James Milton's Weekend EFL and European football predictions & free accumulators
Cherries set for more Championship cheer against leaders
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1pt 3-4 Betfred, BoyleSports, Hills
2pts 8-5 Betfred, Hills
2pts 21-20 Hills
Bournemouth v Reading
Reading are still top of the Championship thanks to seven wins in their first eight league games but the Royals are undoubtedly on the slide following three straight defeats.
The stats suggested that Reading were flattered by their stunning start to life under new manager Veljko Paunovic and they have been brought down to earth by a 3-2 defeat to lowly Coventry and back-to-back 3-0 reverses against Preston and Stoke.
They kick off the latest round of Championship fixtures with a testing trip to Bournemouth, who have lost just once in 11 games since their relegation from the Premier League.
The Cherries needed a solid start after Jason Tindall took over from club legend Eddie Howe and they have achieved that, conceding only nine goals in those 11 matches and beating Norwich, Bristol City and Blackburn at home.
Bournemouth have won their last four meetings with Reading and they look well placed to extend that hold over the Berkshire boys, especially with ace winger David Brooks fit and firing again.
Brooks scored twice in the 3-1 win at Birmingham last time out before bagging the winner for Wales against Ireland in the Nations League last weekend.
He and his Bournemouth teammates should see off a Reading side who have dominated possession in their last three defeats but have been sloppy in defence and struggled to create decent chances.
Middlesbrough v Norwich City
Middlesbrough boast the meanest defence in the Championship but their impressive record could be dented when a classy Norwich side visit the Riverside.
The Canaries finished bottom of the Premier League last season but, like fellow relegated clubs Bournemouth and Watford, they have established themselves as serious contenders for automatic promotion from the second division.
They were helped by a successful summer transfer window in which they sold Ben Godfrey to Everton and Jamal Lewis to Newcastle but brought in former Boro striker Jordan Hugill and Premier League loanees Oliver Skipp (Tottenham) and Ben Gibson (Burnley).
Having held on to striker Teemu Pukki, midfielders Emi Buendia and Todd Cantwell and goalkeeper Tim Krul, Norwich have a deep squad packed with quality and they have hit their stride in recent weeks.
Marco Stiepermann's late goal gave them a 1-0 win over in-form Swansea last time out, making it five wins in their last seven league games for Daniel Farke's side.
The only games in which Norwich dropped points during that run were a 1-1 draw with promotion rivals Brentford and a goalless stalemate against Millwall when they had seven shots on target to their visitors' none.
Neil Warnock's Middlesbrough are undoubtedly tough to beat, conceding just five goals in 11 league games. However, they have scored only twice in six meetings with top-half teams this season and they may come unstuck against one of the best attacking units in the Championship.
Stoke City v Huddersfield Town
Another Championship selection completes the Saturday portfolio as resurgent Stoke look solid favourites to defeat Huddersfield.
The Potters won 3-0 at leaders Reading before the international break continuing an impressive run of form that has seen them record five victories in their last nine league games including a 3-2 home win over Brentford.
Stoke's only three defeats in the Championship this term have come against top-six sides Watford, Bristol City and Swansea and they have taken 15 points from a possible 21 against teams below them in the table.
This weekend's visitors Huddersfield fall into that bracket, having lost three of their last five matches and been held to a 1-1 draw at home to Luton last time out.
There have been some bright spots for the Terriers this term, including away wins at Swansea and Millwall, but Carlos Corberan's men may struggle on their trip to the progressive Potters.
Experienced striker Steven Fletcher and youngster Tyrese Campbell have scored seven league goals between them for Stoke this term while ever-present John Obi Mikel has impressed and goalkeeper Angus Gunn looks a shrewd loan signing from Southampton.
The Robins are flying high in League Two and should be too strong for a Walsall side who have lost their last three games, including a home defeat to bottom club Southend last time out.
Inter have won only one of their last eight games in all competitions and look vulnerable against a free-scoring Torino team spearheaded by Italy striker Andrea Belotti.
Everton 10-11, Cheltenham 17-20, Borussia Monchengladbach 1-2, Sevilla 8-11. £1 accumulator returns £9.17 with Hills.
Both teams to score
Games at Luton 4-6, Accrington 7-10, Fleetwood 4-6. £1 treble returns £4.68 with bet365.
Thought for the week
When the Nations League kicked off in September 2018, its format felt like an unnecessarily complicated innovation but the new competition has certainly livened up the schedule.
International football in Europe had been drifting aimlessly through protracted qualifying campaigns featuring too many one-sided contests interspersed with pointless friendlies.
The Nations League structure has sharpened its focus with promotion and relegation, as well as European Championship and World Cup playoff places, at stake.
More importantly, though, it offers the lower-ranked sides competitive fixtures on a regular basis. In 18 matches in League D, there were nine draws and Latvia's 5-0 win in Andorra was the only rout.
Those sort of contests surely improve these teams more than their customary damage-limitation exercises against Germany, France or England.
Wales, unbeaten in 11 competitive games, and Scotland, who sealed Euro 2020 qualification during a run of nine games without defeat, have also benefited from the competitive edge of the Nations League (almost as much as correct-score punters backing 0-0 and 0-1 in Ireland's fixtures).
I'm not convinced that actually winning the Nations League will ever mean much, although France, Italy, Belgium and Spain are a tasty set of qualifiers for next year's finals, but it has made international breaks less of a grind for players and fans alike.
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