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Birmingham could beat QPR in Championship basement battle

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Idrissa Sylla of Queens Park Rangers
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3pm Saturday

Birmingham v QPR
Birmingham are one of three Sky Bet Championship clubs who failed to win a league match in August but they have been playing some decent football and their fortunes can change with a victory over fellow strugglers QPR.

Only a superior goal difference separates fourth-bottom Birmingham from third-bottom QPR but the markets rate the teams very differently.

QPR are no bigger than 2-1 to be relegated, despite last Saturday's 1-0 home win over Wigan which lifted them off the foot of the table. But Birmingham can be backed at 5-1 for the drop and are only 3-1 to finish in the top half.

Expectations of improvement by Birmingham are well-founded because Garry Monk's side have not been getting what they deserve.

They have lost the shot count in just one of their opening five league games and were hugely impressive when drawing 2-2 at Nottingham Forest last Saturday.

Birmingham dominated the game for 70 minutes until a late flurry from the home side, who netted two late goals to claim a fortunate point.

One of the pleasing aspects for Birmingham were the goals from forwards Lukas Jutkiewicz and Che Adams.

A lack of confidence among the strikers has been an issue but Jutkiewicz and Adams will be feeling a lot better and that can only be bad news for QPR.

The mood has lifted at QPR this week with the Londoners easing to a 3-1 victory over Bristol Rovers in the EFL Cup second round.

But the Hoops were hammered 7-1 at West Brom on the last road trip and their return to the Midlands could bring further disappointment.

3pts Evs bet365, Betfred, Sky Bet

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Sheffield United v Aston Villa
Fresh investment is breathing new life into Aston Villa's promotion challenge and Steve Bruce's men, bolstered by the arrival of Everton loanee Yannick Bolasie, look decent value to beat Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.

The summer was a worrying time for Villa with owner Dr Tony Xia suggesting that cost-cutting measures would have to be implemented.

Star player Jack Grealish looked certain to depart but Xia secured fresh investment from billionaire businessmen Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris and that has made the difference.

Grealish has remained and Villa have set about strengthening the squad by bringing in midfielder John McGinn from Hibernian and arranging loans for Bolasie as well as Anwar El Ghazi from Lille.

They remain unbeaten in the league and will not be too perturbed by Tuesday's 1-0 EFL Cup second-round loss at Burton when largely second-string players were used.

The Sheffield United game was always the main priority for them this week and Villa have a great chance if they can match the home side's physicality and workrate.

The Blades are up into the playoff places after three successive wins but they are working within much tighter financial restrictions than Villa and may not be able to match the away side's quality in attack.

Aston Villa draw no bet
2pts 5-4 Betfair, Paddy Power

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Southend v Charlton
Charlton fans continue to protest at home matches - packets of crisps were their chosen projectiles last week - but plenty of them are making the trip to Southend and they could be rewarded with a decent result.

Unpopular owner Roland Duchatelet continues to keep a tight hold on the Charlton purse strings and has been reluctant to provide funds for squad strengthening.

But Charlton are still a competitive team in Sky Bet League One and are perfectly capable of matching Southend, who have injury problems with midfielders Sam Mantom and Timothy Dieng rated doubtful.

Charlton's injury list has been shortening with influential attackers Igor Vetokele and Tarique Fosu-Henry coming back into the squad and they have a good chance of defeating a Southend side perched just three places and two points above them.

Charlton or draw double chance
2pts 20-21 BoyleSports

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Mansfield v Carlisle
Mansfield's unbeaten start to the season disappeared with a 2-1 loss at West Brom in the EFL Cup second round but their strong performance at the Hawthorns, where they won the shot count 20 to 13, provides further evidence that they can have a strong campaign in Sky Bet League Two.

The Stags take on Carlisle at Field Mill seeking to end a sequence of four successive league draws and look overpriced.

Carlisle are on a three-match winning sequence but they rode their luck during last weekend's 1-0 success at home to Crewe and the match at Mansfield looks tougher.

2pts 23-20 BoyleSports

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Carlisle are on a three-match winning sequence but they rode their luck during last weekend's 1-0 success at home to Crewe
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