The festive schedule in the EFL continues on Boxing Day with games across the leagues. Tom Carnduff has three best bets.
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Leeds v Blackburn
Sky Bet Championship, Elland Road, 1500 GMT
Marcelo Bielsa’s men returned to the top of the Sky Bet Championship table with a fantastic victory over Aston Villa on Sunday.
The Whites went 2-0 down after 25 minutes, although second-half goals from Jack Clarke and Pontus Jansson, combined with Kemar Roofe’s strike in the dying moments, gave them the three points.
They welcome Blackburn to Elland Road next and will be eager to utilise that feel-good factor around the club to grab another win here.
Mateusz Klich came close to scoring at Villa Park, and he landed a 3/1 winning tip in our preview of that one with three shots on goal.
I’m willing to keep my faith with him based on that performance for reasons previously outlined.
The Polish midfielder could have grabbed the winner with a curling effort from outside the area, alongside a weak attempt when one-on-one in the first-half could have also easily been a goal.
Leeds will expect to be on the front foot once again in this one, giving Klich plenty of chances to continue adding to his tally.
Best bet: Mateusz Klich to score anytime at 29/10
- Leeds United were defeated 2-1 by Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park earlier this season, in October – it was the Whites’ first league away defeat of the season after remaining unbeaten in their opening six.
- Leeds United have won both of their last two competitive meetings with Blackburn at Elland Road (both in 2016-17), thanks to winning goals coming in the 85th minute or later.
- Leeds United have won their last two Boxing Day games, 2-1 vs Burton in 2017 and 4-1 vs Preston in 2016.
- Blackburn boss Tony Mowbray has won six of his seven Boxing Day matches as a manager (L1) – all six wins were at home, with his only away match ending in defeat at Chelsea as West Brom manager in 2008.
- Leeds have lost just one of their last 15 home Championship matches (W10 D4), a 1-2 defeat to Birmingham City in September.
- Leeds and Blackburn last faced on Boxing Day during the 1992-93 Premier League campaign – Rovers won 3-1 with goals from Jason Wilcox and an Alan Shearer brace.
Middlesbrough v Sheffield Wednesday
Sky Bet Championship Riverside Stadium, 1500 GMT
An intriguing clash this one given the fact that both won last time out, ending fairly poor runs of form.
At the time of writing, Wednesday are still without a permanent manager although Steve Bruce is believed to be taking the job.
Regardless of the managerial situation, Boro will still fancy their chances of victory as they look to push themselves closer to the automatic promotion places.
The general price of odds-on 1/2 reflect that, although they will look to continue their strong defensive record by keeping a clean sheet.
Tony Pulis’ men have conceded just 16 goals in 23 games this season, the lowest in the league, with just seven of those goals coming at the Riverside.
Only Aston Villa, Blackburn, Derby and Nottingham Forest have been able to find the net in front of Boro’s supporters – which creates a tricky afternoon for Sheffield Wednesday.
The Owls have won just three on the road, with the 13 away goals they have scored putting them among the lowest in the division.
Backing a home win to nil gives a best-price of 7/5, which looks much more appealing than the general price on just a Boro victory.
Best bet: Middlesbrough to win to nil at 7/5
- Middlesbrough are unbeaten in their last six competitive meetings with Sheffield Wednesday; winning five of those games and drawing one.
- Sheffield Wednesday have won just one of their last 13 competitive away games against Middlesbrough (D4 L8) – this came in August 2014 thanks to a 3-2 win in the Championship, with two of their goals coming from striker Atdhe Nuhiu.
- Sheffield Wednesday haven’t lost on Boxing Day since 2011 and have won on Boxing Day in each of the last four years.
- Middlesbrough have won their last six Boxing Day matches at the Riverside Stadium, a run stretching back to 2009, with all matches coming in the Championship.
- Tony Pulis faced Sheffield Wednesday on Boxing Day in 2006 when he was Stoke manager – the Owls won 2-1.
- Sheffield Wednesday have collected just one point in their last five away Championship games (P5 W0 D1 L4), a goalless draw against Sheffield United.
Sheffield United v Derby
Sky Bet Championship, Bramall Lane, 1500 GMT, Sky Sports Main Event
The game receiving the main Sky Sports treatment on Boxing Day is a real Christmas cracker (I know I've used that phrase before but I just love it too much) as Sheffield United welcome Derby to Bramall Lane.
These two sides hold promotion aspirations this season and come into this one on the back of draws last weekend.
The Rams were victorious the last time these two sides met as Jack Marriott's second-half strike wrapped up the three points in a 2-1 win.
You'd expect Marriott to be amongst the goals again in what promises to be a high-scoring encounter, that said he did start on the bench in Bristol last weekend.
One avenue to explore here is cards given the fact that Derby sit fourth for yellows shown this season. That could also draw the Blades into a game where they too are on the receiving end of the cautions.
That could signal trouble for David McGoldrick - with the Sheffield United striker having four yellows on his tally already this season.
McGoldrick has committed the joint-most fouls in this Blades squad, and at a huge price of 10/1, the value is definitely there in backing him to be shown a card in a game like this.
With him on 30 fouls committed is Oli Norwood, and it's also worth backing him at that 4/1 mark to join McGoldrick in the book.
Norwood has four yellows to his name this season, which includes one in their draw with Ipswich last time out.
Best bet: Oli Norwood to be shown a card at 4/1
- Sheffield United have picked up just one point from their two league games against Derby County so far in 2018; drawing 1-1 at Derby on New Year’s Day, before losing 2-1 away in October.
- Derby County have scored in each of their last seven away trips to Sheffield United (eight goals), last failing to do so in March 2003.
- Derby last lost a league game on Boxing Day in 2012 and have since gone four games without a defeat; drawing on this day in 2017 and 2013 and winning on 2014 and 2015.
- Sheffield United have won both of their Boxing Day matches under Chris Wilder, winning 2-0 against Oldham in 2016 and 3-0 against Sunderland in 2017.
- Sheffield United haven’t lost three consecutive home league matches since February 2013 when they were in League One.
- Derby have lost none of their last 11 away league matches in December (W7 D4).
Swansea v Aston Villa
Sky Bet Championship, Liberty Stadium, 1500 GMT
Aston Villa looked in a commanding position after just 17 minutes against Leeds, but a fantastic comeback from Marcelo Bielsa's men meant the hosts left empty-handed.
Goals have been no issue for Villa at the moment, but defensively they are light on numbers and will struggle to keep a clean sheet here.
They do have to really embrace Dean Smith's attacking philosophy to battle through a tricky time like this, which could set it up to be a highly-entertaining encounter.
Swansea' Bersant Celina will see this game as another one to continue his recent good form in front of goal.
The attacking midfielder has found the net in their last two games, taking his total tally to four for the season.
Against a makeshift Villa defence who are light on numbers, there is every chance that he could strike once again on Boxing Day.
He may have made an impact in the last two games from the bench, but you feel that recent form may be enough to force himself into the starting XI.
For the visitors, Conor Hourihane has enjoyed playing a more advanced role with Jack Grealish absent and did net in that defeat to Leeds.
He's proven to be a threat from both open play and dead-ball situations, which makes his best price of 5/1 to net anytime in this one worth taking.
Best bet: Bersant Celina to score anytime at 4/1
Best bet: Conor Hourihane to score anytime at 5/1
- Swansea have won five of their last six competitive meetings with Aston Villa, although they lost their previous Championship game with them earlier this season; 0-1 at Villa Park.
- Four of the last five meetings between Aston Villa and Swansea City have ended in a 1-0 win; three in favour of Swansea and one for Aston Villa.
- Aston Villa’s last win in Swansea came back in December 1971 (2-1), but they have since gone seven trips there without a victory (W0 D2 L5).
- Since 1990, Aston Villa have played on Boxing Day on 25 occasions but they have won just five of those games: in 1991, 1997, 1999, 2005 and 2016.
- Swansea have lost their last two Boxing Day matches by an aggregate score of 1-9 – they lost 1-4 to West Ham in 2016 and 0-5 to Liverpool last year.
- Swansea have lost their last five home league matches played on a Wednesday since a 3-0 win over Newcastle United in December 2013.
Odds correct at 1130 GMT (24/12/18)