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EFL Championship Preview and Best Bets

english championship

Burnley v Blackpool

Burnley win – 8/15 (1.55)

What a grand old fixture this is! Two of the most storied clubs in English football history, well, in the 20th century at least, doing battle on a Saturday afternoon, at 3pm, at Turf Moor. 

Despite the bookies’ odds, I do not by any stretch of the imagination think this is going to be a cakewalk for Burnley. 

Blackpool are one of the most efficient teams in the Football League so far this season, turning their two goals scored across four games into six points to actually come into the game sat a point above their Lancashire neighbours. The Clarets have only scored three themselves, still good enough for five points, one win and two draws following their relegation from the top flight. Only Preston North End, who have six points off the back of one goal scored and none conceded so far this term, have been more efficient. There must be something in that north west air.

I am not expecting this to be a goal-fest either, if I’m honest, Blackpool failed to register against League 2 Barrow at home, eventually going out on penalties in the Carabao Cup, and lost their opening away game at Stoke 2-0, though they bounced back to win 1-0 at QPR against all odds last Saturday.

It is that result which gives me hope that Burnley will not take anything for granted. Vincent Kompany is a relatively inexperienced manager but he’s not stupid, they’ll have watched the tape from Loftus Road to death in an attempt to avoid the same pitfall.

Burnley look like they’ve had a pretty tough start too, they have taken just a single point from their last two but they were away at Watford and at home to Hull, both among the early-season pace setters. They drew their first two home games 1-1 and they have at least made it hard for teams there.

It will take time for Burnley to find consistency after such a lot of upheaval, new manager, departing players, waves of new faces, a new system, and this is a good test of how the first month has gone for Kompany. I suspect it will be tight, I doubt it will be a classic, but I’m edging towards a narrow Burnley win, maybe even a 1-0, and the 1.55 on a Burnley win is too chunky to ignore.

Stoke City v Sunderland

Both teams to score – 4/5 (1.8)

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right… Sunderland are going to be sick of red-and-white stripes after playing Sheffield United and Stoke City away in the space of three days.

Sunderland have made a solid enough start to life back in the second tier following promotion so this will be an interesting barometer of where they might end up this season.

The Black Cats’ two away games have seen them win 3-2 at Bristol City before a battling 2-1 defeat at the Blades on Wednesday night in which they came from behind and pushed for more, but saw four players booked and Daniel Neil sent-off.

They had even more drama at home to QPR last weekend when they led 2-0 for nearly 50 minutes before allowing the Rs to pull one back after 87 minutes and then snatch an injury-time point through a header from keeper Seny Dieng who had gone up for a set-piece.

Alex Neil will be satisfied with the start they’ve made, and especially the fact that Ellis Simms has three goals in four games and Ross Stewart has scored twice too – an encouraging start for a promoted side. They have five points from four games and I expect them to add at least one to the tally here.

Stoke’s start has been less encouraging, in truth. On Wednesday Ian Wright’s grandson – now that makes you feel old, right? – D’Margio Wright-Phillips netted a last-ditch equaliser to complete a see-saw 2-2 draw at home to Middlesbrough. The Potters led early, were pegged back before half-time, fell behind after the hour mark but salvaged a point to keep Boro winless.

It was a second straight home game in which they had scored two, after the 2-0 win over Blackpool on the second Saturday of the season. Their away form is giving more cause for concern however, with just one goal scored and five conceded on their trips to Millwall and Huddersfield, while they were also turfed out of the Carabao Cup on penalties after a draw at lowly Morecambe.

I have a feeling for another score draw here, but the Championship just loves making confidence evaporate in a whirlwind of shock results, injury-time drama and unlikely goalscorers, so instead of playing the result market I’m going to plump for BTTS, as has happened in every one of Sunderland’s games so far this season. The 1.8 on offer won’t make you rich but it’s the best value shout for me and my best bet in the Championship this afternoon.

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