Round 43 saw Brighton seal promotion to the Premier League, where they’ll make their first appearance in English football's top flight for thirty-four years. Newcastle continued their indifferent form with defeat at Ipswich. If it wasn’t for Huddersfield dropping points their automatic promotion spot would be under serious threat, but with just three games remaining they effectively need one win to ensure promotion. Five clubs are in the running for the four play-off places, and there are still seven clubs realistically involved in the battle to avoid relegation. One of those clubs is Birmingham City, whom this week finally lost patience with Gianfranco Zola replacing him with the mercurial Harry Redknapp.
Bristol City v Barnsley
Whilst the Robins currently sit four places and just four points above the drop zone, their recent form suggests they should do enough to avoid relegation. They’ve gained a respectable seven points from their last three games, and importantly; won all of their last three at Ashton Gate. This solid home form (including the remarkable 4-0 demolition of fourth-placed Huddersfield) has come just at the right time for a team that just a month ago looked strong favourites for relegation.
Barnsley have proved themselves to be a stubborn opponent over the course of the season. Had they not lost three of their best players in the January transfer window they’d probably be challenging for the play-offs. This was a huge loss for them, and whilst they’ve only won two of their last twelve games, they’ve also drawn five, which highlights their resilience and strong team spirit. Given that they’re safe in mid-table, and with in-form City treating this as another ‘must win’ game to stay up, I’m backing the home win at 1.73 with Paddy Power.
Rotherham United v Ipswich Town
The Millers have had a truly woeful season with just four wins from forty-three games. Whilst their fate was sealed a fortnight ago we’ve long known that they were nailed on to be relegated back to League One. This has been one of the worst campaigns in modern times from any team at this level and they will be glad to see the back of this league.
Draw specialists Ipswich have had an upturn in fortunes recently, recording three wins from their last four games, including Monday’s impressive 3-1 victory over high-flying Newcastle. In this sort of form it’s hard to oppose the straight away win, and at 1.95 with BetVictor, this represents great value against a Rotherham side that have lost eleven of their last twelve games. With Rotherham’s tendency to collapse in the second half of games, I also like the look of Highest Scoring Half – Second Half at 2.00 with Bet365.
Sheffield Wednesday v Derby County
The Owls are currently in fifth place, clinging onto a playoff spot under strong pressure from the teams just below them. They face a tricky final three games including a trip to Ipswich and a final day shoot-out against in-form Fulham. With Fulham and Leeds just two points behind them Wednesday simply cannot afford to drop points here, so they will treat this game as a ‘must-win’.
After Monday’s 1-1 draw with Huddersfield, Derby’s slim playoffs hopes were finally extinguished. With nothing to play for, they’ll be looking forward to next season, where they’ll be hoping to improve on this season’s showing. With four wins from their last four games (including home wins against Newcastle and Cardiff) Wednesday will be full of confidence and highly motivated heading into this match; so I’m backing the home win at 1.83 with green listed bookmaker BetVictor.