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Wednesday, 16 January, 2019

Former boss Gary Rowett could return to haunt Birmingham

Oxford can take revenge on Walsall

Derby manager Gary Rowett
1 of 1

English Football League
3pm Saturday

Birmingham v Derby
Former Birmingham boss Gary Rowett returns to St Andrew's with his Derby side looking determined to get back to the Premier League and the Rams can consolidate second spot in the Sky Bet Championship with another away triumph.

County, who gave a decent account of themselves at Old Trafford last week before two late Manchester United goals decided the FA Cup tie, have won five of their last seven league road encounters with successes at Ipswich, Barnsley, Middlesbrough, Leeds and Norwich.

Rowett's side have conceded only three goals in their last ten league outings and the Bluenoses will need no telling just how expertly their former manager can organise his teams.

It has been good enough to earn Rowett a new contract this week amid interest from Stoke and the gaffer may well have decided he will be in the top flight soon enough with Derby.

The last away win, 2-1 at Ipswich, was a similar type of contest to this Birmingham trip and Derby totally outclassed the Tractor Boys until a dodgy late spell.

There is firepower in the front players whether it is Dave Nugent or Sam Winnall who partners Matej Vydra, while Tom Huddlestone pulls the strings in midfield.

Huddlestone is vastly experienced at this level and the same is true of centre-backs Richard Keogh and Curtis Davies, who should be up to the task of tackling Birmingham's main threat Sam Gallagher.

Blues have won three on the spin without conceding against Leeds, Reading and Burton but the FA Cup victory over Albion suggests City's recent defensive excellence won't be lasting for long.

Brewers boss Nigel Clough said: "We created more chances against Birmingham than in our last three wins. We had enough chances to win three games."

Burton did not possess the attacking quality to take full advantage but Derby are unlikely to be as wasteful.

1pt 13-10 general

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Sky Bet Championship standings

Walsall v Oxford
One of Walsall's best performances of the season came when beating Oxford 2-1 at the Kassam Stadium but United could get their revenge in the return at Bescot.

There is a disconnect between the fans and management at Walsall which is not doing much to help their home advantage and the Saddlers have been successful in only two of their last 11 games in front of their own supporters.

Home or away Walsall are winless in five and it has not been a particularly difficult run against Northampton, Rochdale, Bristol Rovers, Rotherham and Plymouth. In none of those fixtures did Jon Whitney's men manage to force more shots on target than their opponents. 

Florent Cuvelier and Tyler Roberts return to boost Walsall, although the club were handed a blow earlier this week when centre-back James Wilson was recalled from a loan spell by Sheffield United. 

Wilson was a major part of the Walsall rearguard and as they lose players Oxford are strengthening with Rob Dickie, Isaac Buckley-Rickett and Cameron Brannagan arriving.

Buckley-Rickett is the most interesting of those as the England youth international winger is tipped for a bright future with Manchester City. He had been on loan with Twente in the Eredivisie but City became frustrated over the lack of playing time he was getting. 

Oxford +0.25 on Asian handicap
1pt Evs Paddy Power, 188Bet

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Sky Bet League One standings

Cambridge v Mansfield
Mansfield have a massive FA Cup match with Cardiff on Tuesday for the right to host Manchester City in round four but before that the Stags can maintain their excellent run with a positive result at Cambridge.

Mansfield, disappointing ante-post favourites in Sky Bet League Two, have kicked on after a slow start with one defeat in 19 and welcome back three important players in top goalscorer Danny Rose, captain Zander Diamond and influential midfielder Joel Byrom.

Steve Evans loves a cup run but the league is Mansfield's bread and butter and if Town are focused on this task they should not be considered underdogs.

Mansfield draw no bet
1pt Evs Hills

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Sky Bet League Two standings

Plays of the day

Wolves 4-6
It must be a hard life for Wolves boss Nuno having to choose three attacking players from Jota, Cavaleiro, Costa, Bonatini and new signing Rafa Mir. They should be too hot for Barnsley. 

Doncaster 8-11
Donny are a decent team but look on the short side for this against rapidly-improving Plymouth, who have won five and drawn two of their last seven matches.

Wolves 4-6, Brentford 6-10, Lyon 4-9, Barcelona 4-9 bet365

Both teams to score
Games at Middlesbrough 5-7, Cheltenham 8-11, Exeter 11-13 188Bet

Thought for the week

The Debate on Sky Sports can be well worth watching depending on the nightly panel and it was compelling viewing for all the wrong reasons earlier this week when Danny Murphy was commenting on soon-to-be Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita.

Thankfully the ace Liverpool Echo website jotted down everything he said and some of it went like this: "What I would say is Keita's obviously very athletic, got a lot of qualities – a bit like Jordan Henderson. Professional, good athlete, does his job really, really well.

"But he isn't creative enough if you want to challenge for the title and the Champions League. Someone like Gerrard, Souness, Alonso, Mascherano – these type of players."

There is so much wrong with this assessment it's frightening. Last season only Ousmane Dembele averaged more dribbles per game than Keita in the Bundesliga. Does that sound anything like Jordan ruddy Henderson?

That's right more dribbles than Arjen Robben, Douglas Costa, Thiago Alcantara, Christian Pulisic and Franck Ribery and this season he leads the Bundesliga's dribbling charts.

If only he was as creative as Mascherano... 

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Mansfield, disappointing ante-post favourites in Sky Bet League Two, have kicked on after a slow start with one defeat in 19
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