Saturday Championship Predictions and Best Bets

Andy

Cardiff City v Blackburn

Saturday 15th January – 12:30PM KO

Despite their change of manager Cardiff City have continued to prove themselves to be bottom half Championship quality. Their last 12 game data profile has them in 14th for expected points, 17th for open play xG ratio and 12th for shots inside the box ratio. They appear to be a team in search for a style of play that will be effective,

Blackburn, by contrast, very much have their style of play and their players signing from the same hymn sheet. Though their ascent towards the top of the league may not have been predicted by their statistical performance data, they have actually improved as the season has progressed. They are one of the form teams in the league in performance, sitting in the top three for expected points over the last four games, though three of those were at Ewood Park.

The science behind Rovers’ rise lies in their defence. 5 clean sheets in their last 6 matches is probably enough to prove that, but it’s not just lucky, they are conceding fewer than four shots in the box against them per game at the moment, second only to West Brom.

Cardiff will find it difficult to score against the 5-3-2 of Blackburn but I don’t see Blackburn being free-flowing in this match either. The recommended bet is a Blackburn Double Chance, I just can’t see them failing to pick up at least a point on Saturday.

Prediction: Blackburn Double Chance, 1.4 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)


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Luton v Bournemouth

Saturday 15th January – 12:30PM KO

In a way both sides have similarities in their pattern of results and performances this season. Both started with their best results and performances early in the season, Luton, in particular, were overachieving with their xG data regularly showing up in the top six of the division throughout August-October.

However, both sides haven’t been able to maintain that form. Luton’s recession has been somewhat alarming. As well as results dropping off (8 points in 8 games) their xG ratio has gone from a net positive to a net negative, meaning that they are now a side that concedes more/better chances than it creates. Not an ideal situation.

Bournemouth have maintained a record of being generally superior to their opposition, but their margins have decreased substantially. Over the last eight games Bournemouth’s expected points total only puts them eighth in the division, just ahead of Hull City and Swansea City. This is put into context when you observe that over the course of a season as a whole they are a clear 3rd in expected points, behind only Fulham and West Brom.

Added complications in this match come in the form of COVID. Luton returned to action for the first time since mid-December with a comfortable 4-0 home victory in the FA Cup. This could prove to be the perfect way of returning to action as they shook off the rust with little danger of consequences.

As a result of this, plus the added positives of Luton’s home form in general, and I am loathe to take them on at the prices. I think Luton will look to keep things tight and with three central defenders to block the spaces for Solanke, a tactic that worked well for Blackburn Rovers recently, this could be a match of few chances.

Bournemouth haven’t scored more than once on their travels since losing 3-2 to Derby in November and Luton’s recent xG has been under a goal a game. Combining these ideas leads me to recommend a wager on Under 2.5 goals in this match.

Prediction: Under 2.5 Goals, 1.80 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)


Preston v Birmingham City

Saturday 15th January – 3PM KO

It feels as though Ryan Lowe has brought a bit of fresh air into Preston and the data would back that up. The Lilywhites are by no means one of the best teams in the division but their last four games have shown an improved performance to rank them in 12th-13th on xG and xPts.

Birmingham have obviously had big struggles with injuries and a small squad for a substantial period of time now. They have slipped down the results and performances tables to an extent that any hope of a top half finish look unlikely. The crisis is showing no signs of abating just yet either, their midfield for this match is likely to be very functional.

I favour Preston in this match-up. They are unlikely to be challenged technically so will need to stand up to the physical battle. If they are able to do this then they can impose themselves and being at home should help this. A simple recommendation of a home win here

Prediction: Preston to Win, 2.0 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)


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Peterborough United v Coventry City

Saturday 15th January – 3PM KO

Whilst a lot of the Posh operation will be in motion on the recruitment side this month Darren Ferguson will be 100% concentrating on getting Peterborough a result here. He is sure to have targeted this match as a potential win with Coventry’s impressive early-season form beginning to subside somewhat. 

Posh have been solid at home of late. Only one defeat in six and that was a 1-0 reverse against Fulham so no disgrace in that. Over the course of the whole season Peterborough have a positive ratio of xG (just about) so they are giving as good as they get at London Road.

Whilst Coventry aren’t picking up the amount of points they were earlier in the season they aren’t playing badly. Their matches have been low-margin and they have just failed to apply the finishing touches on a few occasions. Their away record is fairly standard, creating around about the same chances as they concede.

All of this points to a low-margin, evenly matched game. The advice is to take the Peterborough/Draw Double Chance at 1.61. If the match doesn’t end in a draw then I would favour Peterborough to get the result in this scenario

Prediction: Peterborough Double Chance, 1.61 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️)


Millwall v Nottingham Forest

Saturday 15th January – 3PM KO

Millwall have been very inconsistent of late, which isn’t really something you usually associate with Gary Rowett’s side. Indeed, their last league match away at Bristol City was very uncharacteristic, conceding three goals and throwing away a lead late in a game are not usual Millwall traits. I suspect Rowett will wish to return to a more solid set of practices here.

However, that may not work in their favour. Forest may not have scored in their last two matches but how they didn’t score against Huddersfield is beyond belief. Forest are a high performing team in the Championship under Steve Cooper, lying in a solid 6th position in expected points since Cooper took charge.

It would be a surprise to me if Forest were to go a third successive game without a goal. They are still creating chances and one of them will go in soon. If they do score then it is a struggle to see Millwall getting two to win. Tom Bradshaw is having an excellent season but recent xG data has Millwall getting chances equivalent to 1.1 goal per 90, so to get 2 in a tough game is a stretch.

For the reasons outlined above the recommendation is to look into the double chance market for Nottingham Forest/Draw.

Prediction: Nottingham Forest Double Chance, 1.57 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)


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Huddersfield v Swansea

Saturday 15th January – 3PM KO

Huddersfield have been defying the xG data all season. There is very little impressive on the spreadsheet about their performance, however, when you watch them with the eye test it all becomes clearer. Corberan has found a way to set them up in a very solid manner and then they use the players that they have very effectively.

Effective is probably the wrong word to describe Swansea City at the moment. Whilst their performance data has remained consistently top half (8th for xPts, 11th open play xG) they have had the problem all season of turning their performances and passing into goals and chances.

This is also a match of one of the Championship’s better home records against a struggling away side. This plays into the selection of Huddersfield/Draw Double Chance which is priced at 1.36. 

Prediction: Huddersfield Double Chance , 1.36 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Middlesbrough vs Reading

Saturday 15th January – 3PM KO

The play-off positions are beckoning Middlesbrough like a siren. The investment that is being directed at the January window is already bearing fruit in Aaron Connelly, Folarin Balogun & Caolan Boyd-Munce arriving to be in contention for this match. Adding firepower to an already well performing squad (Last 8 games: 3rd in xPts, 2nd in open play xG ratio) is bound to put some fear into Reading.

This is not the fixture that Reading would’ve wanted straight after being mauled at home against Fulham. This team is simply not as good as Middlesbrough’s and confidence must be at an all-time low. The coach trip up to Teesside would be interesting to see to gauge the state of mind of the players.

It is difficult to make a case for Reading. Middlesbrough haven’t conceded a home goal in their last three matches and look strong in every area of the pitch, especially going forwards with the reinforcements. I think Middlesbrough will find the net at least twice, maybe not seven times, but adding 1.5 goals to the home win covers any home win other than 1-0.

Prediction: Middlesbrough to Win & Over 1.5 Goals, 1.69 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

QPR v West Brom

Saturday 15th January – 3PM KO

It may well be time to make a stance against QPR. Losing Ilias Chair, Seny Dieng, and Osman Kakay to AFCON just adds more doubt to their concerning recent performance drop-off. Taking the last four games as a sample QPR lie 18th in xPts and 24th in open play xG, so they are creating very little and conceding a lot of chances.

West Brom, on the other hand, have continued to dominate the spreadsheet. No team in the Championship concede as few chances as West Brom and though they don’t create as many as some, they still create enough chances to win most games that they play. The problem has been taking them. The solution they have attempted to come up with for this is to sign Daryl Dike, a forward who’s spell at Barnsley in the Championship last season was famous amongst certain circles for how many goals he scored from few good chances. West Brom will be hoping for a repeat performance.

So, West Brom is the side to be on for this fixture. I was tempted by the Draw No Bet option at 1.5 but the better option is to just take the straight win here at 2.15. There is surely a time where West Brom’s dominance of the chance share manifests itself in a result and this feels like the right time to strike against a weakened and off-colour QPR.

Prediction: West Brom Win, 2.15 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Fulham v Bristol City

Saturday 15th January – 3PM KO

Fulham reminded us all that they are the best team in this league by thumping Reading 7-0 away from home last time out. They followed their last 7-0 up by being quite underwhelming for a while though. Marco Silva will surely have been working on his players’ mentality this time in preparation for gaining the points required to seal promotion. They need to keep winning.

Nigel Pearson has very much turned to youth to motivate this Bristol City side. This approach will probably pay off long term for many reasons, but it will be a tough afternoon to rely on academy products and inexperience at Craven Cottage. The Robins have definitely improved though of late, their last 8 matches see them on play-off form in the performance data, 5th on xPts in that period of time.

82% of Bristol City’s away games have gone over 2.5 goals this season. Only half of Fulham’s home games have but it seems as though City are unlikely to have the discipline to simply hold a low block and prevent Fulham from playing. Therefore, it could be worth pairing the home side with over 2.5 goals as a wager.

Prediction: Fulham Win & Over 2.5 Goals, 1.67 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Derby County v Sheffield United

Saturday 15th January – 3PM KO

Wayne Rooney’s remarkable Rams are continuing to confound the critics. They are also confounding the statisticians by picking up points that they don’t seem to deserve on the balance of play. What isn’t covered on a spreadsheet though is the attitude, commitment, honesty and fight of the Derby players. The mixture of youth and experience is helping to provide them with an athletic balance whilst retaining wisdom in the right areas of the pitch.

However, this time it may not be enough. Sheffield United boast a very consistent run of performances. They rank inside the top 6 for xPts, open play xG, shots in the box ratio for whichever sample size of matches you like. The Blades’ away form has been good with three wins in a row, including at Fulham last time out.

The preference is to be with Sheffield United here and backing them as a straight win bet is odds against.

Prediction: Sheffield United Win, 2.15 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Hull City v Stoke City

Sunday 16th January- 12:00PM KO

Grant McCann’s side have shown over a prolonged period of time now that when they are at or near full strength then they are a good enough side to avoid the drop. Using the last 8 matches as a form guide Hull sit 9th in the Championship for expected points, albeit only 21st if the last four is used as a sample. This indicates that they may have peaked a couple of games ago.

Stoke probably peaked in October. They have been the archetypal mid-table side in terms of both results and performances for quite some time now. They have delved into the transfer market already in January and an injection of fresh blood is needed. The chance creation has been very low (0.55 open play xG per 90) but to be fair Stoke have restricted opponents’ chances very well (0.44 open play xG per 90).

The tightness of Stoke’s recent matches combined with the fact that both sides’ matches average less than 2.5 goals per game makes a recommendation of a bet quite straightforward here.

Predicition: Under 2.5 Goals, 1.65 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️)


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