FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Vince Blissett (@Vince_RFC) runs the rule over the final day of action in the Championship on Sunday.
Championship Final Day | Sunday 12:00
The Championship comes to a close on Sunday lunchtime and it’s the bottom of the table where the interest lies. One of Blackburn, Nottingham Forest or Birmingham will find themselves a League 1 club by the time the traditionalists have finished off their last roast potato.
Both Blackburn's trip to Brentford and Forest's clash with Ipswich at the City Ground are being shown on Sky. The mini table is as follows displaying points and goal difference.
Birmingham 50 -20
Forest 48 -13
Blackburn 48 -14
I won’t go through the permutations as we should all be able to figure them out but goal difference could well have a big role to play.
Bristol City v Birmingham | Sunday 12:00
I’ll start with the game not on Sky, Birmingham’s trip to Bristol City. The Blues picked up a vital three points last week as Huddersfield made 10 changes in preparation for a play-off campaign.
Whether that team selection by David Wagner was right or wrong is a discussion for elsewhere but the difference between winning and drawing that game could prove the difference.
Indeed had Harry Redknapp's men lost that game I’d have them down as near certainties to go down due to their goal difference.
That win was their first win in 11 games and just the third in 24 league games since Gary Rowett was dismissed. Another win at Ashton Gate is needed to guarantee safety but that’s unlikely in my opinion so they will be relying on at least one of the others not winning.
Bristol City on the other hand are finishing the season as they started it, on great form. Unbeaten in five with four of those wins, including winning at Brighton last Saturday has propelled them to safety. It’s the home form that has really been a saving grace over the course of the season.
25 of the Robins 54 points have come at home against teams currently in the bottom half of the table with only Cardiff leaving with maximum points after a late comeback. Burton took a point but everyone else in the bottom half has left empty handed.
They’re in great form and confidence will be flowing and I’d be very surprised to see Birmingham pick up the win they need. It’s either win or fingers crossed for Birmingham as a draw is of no use to them.
That all leads me to my first bet, rather than play safe with DNB like I normally would I’m taking the riskier route of Bristol to win at 13/8.
Nottingham Forest v Ipswich | Sunday 12:00 | Sky Sports
Next up is Nottingham Forest, like Bristol it’s their home form that has saved them from being already relegated. When you’re only picking up 11 points from away matches it needs to be good.
Their recent form is nothing to shout about but one thing that you can count on is goals from Forest on home turf. They’ve scored two or more in seven of the last nine at the City Ground and if they make that eight of 10 safety should be assured. Given the opponents just the one goal could well be enough.
Ipswich are, in the nicest possible sense a bit ‘meh’. Not terrible, not great and on the whole a team to avoid from a betting point of view unless you like betting on draws.
They beat Newcastle at Portman Road a few weeks ago but followed that with two 1-0 defeats at Rotherham and home to Sheffield Wednesday.
The Tractor Boys don’t score many on the road, just 18 all season and I can’t see them putting up too much of a fight in this one. There isn’t a betting angle I like in this one but I do think Forest win and finish above Birmingham.
Brentford v Blackburn | Sunday 12:00 | Sky Sports
So that leaves Blackburn who have the toughest game of the three, away to Brentford. The Bees have impressed many over the course of the season with their attacking prowess and have lost just one of the last 8. They will no doubt want to finish on a high but against a team with everything to play for it’s not an easy one to predict.
I’ll admit to having tried to get Blackburn onside a few too many times this season, the table doesn’t lie but I think they’re slightly better than the 22nd best team in the league.
They’ve drawn too many games, 15 to be exact, which has put them where they are. They’ve put up a good fight in the last few weeks picking up eight points from a possible 12 and conceding just a solitary goal in those games. Keeping Brentford quiet won’t be easy but they have a chance.
Again I’ve no interest in match odds but the relegation odds are of interest. Blackburn are 4/7 best price for the drop, Forest 10/3 and Birmingham 11/2.
If Forest get the win that I expect and Birmingham don’t do the same that leaves it all resting on weather Blackburn can get the win required to save themselves and relegate Birmingham.
There’s a good chance they fail to beat Brentford but that 11/2 on Birmingham to be relegated looks good value when everything is taken into consideration.
Fulham v Sheffield Wednesday | Sunday 12:00
There’s one other bet I like from the final round of matches and it comes from two teams looking ahead to the play-offs with Fulham visiting Sheffield Wednesday.
The Owls need to match Huddersfield's result at home to Cardiff in order to seal a home second leg which could prove very important.
After six wins on the bounce I’d be surprised if they don’t play a full strength team to keep the momentum going and to get that top 4 finish.
Fulham on the other hand have 6th place wrapped up, unless Chris Wood can score 13 against Wigan that is, and have a home 1st leg to look forward to next Saturday evening.
With just a possible psychological advantage to be played for Jokanovic could well field a rotated side. It’s all very dependant on the line-ups but at this point Sheffield Wednesday look worthy of having on side at 7/5 to win.
Bristol City v Birmingham – Bristol City to win (13/8 William Hill)
Fulham v Sheffield Wednesday – Sheffield Wednesday to win (7/5 Paddy Power)
Championship Final Day – Birmingham to be relegated (11/2 Bet Stars)