With just nine matches left in the 2017/18 Championship season, every point is crucial in both the battle for survival AND the fight for promotion.
All 24 second tier clubs have been eliminated from the FA Cup and that means we’ve got 12 mouth-watering contests to get stuck into this weekend. Check out our top tips:
BRENTFORD vs MIDDLESBROUGH
This has all the makings of an exciting affair. Brentford are usually rock solid on home soil – the Bees have scored in 13 of their previous 15 home league games. It is worth looking at the over 2.5 goals market for this one.
The Griffin Park faithful will be expecting big things from their team as the playoff race heats up. Three points here and Brentford will be right in the mix; they will be just five behind Boro. Write Brentford off at your peril...
But I’m not going for over 2.5 goals here – I’m going for both teams to score at 4/5. Boro, currently sixth in the Championship table, are more than capable of grabbing a goal away from home.
It is hard to place too much faith in Brentford’s defence at this moment in time; the Bees have conceded 45 goals in 37 league games. For that reason, Boro look well placed to push on and lay down the gauntlet in this fixture.
TIP: Both teams to score @ 4/5
Sunderland vs PRESTON NORTH END
Sunderland have won just one of their previous 13 matches in all competitions and the Black Cats look destined for relegation. They are currently five points from safety and just cannot seem to keep a clean sheet...
Chris Coleman’s gamble to take this job has backfired and fans are already preparing for life in the third tier. A win here may spark Sunderland into life but it is all very gloomy at the Stadium of Light.
Sean Maguire has been sensational for Preston in recent weeks, notching four goals in three games since the start of March. Two of those, one against Bolton and the other against Bristol City, turned out to be match-winning goals.
The Irishman missed three months of the campaign through injury but he is now back at his brilliant best and he could be Preston’s difference maker in the playoffs. 6/5 for an away win here is a solid bet.
TIP: Preston to win @ 6/5
Bolton Wanderers vs ASTON VILLA
Hold the front page: Bolton are unbeaten in four Championship games. The Trotters are now out of the relegation zone and Phil Parkinson’s men will be looking to climb the second tier table.
Bolton showed great resilience to earn a draw away at Sheffield Wednesday last time out and plenty of punters will be backing the rejuvenated Wanderers on home soil. For me, that may be a little far-fetched though.
Aston Villa were woeful against Queens Park Rangers this week, conceding three goals in a home league game for the first time since April. Steve Bruce’s men were second best for large periods but I fancy Villa to bounce back.
The visitors have enough quality to cause problems for Bolton and 3/4 is a very good price considering Villa’s form in the second half of the campaign. It won't be easy but this is certainly winnable.
TIP: Aston Villa to win @ 3/4
Derby County vs CARDIFF CITY
It hasn’t gone to plan for Derby in recent weeks. Now seven Championship games without a win, Gary Rowett’s side are under pressure. Still just about fifth in the table but with the chasing pack closing in, a positive result here is vital.
Derby will need everything to go their way in this contest – Cardiff are arguably the best team in the Championship. This is a tough fixture to predict but Derby will be up against it.
Cardiff are building momentum and Neil Warnock’s side could end up winning the title. The Bluebirds have won seven league games on the spin and are unbeaten in 13 – it would be foolish to back against them at this moment in time.
They have a decent record against Derby and 4/9 to avoid defeat is a reasonable price. The Rams are inconsistent and Cardiff can take full advantage of their mishaps here.
TIP: Cardiff to win OR draw @ 4/9
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*