Championship preview: Hornets to compound Elland Road frustration


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The Independent Football

Life at Leeds United isn't quite shaping up to be how Neil Warnock imagined it when he accpeted Ken Bates' offer to come back into management last February and we fancy in-form Watford to compound the increasing frustration around Elland Road on Saturday. Take the 13/8 available on Watford (draw no bet).

Warnock cut a frustrated figure on the touchline at Turf Moor on Tuesday as he watched the Whites spurn several good chances to take the lead against Burnley, before Charlie Austin - who else? - popped up to show them how it was done seven minutes from time. Naturally, Warnock didn't hold back in his post-match press conference, drawing amsuing comparisons with a time when he was mugged on holiday in Vietnam.

Howvere, his annoyance at the profligacy of his players is understandable given the bigger picture, which sees the club in a state of limbo over a propoesed takeover and the Whites likely to be treading water with an ailing squad between now and January. Bates started talks with Dubai-based GFH Capital last May and the deal has, supposedly, been close to completion for the past two months. Needless to say, the fans are getting restless.

All of which should be music to the ears of Gianfranco Zola because his Watford team have been performing with real purpose of late and they fit the bill as exactly the sort of unfancied team to upset the applecart in West Yorkshire. Keep the hosts at bay for the opening 20 minutes or so and the Hornets stand to profit from an increasingly mutinous atmosphere as the afternoon progresses.

The formbook suggests they might be cut out for the role, too. In the last nine games, Watford have avoided defeat in six and mitigating circumstances can be provided for the three they lost, with three red cards, two stoppage-time winners and a penalty all collaborating to bring about their undoing.

The Pozzo family might have a bizarre ownership philosophy by traditional British standards but they've delievered some real quality to Vicarage Road, not least in the shape of their mercurial playmaker Fernando Forestieri. 

The Argentina-born Italian Under-21 international has inevitably drawn comparisons with Lionel Messi, but he's virtually unplayable if he brings his A-game and the opposition haven't made the right tactical allowances. It's too early into his time on English soil for anyone to say for sure how he's best dealt with.

Meanwhile, Crystal Palace delivered a virtuoso performance for Ian Holloway's first game in charge when thrashing Ipswich 5-0 on Tuesday but it was the kind of display that was so good, it leaves you curious about what follows. Therefore, we're going to go against the grain and take a chance on the Eagles coming unstuck at Peterborough.

Holloway himself summed up the mood best afterwards when he said: "It was a fantastic performance from start to finish and the great thing about this lot is they grind on. Some of the things I've seen so far have been sensational. They're professional in their approach to everything and it's almost a 'pinch me, I'm dreaming' situation." 

The great irony might be that Palace's form in the wake of Dougie Freedman's departure is a direct result of the players not getting the credit they deserve - with most of the plaudits bestowed on Freedman - and now that all of the recognition they crave has come at once, they could be vulnerable.

Only time will tell whether this is one of those bets to confine to Room 101, but Peterborough do have previous when it comes to putting over-achievers in their place. They brushed Huddersfield aside at a similar price barely a fortnight ago when the Terriers had sparked promotion talk with an eye-catching win over Wolves.

Betting advice...

2pts Watford to beat Leeds (draw no bet) at 13/8 (Blue Square)

Hornets are playing some excellent stuff and Whites are treading water until January.

1pt Peterborough to beat Crystal Palace at 2/1 (Bet365)

Palace look unstoppable but midweek thumping of Ipswich might be as good as it gets.

For more betting advice, visit Best of the Bets by clicking here.