Sheffield United v Nottingham Forest
Friday 4th March – 7:45PM KO
This is a huge match for both clubs. Blades and Forest both have aspirations to win promotion from the Championship this season, most likely via the playoffs, but both sit just outside the top six as this match is played.
Sheffield United began to earn a reputation under Paul Heckingbottom of knowing what it takes to win football matches. They have rarely been free-flowing but they have been tactically adaptable and defensively solid enough to make winning matches that little bit easier. Blades’ open play xG against over the last four matches has been 0.15xG per 90. A ridiculously low number and shows how few chances United are giving up in normal play.
Forest, meanwhile, have slowed their charge down somewhat of late. It is chance creation that has been a struggle over recent matches. The weapons of Brennan Johnson, Philip Zinckernagel & loanee Keinan Davis are still potentially potent but their open play xG of 0.78 per 90 over the last four games is a concern. Especially when they are up against the best defence in the league at the moment.
With the repercussions of defeat being so great for either side this is all set up to be a relatively cagey encounter. With defences likely to be on top a draw or narrow win either way looks the most likely outcome. With this in mind it is perhaps more prudent to go with the Under 2.5 goals angle.
Prediction: Under 2.5 Goals, 1.65 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Hull City v West Brom
Saturday 5th March – 3:00PM KO
Being a spectator at this match is not likely to be a thrill ride. These sides are really struggling to put their best foot forward of late, though Hull are starting to show their new identity a bit more now under Shota Arveladze.
Brandon Fleming has been a real beneficiary of the Georgian’s arrival on Humberside. His emergence on the left has meant that Keane Lewis-Potter has been able to be used consistently further forward. This has resulted in a much greater goal threat and also a way of pressing the opposition further up which has been effective in recent matches. Having said that, Hull still average less than 1 xG per 90 going forwards at the moment.
West Brom, meanwhile, average exactly 1xG per 90 over their last four matches but are heavily reliant on set pieces for that number. It has been desperate for the former promotion favourites of late with absolutely no ‘bounce’ from their managerial change. In open play West Brom sit 21st out of 24 for open play supremacy, conceding far more chances than they create in non set-piece situations. With the talent that they have available that seems ridiculously poor but until results show signs of turning around Steve Bruce will continue to ensure that the defence is tight enough to grind out results first before expanding on the attacking side.
Hull are probably a decent bet to side with in this encounter on current form. However, with the margins being so tight I prefer a goals wager and with both sides not flowing well going forward it is likely that this match sees fewer than 3 goals in total.
Prediction: Under 2.5 Goals, 1.61 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
QPR v Cardiff City
Saturday 5th March – 3:00PM KO
QPR are desperately clinging onto a playoff spot at the moment. Their performance data has been dropping for a while now even whilst results were still good, but that lack of performance is catching up with them now. Watching them against Blackburn Rovers last Saturday it is abundantly clear that Lyndon Dykes has been a huge miss for the Rs.
Mark Warburton has resorted to playing without an orthodox, recognisable forward in Rangers’ last two games, despite having both Charlie Austin and Andre Gray to call upon. Dykes may well be back for this match but even if the Scottish international is available QPR seem to be struggling a little bit for rhythm in their play and being able to get their key men, Chris Willock and Ilias Chair, on the ball at the attacking end of the pitch.
Cardiff have rewarded Steve Morison with a contract extension to stay on as manager beyond the end of the season. That is just reward for Cardiff’s recent progress under him. The transition to their more attacking style has taken a while but has been paying off handsomely of late, the Bluebirds are currently comfortably inside the top half for all xG metrics over the last four matches and have outperformed their expected points that the pre-match odds would’ve suggested.
With the form lines the way they are it is very tempting to get on board with Cardiff here. Whilst QPR do have an excellent home record in general I am happy to take that on with current form and taking Cardiff and the draw for a reasonable price is an angle to follow.
Prediction: Cardiff Double Chance, 1.67 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Stoke v Blackpool
Saturday 5th March – 3:00PM KO
In a similar angle to the QPR vs Cardiff match we have an in-form away side going to a home side with a bigger reputation but with much poorer form.
Stoke reinforced their squad in January but it hasn’t helped them to solidify a promotion challenge. In fact, Michael O’Neill’s side have drifted into the bottom half of the table, and deservedly so. The Potters sit 21st out of 24 in expected points over the last four matches and have performed far worse than the pre match odds would have suggested. They are conceding too many chances, 1.33xG per 90 of late, and this isn’t compensated for by the attacking output of only 0.78xG per 90. Games aren’t won consistently by the team who create fewer chances. As a balancing weight though, Stoke did have to play the majority of their game at Bournemouth with ten men,
Blackpool can be a bit loose at the back so could give Stoke more chances than they usually get but the Seasiders are certainly capable of scoring themselves. The Tangerines have lost less than half of their away league matches, and got results against teams such as Fulham and Bournemouth away from home. What is sure is that Blackpool will be competitive in the match, something that Stoke will have to deal with.
Stoke are odds on for this match at the time of writing and it is difficult to see where that heavy favourtism has come from. There is very little between these two sides in terms of overall performance and with Shayne Lavery and Gary Madine back in the goals recently I like the angle of getting with Blackpool in the Double Chance market.
Prediction: Blackpool Double Chance, 1.87 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
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