Norwich vs Middlesbrough | Saturday 30th January 2021, 12:30 | Sky Sports
After a sorry one-year stay in the Premier League, Norwich took time to find their range on their return to the Championship. The Canaries collected only four points from their first 12 on offer and questions were beginning to be asked of Daniel Farke’s ability to stem the tide.
However, the Norfolk outfit have been in ruthless form since October’s international break, earning 49 points from a possible 63 (W15-D4-L2) to move into pole position for automatic promotion. The table-toppers have been particularly proficient at Carrow Road, posting W8-D4-L1 despite enduring a lengthily injury-list on various occasions throughout the campaign.
Jordan Hugill limped off in last week’s FA Cup exit but there’s hope that either Teemu Pukki or Adam Idah might be fit enough to feature on Saturday, whilst Todd Cantwell is tipped to return to the XI to bolster Norwich’s attacking ranks. And the Canaries should have too much in their tank for a Middlesbrough side that are also enduring their own injury issues.
Boro slipped to a third successive home defeat on Wednesday night as Neil Warnock’s patched-up outfit were comfortably beaten 3-0 by struggling Rotherham at the Riverside. The presence and dominance of Dael Fry at the back was particularly missed, whilst Anfernee Dijksteel, Marcus Tavernier or Marcus Browne were also unavailable.
With Fry likely to be out of action again, I’m happy to oppose the Teessiders. Boro have been beaten in four of six league matches since Christmas and their indifferent form extends back to November’s international break with Boro losing eight of their most recent 15 Championship encounters.
Exclude the bottom-six and the visitors have posted W1-D4-L4 on the road. Middlesbrough have managed only two shutouts in 13 league matches since late November, none of which were achieved on Boro’s travels, whilst the guests have scored a solitary goal in six away days at fellow top-half teams this term.
Therefore, Norwich to win and Under 4.5 Goals at 11/10 (Betway) holds plenty of appeal. The table-toppers have notched in 21 of their 25 outings since demotion, although high-scoring encounters have still tended to be relatively rare – 15 of their 16 Championship triumphs have arrived alongside Under 4.5 Goals.
Oxford vs Fleetwood | Saturday 30th January 2021, 15:00
Oxford are League One’s form team right now with the Yellows losing just once since mid-November, a 12-game streak (W7-D4-L1) that includes six successive victories. Admittedly, the schedule has been kind on Karl Robinson’s charges of late but few could argue the U’s aren’t on the right road to a belated promotion push considering the quality of the squad.
A play-off final hangover was perhaps inevitable in hindsight and Oxford took time to find their footing after a disrupted year. Seven defeats in the side’s opening 10 contests left the Yellows entrenched in the bottom-four, whilst injury and fitness issues continue to hamper.
Robinson has always pleaded for patience in his quest to fully ingrain a possession-based style of football in a group of players and his promises do appear to be coming to fruition once more. Oxford – 11th ahead of the weekend – boast a W10-D1-L3 return against sides below them and are worth chancing at evens (Novibet) against Fleetwood on Saturday.
Fleetwood have earned top honours once in league football since mid-November (W1-D6-L4) and are yet to appoint a successor to Joey Barton in the dugout. Youth team boss Simon Wiles remains in caretaker charge and the Cod Army supremo is struggling to get a tune out of a talented squad that’s scored just five goals in those aforementioned 11 matches.
Town have toiled against League One’s leading lights, posting W1-D4-L4 against top-10 outfits and have already been turned over in half of their 12 away days across the league campaign as a whole. The visitors look likely to be outclassed on their long trip south.
Cambridge vs Crawley | Saturday 30th January 2021, 15:00
Cambridge have sustained an unlikely promotion challenge in League Two this term with boss Mark Bonner earning plenty of positive reviews for overseeing a dramatic transformation with The U’s. The Yellows have built their season upon solid foundations, leaking more than a solitary strike on only four occasions in 2020/21, a league-best.
However, Bonner is going to be forced into a reshuffle at the back for Saturday’s showdown with in-form Crawley following the departure of his two trusted centre-halves. Highly-rated Harry Darling sealed a move to MK Dons, whilst loanee Robbie Cundy was recalled by Bristol City before moving to Gillingham to test himself at a higher level.
The duo made 33 appearances in the heart of Cambridge’s backline, and although Bonner has promised at least one incoming player to fill that void before the end of the transfer window, the Yellows will need to find a formula from Greg Taylor and Jubril Okedina, with Paul Digby and Jack Iredale potential options if required to fill-in.
Visitors Crawley saw their FA Cup journey ended in midweek against Bournemouth but the Red Devils produced a performance to be proud of and head to The Abbey without a defeat in eight League Two tussles (W4-D4-L0). John Yems’ men have scored in 18 of their 22 league outings thus far and will hope to cause problems for Cambridge’s new-look defence.
Town have suffered only six losses in 22 and returned a reasonable W4-D4-L4 on their travels, whilst managing an impressive W4-D2-L2 when taking on top-eight teams this term. With that in mind, I’m keen to take on the 4/5 (Bet365) for Crawley to avoid defeat in the Double Chance market, as well as scoring in Saturday’s showdown at Cambridge.