After a hectic Christmas schedule, it really has not slowed up for the English clubs so far in 2013.
With the third round of the FA Cup taking place last week, managers of the Championship clubs had a decision to make as to whether to go for it with their strongest side and try to embark on a cup run, or rest their star men and concentrate on the league.
Well, the result was certainly a mixed bag, with Cardiff City and Wolves crashing out to Conference sides Macclesfield Town and Luton Town respectively, which suggested that they were not really bothered about the once-noble idea of a glamorous cup run.
However, Crystal Palace and Blackpool both earned themselves replays with hard-fought draws against Stoke City and Fulham respectively.
So, this weekend normal service resumes and I am back in the Home Heroes saddle with three teams who should get the job done and provide winnings of £104.25 for new customers backing them with their free £20 bet after registering.
Cardiff to beat Ipswich @ 31/50
Having already mentioned the fact that Cardiff dropped a number of first-team players last weekend in their shock defeat to Macclesfield, it is fairly obvious that Malky Mackay will replace all the youngsters with his stars that have performed so superbly in the first half of the season when Ipswich head to Wales.
The Bluebirds are currently sitting pretty at the top of the Championship and if they finish the season as league winners, then a cup defeat at Moss Rose will be nothing more than a distant memory.
Mackay has certainly done a tremendous job at the Cardiff City Stadium, but the same must be said for his opposite number on Saturday afternoon. Since Mick McCarthy has been at the helm at Portman Road, Ipswich have had a new lease of life.
The Tractor Boys do not bear a resemblance to the side that Paul Jewell was in control of in the early stages of the season and the fact that both McCarthy and Mackay have been nominated for Championship Manager of the Month for December shows you just how well the pair are currently doing.
However, despite Ipswich’s turnaround, a trip to Wales will not be a game they will want to remember when they look back on the season.
Cardiff have won 12 of their 13 league fixtures at home and although the loss was a very surprising one to bottom-of-the-league Peterborough United, Ipswich should not cause the Bluebirds any problems as they go in search of a first crack at the Premier League.
Hull to beat Sheffield Wednesday @ 13/20
The Tigers were another side that appeared to sacrifice the possibility of a FA Cup run as they played host to League One Leyton Orient with a weakened starting 11.
The O’s deservedly took the lead late on, but Steve Bruce’s men levelled to force a replay at Brisbane Road – although the idea of having to play another game during a busy period will not be one that Hull’s staff will be relishing.
With the FA Cup off their mind for the time being though, Hull will be looking forward to playing in front of the Sky cameras on Saturday evening as Sheffield Wednesday visit the KC Stadium.
On top of the excitement of TV coverage, Bruce will drill it into his players that a win will move them one step closer to a return to the top flight.
Although it is still early in the season to be talking about promotion, every victory could prove crucial when the points tallies are totted up in May.
The Tigers currently occupy the second automatic promotion spot, two points ahead of Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough in third and fourth respectively.
Without setting the league alight in recent weeks Hull have been steadily going about their business, constantly and quietly moving up the table.
Only four goals in their last four league games does not hint at a side who are hoping to secure promotion to the Premier League, but when you realise the Tigers have only conceded one goal in those four fixtures, you are made fully aware of the efficient nature of Steve Bruce’s side.
Three clean sheets in a row also proves that they are extremely hard to break down and given the fact that the Owls cannot seem to score for love nor money – it’s just one goal in their last three for Dave Jones’ men – do not expect them to be able to break down Hull’s solid rearguard.
Saturday’s match will only go one way: a Hull win, and an easy one at that.
Brighton to beat Derby @ 19/20
Once again in this column the hardest selection is left until the end, but after an impressive victory against Newcastle in the FA Cup last weekend, I expect Brighton to follow that up with a win against a resilient Derby side.
It may seem silly to base a prediction on a success over a depleted, out-of-sorts and completely demoralised Newcastle side, so thankfully I am not falling into that trap – after all, the Seagulls arguably produced an even better performance the week prior to their FA Cup antics as they overturned an in-form Ipswich side.
Gus Poyet’s men travelled to Portman Road having not won in five; however, the south-coast side played with great flair and purpose in an emphatic 3-0 win. Brighton certainly appear to be a confidence side this year and when they record a couple of victories, it normally results in a run of good results.
Throughout August and September, the Seagulls won five on the spin but then proceeded to go seven without a victory. After that shocking run of form though, Poyet’s side then went five unbeaten, which of course makes it extremely difficult to predict exactly what Brighton side will show up at the weekend.
However, two brilliant wins on the bounce will hopefully ensure that the ‘good’ unplayable Brighton will arrive at the Amex on Saturday and put Nigel Clough’s Derby to the sword.