EFL: The EFL remains in full swing throughout the festive period, with some more big match-ups across all three divisions over the coming days. We preview the pick of the action below, alongside some of our favourite bets.
Sunderland vs Blackburn Rovers – Monday 12:30
One of the two early Boxing Day kick-offs sees Blackburn Rovers make the trip to Sunderland. The Black Cats are in a curious vein of form, winning three of their last six, but have found consistency in front of their own fans difficult, with three losses from their most recent four games at the Stadium of Light thwarting their push for a playoff finish.
Blackburn put two heavy defeats behind them by impressively overcoming Norwich at Carrow Road in their most recent fixture to maintain their grip on third place. Rovers remain the only side in the division yet to draw a game and will be eyeing up the automatic playoff positions if they come through Boxing Day’s fixture with another three points on the road – though their record of 15 points from 12 games away from home resembles something of a mid-table side.
We like the value of Blackburn here – the away side comfortably won the return fixture between these two teams in October and will be looking to capitalise on a run of poor domestic home form for the Black Cats to keep their hat in the ring for a promotion charge. Backing Blackburn at 3.05 is the play for this one.
Hull City vs Blackpool – Monday 15:00
As the Championship reaches its halfway mark, Hull City will be disappointed in their output thus far as they linger just one place above the relegation zone. The Yorkshire side should be in a more comfortable position though, as while just one defeat since the arrival of Liam Rosenior as coach is encouraging, the three draws over that period has stopped them pulling clear of the bottom three.
Blackpool’s Championship struggles come off the back of a six-game winless run, although fighting back to earn a 1-1 draw against Cardiff last time out shows there’s plenty of fight left in Michael Appleton’s men yet. Whether they can build on that against Hull and give their fans a belated Christmas present remains to be seen, as they’ve lost their last four league matches played on Boxing Day.
The MKM Stadium faithful will be nervously biting their nails as they’ve not witnessed their side pick up a win in their last five league outings at home. It’s also been five matches since they’ve picked up a home league win against opponents Blackpool, although winning this season’s reverse fixture 3-1 might stimulate Hull to break that sequence here. With that in mind, backing the hosts at 2.13 looks reasonable value.
Cambridge United vs Shrewsbury – Monday 15:00
Cambridge picked up a very commendable draw against league leaders Plymouth Argyle in their last fixture, though that failed to improve on a run that has seen them now win once in their last 11 league games. The U’s subsequently find themselves one point above the relegation zone as we approach the halfway mark of the season, though they have a game in hand on Forest Green Rovers below them.
On Monday they welcome a Shrewsbury side who have seemingly put their six-game winless streak behind them, with two successive victories over Lincoln City and Bolton – aided by a 92nd minute winner against the latter – helping them maintain their mid-table position. Steve Cotterill’s men will now be weighing up a potential playoff place push, sitting just five points behind Derby County in fifth.
Cambridge will be buoyed by the fact they’ve only lost one of their last seven league games against Monday’s opposition, but such is the extent of their poor nick that sustaining that run looks a big ask. Given the disparity in form between the two sides, we’re backing Shrewsbury at 2.58 to pick up three points in this one.
Leyton Orient vs Stevenage Town – Tuesday 12:30
It’s first versus second in League Two on Tuesday as Stevenage Town visit table-topping Leyton Orient. The home side had to battle for their 2-0 victory over Sutton United in their most recent fixture, a result that represented their fourth successive win (and seventh in their last eight league games) to extend their lead at the top of the division to seven points.
Stevenage were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw against Mansfield Town a fortnight ago, which saw third place Northampton Town close the gap to them to just two points. Steve Evans’ side will be dreaming of a League Two title charge but must remain wary of activity behind them, although a third place finish would still see the Boro secure automatic promotion to League One.
It will undoubtedly be a tense affair, but Orient’s home record – the best in the division with 28 points out of a possible 33 – probably gives the league leaders the edge in this one. Backing Orient at 2.02 to further extend their lead at the top of the table is the pick for this game.