EFL TIPS: The EFL action is heating up and we preview the best of the fixtures below with our favourite bets.
BIRMINGHAM CITY V QPR: FRIDAY 20:00
Birmingham continued their sub-standard start to their Championship campaign with a 2-1 loss to Blackburn last weekend, leaving the Blues just three points above the relegation zone after 16 fixtures. John Eustace’s side have now won two of their last seven league matches and remain among the favourites for a drop down to League One.
Only three clubs in the division have netted less goals than the West Midlands side (16) and the visit of high-flying Queen’s Park Rangers to St Andrew’s on Friday night hardly represents a favourable opportunity to address their attacking shortcomings, especially as Birmingham have won only three times in the 17 previous meetings between the two sides.
QPR’s strong away form has been central to their recent promotion push, winning three of their last four on the road, and their most recent victory over Wigan last weekend maintained their strongest Championship start since being promoted in 2013/14. Michael Beale’s men are high on confidence and seem somewhat overvalued for their trip to St Andrew’s. They should be backed at 3.25 to continue their winning form under the lights on Friday evening.
WEST BROM V SHEFFIELD UNITED: SATURDAY 12:30
One of the two Saturday lunchtime kick-offs in the Championship sees two drastically out-of-form sides lock horns at the Hawthorns. West Brom’s late 2-1 loss to Millwall last weekend kept the Baggies in penultimate place in the division, with their recent decision to sack manager Steve Bruce failing to pay dividends so far.
West Brom have now lost five of their last eight Championship fixtures and would usually be considered firm underdogs for the visit of the division’s fifth-placed side on Saturday. However, with Sheffield United battling their own surprising slump in form, this promises to be a much more open game than some may assume.
The Blades, after producing their best start to a Championship season in 17 years, are now incredibly winless in six league games for the first time since April 2021, when they were in the Premier League. Paul Heckingbottom’s men have additionally failed to keep a clean sheet in that time and have subsequently seen their league position deteriorate. Despite their alarming form, Sheffield United should be backed at 3.25 to return to winning ways this weekend. There hasn’t been a draw between these two sides since 2009, and it’s unlikely this West Brom side will have enough to get a result here.
CHARLTON ATHLETIC V IPSWICH TOWN: SATURDAY 15:00
Fans of Charlton may have thought they’d arrested their early-season nosedive with three successive victories for the first time since February, but Tuesday night’s 2-0 loss to a lowly MK Dons side at home displayed how fragile Ben Garner’s men remain. The Addicks have now kept just one clean sheet in their last eight league games at the Valley and will need to improve those figures if they are to go unpunished by stronger teams.
On Saturday they’ll certainly receive a visit from one of those stronger opponents in the form of Ipswich Town. The Tractor Boys remain in second place following an entertaining 3-2 victory at Port Vale on Tuesday and boast the best away record in the division, having won six of their eight fixtures on the road.
Whilst Charlton hold the edge in the recent fixtures between these sides, winning two and drawing two of the last five, this it’s not hard to side with this imposing Ipswich team at 1.99 to end that recent history and put more pressure on league leaders Plymouth.
NORTHAMPTON TOWN V NEWPORT COUNTY: SATURDAY 14:00
Third-placed Northampton Town will still be giddy with joy after their scarcely believable victory against previous table-toppers Stevenage last weekend, with three goals in a hectic final ten minutes edging the Cobblers closer to the summit of the league. Whilst a 2-2 midweek draw to Sutton may have sobered some of that excitement, they’ll feel their title charge credentials have been rightly justified over the past week.
On Saturday, at the slightly unfamiliar 2 o’clock kick off time, they take on a Newport County side who they’ve won five of the last six encounters against. Their Welsh opponents have struggled for goals recently – netting just twice in their last five league games – making setting the precedent and controlling proceedings in their fixtures somewhat problematic.
Northampton are definitely the better side between these two and seem a tad over-priced given the context of both teams’ seasons. Therefore, the best move looks to be to back the home side at 2.31 to dispatch of their visitors and cut the gap between themselves and the top two.