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Uphill task for Cheltenham at Accrington

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Accrington boss John Coleman
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English Football League
3pm Saturday

Accrington v Cheltenham
John Coleman has proved he is mustard at getting Accrington to outperform their budget and Stanley can continue to punch above their weight by beating Cheltenham at the Crown Ground.

Coleman was interviewed by Racing Post Sport before the season when he said Accy had genuine promotion ambitions and he also felt they were good enough for the playoffs last term only to fall short because of a poor start.

"We played well without getting the results" was Coleman's explanation and he also noted "we need to be more ruthless and score more goals - we made a lot of chances."

The four teams who went up from Sky Bet League Two - Portsmouth, Plymouth, Doncaster and Blackpool - were all beaten by Accrington, who have since taken Coleman's advice by scoring more goals.

They have netted 17 in eight league matches to move up to third in the table with front two Billy Kee and Kayden Jackson scoring ten times to secure five wins from eight games.

Now it's time for Accrington to lay the ghost of Coleman's other pre-season moan - not beating the lowly sides. Stanley won only once in ten attempts against teams who finished in the bottom five last term.

That included a couple of matches against Cheltenham, who are once again at the wrong end of the table having avoided defeat against only Yeovil, Crawley and poor travellers Colchester.

Coleman claims Cheltenham have been regularly scouted and are significantly better than their results suggest, but they will need to be to justify the hosts being offered at odds-against prices.

1pt 6-5 general

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Norwich v Bristol City
It was only a couple of weeks ago that some Norwich fans were questioning boss Daniel Farke's future but the Canaries have responded well to their 4-0 mauling at Millwall by collecting seven points from a possible nine in the Sky Bet Championship.

At the Den it was clear Norwich were unlucky to go down by such a wide margin and three straight clean sheets plus a League Cup win suggests Farke has sorted out City.

However, while Norwich were not as bad as some suggested at Millwall they are not quite as good as their recent results indicate either and Bristol City are capable of coming out on top at Carrow Road.

Birmingham's new-look side were not ready for their trip to Norfolk and a poor Burton team took a point in a 0-0 stalemate before last week's 1-0 success at Sheffield United which was helped by the Blades lacking a cutting edge with five forwards sidelined.

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Dan Childs

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That win at Bramall Lane was down to excellent game-management according to the visitors or time-wasting as fuming home boss Chris Wilder called it, but the onus will be on Norwich to be more adventurous which may play into the hands of the Bristol boys.

Lee Johnson's raiders have lost one of their 11 matches in all competitions this season - an unfortunate 2-1 reverse at Birmingham - and lowered the colours of Premier League outfits Watford and Stoke to make the last 16 of the League Cup.

They smashed Derby 4-1 last time out in the league with four different scorers and before that drew 3-3 at Wolves so clearly have goals in the ranks whereas Norwich's injured leading scorer, four-goal Nelson Oliveira, is set to miss out for the hosts.

Bristol City draw no bet
1pt 9-5 Betfair

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Oxford v Walsall
Oxford let this column down last week with a poor first-half display at Blackpool but they are worth another chance back on home soil against travel-sick Walsall.

The Saddlers have lost four and drawn one of their five away matches this season and last tasted success on the road on Boxing Day at a Port Vale side who were relegated.

They are due a result but it may not come at the Kassam, where Oxford have scored 12 times in five appearances this season.

Jon Obika's likely return will help add another dimension to the attack, while the defensive switch to a three-man rearguard at half-time at Blackpool resulted in a better post-interval performance despite the eventual 3-1 defeat.

1pt 10-11 bet365, Betway, Paddy Power

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Plays of the day

Dortmund 4-9
It has been a flying start for Dortmund with no goals conceded in the Bundesliga and Gladbach could be swamped by the attacking waves of home pressure.

Norwich 20-21
The Canaries have clearly improved but they have already flopped at home to Sunderland and Burton so odds-on quotes are easy enough to swerve. 

Napoli 1-4, Dortmund 4-9, Inter 3-10 Betway, 188Bet

Both teams to score
Games at Fulham 3-4, Bristol Rovers 19-29, Stevenage 9-13 188Bet

Thought for the week

On the mobile site of the BBC Sport website there was a headline this week which read "£140m spent and in the bottom three - how did Everton let this happen?"

The clear problem is that many people overrated their summer deals.

They spent less than a net £50m following the huge sale of Romelu Lukaku and that spend would have been close to zero had the injured Ross Barkley's transfer to Chelsea not fallen through.

Match previews

West Ham v Tottenham

Leicester v Liverpool

Man City v Crystal Palace

Ronald Koeman signed Wayne Rooney, who is clearly not as good as he once was, and the majority of the other recruits came from lowly Premier League clubs such as Swansea, Sunderland and Burnley. 

There was pre-season talk of cracking the top six and challenging the top four but it was based on fantasy. They were 14 points behind fifth-placed Arsenal and lost Lukaku, not to mention the ongoing injuries to Barkley and Seamus Coleman.

It has been a shocking start but in isolation defeats to Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United would be expected. The problem is they have come in a row but the Toffees have actually won five of their six matches this season when rated as favourites.

They will soon be back in their rightful position of seventh.

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While Norwich were not as bad as some suggested at Millwall they are not quite as good as their recent results indicate either
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