EFL WEEKEND: We start the weekend preview at the Riverside tonight as Middlesbrough host Norwich in what looks a ‘six-pointer’. All matches include BETDAQ recommended bets.
Middlesbrough vs Norwich – Friday 20:00
This is a play-off six pointer if we have ever seen one – home side Middlesbrough sit in fourth, perched behind Luton in third and ahead of Millwall in fifth, with space on either side. Norwich, only seven points behind, will relish at the chance to close the gap between the two to four points and potentially sneak into one of the highly sought after play-off positions.
Both sides are in a poor vein of form having only won one of their last five matches, not the sort of form any Championship side wants to hit with the majority of sides only having five games remaining. On paper it is a very close tie with both teams having struggled for periods of the season but managing to show the determination to grind out enough good results to be there and abouts at this critical point of the season.
The odds are favouring Middlesbrough at 1.94 but we feel this tie will be much tighter than suggested with a late winner likely to decide a very close to call fixture. Despite the odds, we are backing the underdogs to pull off an upset and boost their chances at another promotion back to the Premier League at 3.7, drawing on their extended and recent experience of this tough period, in this tough league.
Watford v Bristol City – Saturday 15:00
This is a true midtable battle as both sides look to make poor seasons look as good as possible with some late victories as the possibility of reaching the playoffs slip away match by match.
For Watford, it has been a season full of promise and glimpses of a squad that were close to surviving relegation from the Premier League last season but ultimately a failure, as the club will have been hoping to achieve automatic promotion.
For Bristol City, it has been a similar story; though not off the back of relegation from the top flight, a club with the funding and the size of Bristol City will have expected better and at the very least a push for the play-off positions.
Whichever way you look at it, with whichever failed targets in mind, Watford and Bristol City have both survived relegation and will go into next season with a solid foundation to build on, regardless of whether or not they manage to sneak into the play-offs in this campaign.
Their current form represents their league position and considering how close they are, Watford only one place above in 12th with three points separating them, this game is a tough one to call.
At 1.95, Watford are our pick as the ex-Premier League side, still holding onto the majority of their quality players, will likely have too much for the west-country club. Having said that, Watford’s form is unpredictable; one week beating Burnley or Sheffield United before losing to second bottom side Blackpool, the next. Considering, backing Bristol City at 3.85 is a high returning punt for the bold bettor.
Ipswich v Charlton – Saturday 15:00
This is another fixture that could have profound consequences as both sides chase down their season objectives. For Ipswich, automatic promotion is on the line and balanced on a knife edge as they sit in third place only two points off top spot with a game in hand on the league leaders.
For Charlton, a bad result would be less drastic but could see the tenth placed side slip further down the table towards the relegation places, and while they are likely safe from the threat of football in League Two next season, the London side would certainly want to feel that they have had a respectful season and maintain their top half status.
The odds suggest Ipswich will have a field day against the lower side. They are currently 1.29 to beat the Addicks with the London side at 9.0 and while we aren’t backing a win for Dean Holden’s side, we like the look of a draw at 5.2.
As we reach crunch time in the promotion race, it is inevitable that one of the top sides will falter and drop points. Looking at Ipswich’s run of eight wins in a row that abruptly came to an end last week against Cheltenham in a 1-1 draw, we are predicting another bad result to follow suit.
Carlisle vs Northampton Town – Saturday 15:00
Perhaps the most unpredictable tie of the weekend, this one holds both massive repercussions in the promotion race and offers high value entertainment in a top of the table clash of the titans.
Two of the biggest clubs in the league, Carlisle and Northampton, clash with the home side occupying fourth place, three points behind Northampton in second on the same number of games. A win for Carlisle here could push them into second place and further into the automatic promotion spots and leave Northampton in threat of dropping out; and vice versa.
Both sides have been in average form in the last five matches with both sides dropping a large number of points; Carlisle losing two and drawing two, and Northampton losing one and drawing one.
Surprisingly the odds haven’t mirrored the recent results with Carlisle the favourites at 2.22 and Northampton at 3.2. Our pick for this gargantuan fixture is a draw at 3.15 as both sides slog it out for 90 minutes unable to break the other down sufficiently enough to see a victory.