Saturday Championship Tips: Stoke to pick up successive Championship victories

Jack Critchley previews this Saturday's 3pm Championship games and is expecting new Stoke boss Michael O'Neill to make it two wins on the spin...


Wigan's poor away form to continue in the Potteries

Stoke 1.87 v Wigan 5.00; The Draw 3.50
Michael O'Neill got off to the ideal start with a 4-2 victory over Barnsley at Oakwell a fortnight ago. Although the performance was far from perfect, Potters fans will have been hugely encouraged to see their side score four times in a single match for the first time since December 2015. Sam Clucas was instrumental in Stoke's success in South Yorkshire, and the Hereford-born midfielder will be hoping to be fit enough to face Wigan on Saturday afternoon.
The new boss certainly has plenty of options when it comes to rotating his squad and if the former Hull man isn't able to take part, the more defensive-minded Badou Ndiaye may be a ready-made replacement. Former Latic Nick Powell will also be hoping he's done enough to earn a start against his former employers. The Potters still lack a little creativity going forward and the injury-prone playmaker could be the key to unlocking Wigan's defence.
Paul Cook will be forced into a defensive change ahead of this game with Cedric Kipre unavailable following his red card against Brentford two weeks ago. The French defender has formed a solid partnership with Cheyenne Dunkley this season and his absence is a significant blow for the visitors.
Wigan's form on the road remains a concern with the Lancashire club failing to score in three of their last four away matches. They've found the net on just five occasions this season, although they did manage to secure a 2-2 draw at Ashton Gate at the end of last month.
There is a lack of creativity in their midfield and they do have a tendency to rely on set-pieces. They've scored just five times from open play in the Championship since the beginning of August, and they could struggle against an increasingly-organised Stoke outfit. The hosts are likely to be significantly tougher to break down under O'Neill and preventing the concession of cheap goals is something that he is keen to eliminate.
Although a complete transformation is unlikely to take place ahead of the weekend, Stoke showed enough fight against the Tykes to suggest that they can take three points from this game. They are searching for just their second home win of the campaign and this appears to be the ideal opportunity to put some smiles back on the faces of the long-suffering home fans. The hosts can be backed at 1.87 on the Exchange and against a side who have won just one of their last 29 away games, they will fancy their chances of collecting three points on Saturday afternoon.

Both teams to hit the target in South Wales

Swansea 2.02 v Millwall 4.20; The Draw 3.50
Following a temporary blip, Swansea's promotion campaign appears to be back on track. Steve Cooper's side sit fourth in the Championship table and are just four points off top spot. Their home form has been a little underwhelming so far this campaign, although their 1-0 victory in the South Wales derby at the end of October was arguably their best performance at the Liberty this season.
Despite managing to keep Cardiff off the score-sheet on that occasion, the Swans have struggled to keep clean sheets and they've conceded in seven of their last eight matches. Despite being seemingly in control a fortnight ago, they somehow let Sheffield Wednesday back into the game and required a last-gasp Ben Wilmot strike to claim a share of the spoils.
At the other end of the field, Swansea have been fairly clinical with a rejuvenated Andre Ayew hitting top form. He's been involved in five goals in his last eight appearances, scoring on four occasions, and he is likely to prove a handful for Millwall's defence on Saturday afternoon. Only four sides have kept them off the score-sheet this season and the Lions appear unlikely to chalk up their first away clean sheet of the campaign in this fixture.
Since Gary Rowett's appointment last month, the Bermondsey side have improved in all areas of the pitch and they've lost just two of their last eight Championship games. They've found the net in each of their last nine fixtures and have notched in each of their last four on the road.
Although the visitors have won just one of their last five visits to Swansea, the Lions are likely to be fairly competitive throughout this contest and they should create chances. They managed 14 shots against Reading at the Madejski and probably should have taken something from the game. If things aren't going their way, they can go more direct and utilise the towering presence of Matt Smith from set-pieces.
BTTS has landed in 50% of Swansea's home games this season and it's hard to envisage this contest being a low-scoring affair. It's 20/23 on the Sportsbook for both teams to score and that appears to be the best way to approach this intriguing tie at the Liberty.

An entertaining afternoon awaits at Ashton Gate

Bristol City 2.42 v Nottingham Forest 3.20; The Draw 3.45
Despite winning 43% of their matches at Ashton Gate, Bristol City have probably been more reliable on the road this season. Lee Johnson's side have suffered just a single defeat since the opening weekend of the campaign with an uncharacteristically lethargic performance at Kenilworth Road in mid-October being the only blot on their copybook. Despite sitting inside the play-off positions, the Robins have struggled to keep key players fit over the last couple of months with the striking department taking the brunt of it.
Despite a lack of available firepower, the hosts have registered in 14 of their 16 Championship fixtures this season and they should be able to find the back of the net once again this weekend. However, they have shown some defensive vulnerabilities in recent weeks with low-scoring duo Wigan and Middlesbrough both finding the net here on multiple occasions. City also blew a two-goal lead against a struggling Barnsley side at Oakwell at the beginning of November.
Nottingham Forest have become the away specialists of the division with Sabri Lamouchi's side seemingly enjoying life on the road. They've suffered just a single defeat on their travels and have scored in seven of their last eight fixtures outside of the East Midlands. Only Wigan have prevented them from hitting the target so far, despite the Tricky Trees firing in 18 shots at the DW.
Lewis Grabban is likely to prove a tricky customer for the Bristol City defence with the experienced striker scoring five of Forest's 11 away goals. He should give Ashley Williams, Tomas Kalas and Nathan Baker plenty of think about on Saturday afternoon.
Both teams have found the net in each of the last three meetings between these sides at this ground and I'm expecting this contest to follow suit. BTTS is available at 1.74 on the Exchange and that looks decent value in this battle between two play-off hopefuls.

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