EFL Saturday 3pm predictions: Wigan can maintain positive start
Wigan's return to the Championship has been encouraging but they still find themselves towards the relegation places, while two of the top four face each other and West Brom are looking to climb out of the bottom three.
With the pressure perhaps starting to build on some, check out our predictions for an intriguing round of 3pm matches this Saturday.
Birmingham vs Wigan (Saturday, 3pm)
Wigan have failed to win any of their first four matches of 2022-23 in all competitions, but the Latics’ performances have been encouraging enough following promotion from League One.
They visit a Birmingham side who have endured a tough summer of ownership uncertainty and managerial change, but five points from four league games is a positive start given the Blues faced two of last season’s top six and relegated Watford in their opening fixtures.
Wigan are unbeaten in three trips to St Andrew’s, drawing once and winning twice there since 2017.
Last season’s record against the better League One teams offers reason for caution, however, as the Latics dropped points against every one of the 10 teams finishing 11th or higher – eight of those 20 games ended all-square with seven finishing 1-1.
But Birmingham have won only one of their last 10 Championship games, with St Andrew’s offering little protection – their last nine home games have returned four defeats and just two wins.
Drawing all three matches this term is no disaster for Wigan, who have played away at Norwich, hosted seventh-placed Preston and had one match postponed.
And manager Leam Richardson will be disappointed not to have taken all three points against Bristol City last weekend, given the Latics battled back from 1-0 down to dominate the second half.
Birmingham were outclassed by Cardiff last weekend, with the 1-0 defeat flattering them, and were under siege at times during Tuesday’s 1-1 draw against Watford.
However, rookie manager John Eustace will be encouraged by the character shown by his side against both the Hornets and Luton in their opening-day 0-0 draw, while victory over Huddersfield a fortnight ago shows the Blues will not go down without a fight.
Neither manager would be too disappointed with a point as they build their way into testing Championship campaigns and they may both end up settling for just that.
West Brom vs Hull (Saturday, 3pm)
Neither side is where they expected to be in the Championship standings, with surprise package Hull sitting pretty in second place while promotion-fancied West Brom lie third from bottom.
Tigers manager Shota Arveladze will be delighted at how his new squad is settling, given over half of his first-choice XI joined permanently during the summer and all five goals this season have come from new signings.
However, while West Brom will be frustrated with how their season has started, their performances have deserved far more than the three points collected from four games and Arveladze will know that this trip to the Hawthorns offers a serious test of their promotion credentials.
Hull’s summer signing Oscar Estupinan got off the mark with a brace against Norwich last weekend and scored 15 goals in the Portuguese Primeira Liga last season.
However, West Brom have the striker to keep an eye on this weekend with Karlan Grant scoring all three goals in the 2-0 and 1-0 victories over Hull last term, on his way to bagging 18 league goals in 2021-22.
He is up and running in 2022-23, too, with two goals in five games.
The Baggies did not lose any of their 11 home games against other top-half Championship teams last season and have won each of their last six home games against Hull.
The early standings are misleading, with Hull’s defeat of Norwich indicative of their good fortune – they had just 30% possession, conceded 18 shots and were gifted the opener by a calamitous defensive error.
Conversely, West Brom have deserved far more.
They impressed in a tricky opening-day draw at Middlesbrough and dominated Watford, only to have Ismaila Sarr score a wonder-goal from his own half that claimed a point.
Steve Bruce was also justifiably frustrated to lose 2-1 to Blackburn last Sunday in a game that his side could easily have won, so Wednesday’s 0-0 draw with Cardiff will have had him tearing his hair out.
The Baggies have not been getting the breaks but that will have to change at some point and they should see off Arveladze’s play-off pretenders.
Sheffield United vs Blackburn (Saturday, 3pm)
The bubble finally burst for Blackburn in midweek, with Rovers’ run of three successive victories ending in emphatic fashion with a 3-0 defeat at Reading.
Jon Dahl Tomasson will be desperate to ensure it proves a mere blip, but his Rovers side could not have picked many worse venues than Bramall Lane to rediscover the winning thread.
Paul Heckingbottom’s Blades have made a quietly impressive start to the new season and will overtake the league leaders if they grab all three points this weekend.
Blackburn’s wildly contrasting away results this season of a 3-0 defeat at Reading and a 3-0 victory at Swansea suggest that the Royals’ erratic road form of 2021-22 might be set to continue this term.
Last season saw Rovers lose nine, draw seven and win seven of their 23 league away games, but they lost more of those matches to teams in the bottom half than the top half.
However, they also won fewer games away at top-half teams, with five of the victories coming against bottom-half sides.
But Blackburn’s result at Bramall Lane last season was more predictable as February’s 1-0 defeat to the Blades was their sixth consecutive visit without victory, and five of those trips ended in a loss.
Taking three wins from three to kick off the 2022-23 Championship campaign was better than Tomasson could have wished for as he settled into the Rovers’ dugout, but the results were flattering compared the performances.
The 3-0 defeat of a lacklustre Swansea side was well deserved but single-goal victories over QPR and West Brom were both fortunate on the balance of play.
To have the run ended by a comprehensive 3-0 defeat to Reading will have undermined confidence and ongoing transfer interest in star striker Ben Brereton Diaz could prove a distraction.
Sheffield United are strong at Bramall Lane, beating Millwall 2-0 and Sunderland 2-1 there this season, and the Blades could further dent Rovers’ early season optimism.