After the international break, Adrian Clarke is refreshed and ready to go for a big weekend of EFL action.
Club football returns! And so too does my EFL Insights column for Matchbook.
Today I am tipping up a pair of promotion challengers to kickstart their run-ins in perfect style…
Fancying a fresher Fulham to see off the Super Hoops
Four defeats in five. Six losses in their last nine. Eight points from a possible 30 since the start of February.
Whichever way you look at Queens Park Rangers’ current form, it’s beginning to feel as if their promotion push has fallen off a cliff. If they haven’t tumbled off the side just yet, Mark Warburton’s out-of-confidence side is certainly wobbling in a rather precarious manner.
Unless Rangers find a spark from somewhere, an unwanted mid-table finish hovers on the horizon.
This weekend the Super Hoops entertain neighbours Fulham, and they will have to do so pretty low on morale and bodies. Star man Chris Willock, plus their number one and two goalkeepers are missing.
From Fulham’s perspective, they should also come into this encounter with replenished energy levels.
Prior to the international break, the Championship’s runaway leaders had begun to look leggy, drawing at Barnsley, before losing unexpectedly at West Bromwich Albion.
The pause came at a good time for them, and having stewed on a couple of substandard performances for long enough I would expect Marco Silva to have his side ready to explode into life in this west London derby.
Promotion to the Premier League beckons and everyone associated with Fulham will want that achievement locked in at the earliest opportunity. A win here, and they are on the verge.
Losing just three of their 18 away games so far (winning 11) Fulham are the best travellers in the division, scoring 45 goals in the process.
And putting that into context, the Championship’s next highest away day goalscorers are QPR on 26!
Recent history in this fixture also favours the Cottagers. They eased to a 4-1 success against QPR at Craven Cottage, which was their fourth consecutive win in this fixture.
The last home win for Rangers against Fulham came in December 2012, courtesy of an Adel Taraabt brace.
Fulham are a short price (1.77) as you’d expect but given how poor QPR have been for quite some time now, that doesn’t feel unbackable to me.
You could stretch out the odds to 2.24 with Fulham on a -1 handicap if you wished, and although I feel Silva’s men are capable of winning by two or more goals I’d prefer to be conservative.
Raising their game in a big-match atmosphere I anticipate a timely bounceback from Fulham. They should have too much for their wilting neighbours.
McKenna’s men to maintain late play-off push
At the start of this season, the rest of League 1 feared Ipswich Town for their depth of quality and ongoing power in the transfer market. Under ambitious new owners, they had assembled an all-star squad that would, on paper, stroll their way to promotion.
The reality has been very different. During the first half of this campaign, the Tractor Boys just couldn’t get going under Paul Cook. One step forward, two steps back. Ipswich lost their fear factor while trudging around in the bottom half.
Now, they’re back in business. The arrival of former Manchester United coach Kieran McKenna was the catalyst for positive change, and in the here and now Ipswich Town are the best team in the league.
Playing a brand of solid but sophisticated pass and move football the Suffolk side are on a menacing 11-match unbeaten run, conceding just two goals along the way.
Their form is so good that League 1 outfits in the play-off positions are getting pangs of apprehension at the very mention of Ipswich Town. Should they win five of their last six games and sneak into the top six, they will undoubtedly be the team to beat.
They are too short to back in isolation (1.42) but Ipswich should have no problems swotting Cambridge United aside on Saturday afternoon.
Mark Bonner’s outfit have heart and are well organised but quality-wise they don’t have players at the same level as their East Anglian counterparts.
Losing four of their last six in League 1 the U’s season is understandably petering out, and with safety assured they do look ideal opposition for a hungry Blues machine at the weekend.
My angle here is to pair an Ipswich victory with Under 3.5 goals.
From Ipswich Town’s 40 matches this term, 31 have ended with three goals or less – and all but one of their wins at Portman Road has come in under that 3.5 threshold too.
Blowing away opponents in end-to-end thrillers hasn’t been part of the Blues’ story this season. They tend to just get the job done without fuss, especially at home.
Cambridge are stubborn and can make this competitive but it’s hard to see past a vital three-point haul for the hosts.
At 1.99 Ipswich & Under 3.5 goals feels like one of the standout selections this weekend.
- Fulham to beat Queens Park Rangers (1.77)
- Ipswich to beat Cambridge & Under 3.5 goals (1.99)
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