Arveladze’s struggles to continue in Humberside
Hull 5.79/2 v Fulham 1.748/11; The Draw 3.814/5
Despite getting off the best possible start, Shota Arveladze has subsequently struggled to get a tune out of his side. Worryingly, George Honeyman suggested that his team must improve ‘in every department’ following their tame collapse at Pride Park on Tuesday night, and with the January transfer window now closed, Arveladze must work with the players at his disposal.
The Tigers have a ten point buffer and are unlikely to be sucked into a relegation battle, however, they have been desperately poor in the final third and have netted just six times in their last eight outings. Under the previous regime, the hosts were perfectly capable of springing a surprise when hosting Championship high-flyers and managed to hold Bournemouth to a goalless draw in August. Having also beaten Blackburn at this venue, there’s always a chance that the Humberside outfit can defy the odds, however, they have looked bereft of confidence in their last two outings.
It’s been five years since Marco Silva was last stood in the home dugout, and the Portuguese boss will be hoping to beat his former employers once again. Fulham haven’t managed to do the double over the Tigers in almost 25 years, however, recent form suggests that they should be able to make light work of their hosts.
Having only failed to score once away from home this season, and having sliced through Millwall in midweek, the visitors will be full of confidence and will be looking to pick up their sixth win of 2022. They’ve scored 26 times since the New Year’s Day and should have very few issues finding a way through the Tigers’ back-line.
Recommended Bet: Back Fulham to beat Hull @ 1.748/11
QPR to edge out stubborn Tykes at Oakwell
Barnsley 43/1 v QPR 2.021/1; The Draw 3.55
Barnsley have battled admirably in recent weeks, however, the Tykes are lacking quality and their squad is simply not good enough to compete at this level. The South Yorkhire outfit have lost six in a row, with five of those defeats having been settled by a single goal margin.
Carlton Morris is the only real goal threat in the XI and with just three goals in their last seven matches, the hosts will need to significantly improve their output if they are to miraculously avoid the drop.
QPR continue to impress and although they were second best against Middlesbrough in midweek, they are now unbeaten in their last seven outings and haven’t lost on their travels since October 23rd. With the majority of their squad available, the R’s are likely to be too strong for the hosts on Saturday afternoon.
Five of QPR’s last six victories have also been settled by a one goal margin, so this is unlikely to be a straightforward away assignment for the Rs. However, they have an extra sprinkling of quality and should be able to take all three points back to West London.
Recommended Bet: Back QPR to beat Barnsley @ 2.021/1
Hatters to take at least a point back to Kenilworth Road
Birmingham 2.9215/8 v Luton 2.68/5; The Draw 3.211/5
Birmingham fans may be disenfranchised with off-the-field matters, however, they’re also slowly becoming frustrated by what they’re witnessing on the pitch. The Blues have won just one of their last 11 games, a narrow victory over hapless Barnsley last month.
Although Lyle Taylor has added some much needed quality in the final third, the hosts just cannot seem to keep the opposition off the scoresheet and have shipped nine in their last four. Fans have asked to see more of loanee Onel Hernandez with the Cuban having impressed with his energy and willingness to run at defenders, and he may have done enough to earn a start on Saturday.
Luton weren’t at their best against Barnsley, however, the Hatters have the ability to edge out the opposition and having won six of their last nine Championship outings, they will be full of confidence heading into this tie. The Hatters have been excellent on the road and have kept clean sheets in four of their last five away games. Luton won 1-0 on their previous visit to this stadium and we could see a similar outcome this time around.
Recommended Bet: Back Luton Draw No Bet (vs Birmingham) @ [3/4]
Seasiders and Cherries to serve up an entertaining 90 minutes
Blackpool 5.24/1 v Bournemouth 2.0421/20; The Draw 3.55/2
Blackpool remain unbeaten in 2022 and although they were poor in the second half against Coventry in midweek, they still managed to come away with a point. Realistically, the Seasiders aren’t going to mount a play-off challenge, however, they are building for next season and the appointment of experienced coach Iain Brunskill is further evidence that the Lancashire club have been shifting their focus towards developing younger players.
The hosts have the ability to upset the bigger teams in the division and currently remain undefeated in each of their five fixtures against top four opposition.
The Cherries put their recent woes firmly behind them as they eased past struggling Birmingham in midweek. However, Scott Parker’s men still aren’t completely convincing. Despite this, they’ve suffered just three away defeats so far this season and have found the net in nine of their last ten on the road. Jefferson Lerma’s suspension may force them into a reshuffle, however, they have enough quality in the final third to register at Bloomfield Road.
Recommended Bet: Back BTTS in Blackpool vs Bournemouth @ 1.981/1
Boro to edge past plucky Rams
Middlesbrough 1.728/11 v Derby 5.95/1; The Draw 3.65
Boro put in a fantastic display at the Kiyan Prince in midweek and they could easily have been 3-0 up inside the first 20 minutes. With Duncan Watmore in the XI, the Teessiders look full of energy and although the former Sunderland man’s minutes have to be managed carefully, he may be given another chance to impress here.
With just one defeat in their last ten outings, Chris Wilder’s men are in superb form and they have conceded just one goal in their last five matches at the Riverside Stadium. Martin Payero’s late injury is a concern, however, the hosts now have enough strength-in-depth to cope with this quick turnaround.
In comparison, Derby’s squad is paper-thin and this could be a tough ask. They have enjoyed an additional 24 hours rest ahead of this fixture, however, their away form is poor. They are within four points of safety and there is still plenty to play for, however, this is one of their trickiest away trips of the season. The Rams have lost three of their last five on the road and having scored just eight in their last 13.
Recommended Bet: Back Middlesbrough to beat Derby @ 1.728/11
Bluebirds to extend unbeaten run
Millwall 2.285/4 v Cardiff 3.613/5; The Draw 3.3512/5
Millwall have lost four of their last six matches, however, they remain a decent home side and have suffered just three defeats at the Den. The Bermondsey side have conceded just four times in their last seven outings here and although their lack of penetration and creativity in the final third has led to some grumblings on the terraces, Gary Rowett’s men do not make it easy for sides to leave this stadium with maximum points.
Nevertheless, Cardiff arrive in SE16 on the back of three consecutive victories and look full of confidence. They swept aside lowly Peterborough with a confident display on Wednesday night and they appear to have found the right balance between youth and experience.
With the nous and finishing ability of Jordan Hugill and the strength and persistance of Uche Ikpeazu, the Bluebirds carry a constant threat. They also have a fantastic crop of younger players including Isaak Davies, Joel Bagan and the on-loan Cody Drameh. Although the hosts will not roll over easily, it could be worth backing the in-form visitors to take at least a point back down the M4.
Recommended Bet: Back Cardiff Draw No Bet (vs Millwall) @ 2.47/5
Forest to enhance their top six credentials
Nottingham Forest 2.427/5 v Stoke 3.39/4; The Draw 3.39/4
Nottingham Forest look unstoppable. In the space of seven days, Steve Cooper has masterminded an FA Cup success against Premier League opposition and a 2-0 victory over potential play-off rivals Blackburn.
The addition of Steve Cook appears to be a masterstroke and the experienced defender has linked up well with Scott McKenna at the back. Keinan Davies and Brennan Johnson offer energy and endeavour in the final third and its difficult to find any weaknesses in their squad. They have been completely transformed in recent months and they will fancy their chances of making it five victories in six outings.
Stoke got back to winning ways in midweek and claimed a much-needed victory over Swansea. However, the Potters have lost four of their last seven and although performances are slowly improving, they may find it tough to halt the Nottingham Forest juggernaut this weekend. Last month saw another squad overhaul, however, it’s the emergence of former Villa youngster Jaden Philogene-Bidace which has excited fans and Michael O’Neill is likely to give the 19-year old another chance to impress this weekend.
Recommended Bet: Back Nottingham Forest to beat Stoke @ 2.427/5
PNE to pick another away victory
Peterborough 3.45 v Preston 2.285/4; The Draw 3.55
Peterborough took another step towards an instant return to League One on Wednesday night with a hapless display on their travels. Although Posh have been better on their own patch, they are now winless in six and the departure of Siriki Dembele has left them light on creativity in the final third. They’ve scored just four times in their last six home matches and having failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last eight, they are likely to buckle under PNE pressure.
Although they haven’t been completely transformed under Ryan Lowe, Preston have become a lot tougher to beat since the managerial switch. The Liverpudlian has suffered just a single defeat since taking over at Deepdale and although he’s often regarded as an attack-minded manager, he’s also overseen three consecutive clean sheets heading into this fixture. They haven’t been breached in any of their last three away games and one goal may be enough to win this.
Recommended Bet: Back Preston to beat Peterborough @ 2.285/4
BTTS at the Madejski
Reading 3.711/4 v Coventry 2.186/5; The Draw 3.55/2
Reading have suffered six consecutive defeats and the Royals are now teetering precariously over the relegation precipice. Although their performance against Bristol City was far from vintage, they looked far more accomplished following the introduction of John Swift. Despite their poor form, the Royals have netted in three of their last five and look capable of producing the occasional moment of quality in the final third.
Coventry picked up a point in midweek and although the play-offs now appear to be a pipe dream for Mark Robins’ men, the majority of fans will be satisfied with a top half finish this season. The resurgence of Viktor Gyokeres is a plus, and keeping hold of Ben Sheaf in January was also vitally important.
The Sky Blues have struggled for consistency in recent weeks, however, they have lost just one of their last six on the road. They should have scored against Middlesbrough, although having found the back of the net in six of their last eight away games, it won’t take much to find a way through the porous Royals’ defence.
Recommended Bet: Back BTTS in Reading vs Coventry @ 1.774/5
You can follow Jack Critchley on Twitter @jcritch7