Birmingham v Leeds United: Leeds to win – 8/13
Leeds have lost Jack Clarke back to Spurs and they’re now, all of a sudden, short a couple of bodies in midfield.
It could be worse – Pep Clotet has about 14 midfielders at the club and only Ivan Sunjic resembles a Championship-calibre talent at any stage.
It might seem like an easy pick, but Birmingham have always put it up to Leeds at Elland Road, including Nikola Zigic scoring four at the Yorkshire venue less than a decade ago. I’m sure he had four goals in total before or after that day.
But Leeds, for all their existential crises, are coming up against a side in transition: a transition from being mediocre to being slightly worse than that.
Bristol City v Luton Town: Bristol City to win – 4/6
This is not the time of year for squads that are paper-thin and that’s exactly what Luton have, as well as having a glaring need in most departments.
But you know, it’s best to be kind at this time of year, isn’t it?
One major thing that’s going to cause Luton problems is just how big the pitch at Ashton Gate is. Bar Hillsborough, I suspect it’s likely the biggest in the division and Luton depend on tight spaces to run onto second balls and crosses that can actually find the penalty spot from wide.
Bristol? Home comforts should see them home.
Fulham v Stoke: Stoke Draw No Bet – 11/5
This is a runaway train and you best not try to stop it.
It was long said that players would run through walls for Mick O’Neill and given the industrial nature of Stoke-on-Trent, it always seemed they might need to be more literal with that saying than intended originally.
Stoke’s comeback on Boxing Day is a sign that O’Neill is starting to harness that energy he had with Northern Ireland and I’d nearly back them in an FA Cup tie against Premier League opposition with the full head of steam they’ve currently built up.
Sheffield Wednesday v Cardiff City: Cardiff Draw Double Chance – 11/10
Ah, we’ve found the worst value punt of the day – it’s Sheffield Wednesday.
It’s no surprise that Neil Harris is making a team tough to beat, and you could even argue that their last three draws on the spin have merited more points than they’ve ended up with – but they’re playing well and don’t have many half-bothered players in the squad.
It’s key around this time of the season.
Meanwhile, Garry Monk’s loss to Stoke will likely have deflated his charges. It’s not been long enough since that gut punch to completely get over it and that distaste lingers.
Expect a shaky opening few minutes that sets the town around a venue that’s already full of anxiety.
* All odds correct at time of posting.