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Football League

Championship preview: Huddersfield to take derby spoils against Leeds United

Michael Holden of Best of the Bets picks out some of the weekend's key fixtures and offers his expert advice

It's been a stop-start season for hit-and-miss Huddersfield but we're backing them to bounce back from midweek disappointment at Middlesbrough by putting neighbours Leeds United to the sword in an eagerly-anticipated west Yorkshire derby at the John Smith's Stadium on Saturday.

The Terriers were dreadful in their 3-0 defeat at the Riverside, much to the obvious annoyance of manager Simon Grayson, but we've a sneaking suspicion that performance was nothing more than the standard pre-cursor to a monster effort in a fixture that's been lurking in the consciousness for a few weeks.

Grayson will be desperate to make a point to his former employers having been sacked somewhat unfairly by his boyhood club last February. And he won't have to say much, the players already know how much a win would please their gaffer, instantly putting them back in the good books after their rollicking on Teesside.

It only adds weight to the case that Leeds have been beaten two of the main promotion contenders in the past seven days because we now anticipate a shortfall in terms of energy from Neil Warnock's men on the back of dogged rearguard displays against Crystal Palace and Leicester. Our assumption is that this will be a bridge too far.

The Whites have an awful record in this fixture. They haven't won at Leeds Road or the new stadium since 1964 and Grayson knows the size of the obstacle Huddersfield provide from first-hand experience, having tasted three previous encounters from the opposition dugout. In the last five meetings going back to April 2008, the Terriers have won three and drawn two. 

Team news could be crucial and it would be a massive bonus if James Vaughan and Jermaine Beckford return to bolster the attack. We already know that Keith Southern will be suspended, which is a disappointment, but former Leeds midfielder Adam Clayton returns from a one-match ban and that's a positive. 

Either way, we believe Huddersfield will bring an intensity that their visitors will struggle to match. The Whites are playing a waiting game until January and though Warnock has already displayed his capacity to squeeze water from a dry sponge, his resources are becoming stretched and this is the last fixture he needs right now.

Meanwhile, Nottingham Forest were humbled by lowly Ipswich in midweek and while the result came as a surprise to many neutral observers, Sean O'Driscoll was fairly blunt in his assessment of the performance at Portman Road, insisting: "We're not as good as people think we are."

If O'Driscoll was the sort of character to indulge in mind games, we'd maybe smell a rat. But he's as honest as the day is long and though there's probably an element of him trying to lower expectations, we should take him at face value by backing Hull to triumph at the City Ground for the third successive season at 11/5.

The Tigers can be a bit Jekyll & Hyde themselves but we've been judging their peaks and troughs with some aplomb in recent weeks and we fancy pushing our luck further having copped on them beating Birmingham a fortnight ago only to change our tune by opposing them in their home game with Burnley last weekend.

Steve Bruce's men offer plenty of attacking verve and their success invariably depends on circumstantial factors surrounding games. With Forest striker Simon Cox now sidelined by an ankle injury for two months, they aren't as likely to get the best out of Billy Sharp and might soon run out of ideas should the visitors get a foothold.

Betting advice...

2pts Huddersfield to beat Leeds at 6/4 (Coral, Hills)

No ordinary game for the Terriers and Whites could struggle to match their intensity.

1pt Hull to beat Nottingham Forest at 11/5 (Boylesports, Sky Bet)

Tigers have an excellent record at the City Ground and should be the more relaxed. 

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