villa win seems the most likely outcome although Birmingham are unbeaten in five on their travels and should make this a real contest. A home win with both teams to score is priced at 3/1.
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