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Football League

Championship preview: Tigers ready to pounce


Paralysis has been a recurring theme for Birmingham in front of their own fans this season and the mood around St Andrew's could turn extremely sour on Saturday if, as we suspect, another sub-standard performance puts them at the mercy of a free-spirited Hull side managed by former boss Steve Bruce.

It would be wrong to say Blues have perpetually poor under Lee Clark. There have been a few chinks of light, mainly on the road, but it seems as though Birmingham don't know how to express themselves when the onus is on them to do so and this is exactly the kind of fixture where they appear to be vulnerable.

The Tigers are 15/8 for victory in the second city and while you probably wouldn't argue with the prices when faced with nothing other than a teamsheet, the visitors are far more reliable when it comes to fulfiling expectations and home advantage seems to be no advantage for Blues on recent evidence.

We wouldn't be so confident about the Humberside outfit on an Asian handicap or draw-no-bet market where the margins are fine and rewards are minimal, but their greater fixed odds appeal is demonstrated by only one draw in 17 league matches. The Tigers go for the throat and invariably get their rewards for doing so.

The contrasting attitudes might owe much to the foundations on which both clubs are standing right now. Whereas Hull have a local business presence at the helm with the Allem family putting the club on a sound financial footing, uncertainty persists for Brum.

A consortium led by Gianni Paladini is now being linked with a takeover at St Andrew's - which must send shivers down the spine of any Blues fan who watched the surreal BBC documentary 'QPR: the four-year plan' - but then it promises to be no more bizarre than the Carson Yeung era.

All of which comes to represent the underlying sense of purpose in the opposing dressing rooms. Hull are fourth because they have a real sense of purpose about them and genuinely believe they can get back to the Premier League, Birmingham are 19th because they don't.

Meanwhile, Watford did the business for BOTB followers last weekend and the Hornets remain a team to keep onside in the coming weeks, so we'll stick with them at 13/10 for the visit of fading Wolves.

The Old Gold were riding high in third position after ten matches and looking good to mount a serious promotion challenge under Stale Solbakken but that early promise has diminished on the back of a six-match winless sequence where creatvity from open play has been at a premium.

Wanderers did demonstrate battling qualities when snatching a point in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Brighton last weekend but it was a result that said as much about the Seagulls' mental frailties than anything else and we doubt the improving Hornets will be so generous if presented with a lead here.

Gianfranco Zola's men have now picked up 16 points from their last nine league outings after that remarkable 6-1 victory over nine-man Leeds and it's a sample that only gets more impressive when you weigh up the defeats they've suffered and the circumstances in which they came about.

Betting advice...

2pts Hull to beat Birmingham at 15/8 (Bet Victor)
Blues are struggling at St Andrew's and bold approach of the visitors can reap full reward.

2pts Watford to beat Wolves at 13/10 (Blue Square)
Hornets are playing with real purpose, while Old Gold seem devoid of ideas in open play.

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