Weekend betting column: Preston North End worth backing to win at Reading
32Red’s betting expert Jack Milner takes a look a the race to reach the Premier League as the Championship’s play-off battle hots up.
As great as it was to watch England succeed, there will be cries of joy across the land as ‘proper’ football returns this weekend, with the play-off picture growing ever tighter in English football’s second-tier.
Preston made it 12 games unbeaten last time out in the most dramatic of fashions, beating Birmingham 1-0 at Deepdale, and 32Red make them 7/5 favourites to follow up at Reading on Saturday.
The hosts are 2/1 and the draw 23/10. Preston have been cut to 16/1 to be playing Premier League football next season, having been 100/1 in January, and are likely to shorten with a further three points at the weekend.
Alex Neil’s side are 15/2 to beat Reading by the solitary goal at the weekend, and odds-on to extend their unbeaten run to 13 in Berkshire.
Back-to-back wins for West Bromwich has eased the departure of long-time fans’ favourite Darren Moore in the Baggies’ dugout and they remain, realistically, the only side that could challenge the ‘big three’ at the top of the table for promotion.
So 32Red are 5/1 for WBA to return to the top flight at the first time of asking ; however, they look set to rely on the play-offs with Norwich looking certainties to go up with either Leeds or Sheffield United.
The former are likely to return to winning ways since losing to the Blades prior to the break, with Millwall travelling up the M1 on Saturday – Leeds 4/9 favourites, the visitors 6/1 and the draw 3s.
The Blades’ win saw them leapfrog Leeds into second place and with their brilliant defensive record seeing them win despite not playing well, they look a great bet to beat Bristol City at Bramall Lane – the Robins 4/1 and the draw 11/4.
City’s long winning run before Christmas propelled them into a top-six place but they have struggled to build momentum in the New Year, now winless in their last five, and looking increasingly likely to lose out on a play-off spot to the in-form pair of either Aston Villa or Preston.
North End are level on points with Aston Villa, with the latter transformed since the return of talisman Jack Grealish from injury.
Grealish returned to score the winner in the Birmingham derby, and was imperious as Villa beat Boro 3-0 prior to the international break. Villa look a great bet at 11/2 to be playing Premier League football next season.
Villa are unopposable at 4/6 when hosting Blackburn, and look sure to be a fixture in plenty of weekend accas, presumably seen as a ‘home banker’ by weekend punters.
Rovers are 4/1 and the draw 7/2.
Derby remain the forgotten side of the play-off picture, now 11/1 with principal partners 32Red, and should return from the break refreshed with just eight games of the season remaining, Frank Lampard’s side showed inexperience in the 4-0 thumping they took at Villa Park at the start of month, and arguably should have gained more than a point from the previous games against Sheffield Wednesday and Stoke City respectively.
Like Villa, Derby are 4/6 with 32Red to win on home soil at the weekend, and should have too much class in the final third when hosting Rotherham at Pride Park – the Millers 5/1 and the draw 14/5.
Derby could potentially leapfrog Boro into fifth should results go in their favour at the weekend, and Boro boss Tony Pulis is sure to be feeling the strain of Derby, Villa and Preston breathing down their necks.
Boro host Norwich at The Riverside in Saturday’s evening kick-off with 32Red Matchday Sponsors and I’ll be there presenting the man of the match award – fingers crossed it’s to a player in red and white.
Middlesbrough have lost their last three league games, including defeats to PNE and Villa, and need both a result and a performance against the league leaders to appease a growing angry home faithful on Teesside – Boro 2/1 to bounce back to winning ways, the Canaries 6/4 favourites with 32Red and 5/2 to return to East Anglia with a point.
For all the latest odds head to www.32Red.com.