Three teams occupy more than two thirds of the Championship outright book, and two of them meet at the KC Stadium on Friday. But if Hull do to Derby what they did to Middlesbrough three weeks ago, the market could have an altogether more conclusive look come Sunday evening. Take the 7/5 on the Tigers to prevail.
Steve Bruce’s men were looking like the real deal before the international break, scoring 12 goals without reply as they cruised to five consecutive wins, four of them against top-half opposition. The interruption upset their rhythm and we should forgive them for a rusty 45-minute display at Bristol City last weekend. They were firmly in control after the interval.
The Tigers have scored the most goals in the division and conceded the fewest, the true hallmark of a standout title contender. The loss of Michael Dawson for this game is a blow but doesn’t inflict the kind of damage that it would on others. A central defensive partnership of Curtis Davies and either Alex Bruce or Harry Maguire is arguably as good as anything else out there.
Paul Clement is under no illusions. When asked about Hull’s strengths in his pre-match interview, he cited the great balance to their squad, their tremendous strength in depth and the ability to mix things up better than any other team in the division. In many ways, one suspect they are the benchmark that Clement aspires to.
The key difference between the two sides is Premier League experience. Hull just have that extra know-how. Even without Dawson and David Meyler, they can count upon nine players with a combined total of 1,013 top-flight appearances. For all of Derby’s Championship pedigree, they cobble together less than half that amount - and over 200 games belong to 33-year-old left back Steven Warnock.
Bradley Johnson would have boosted that total but he is the game's most notable absentee after picking up five yellow cards. The Rams’ season can be chopped up into two starkly contrasting parts, before and after his deadline-day switch from Norwich. Winless in the first six matches without him, they have taken 29 points from 12 matches since his arrival.
For the most part, this game could be on a knife edge but Hull are capable of making a little extra quality go a long way and there’s value to be found in the 2-0 correct score at 12/1. My 16-match ratings, when applied to standard goal distributions, make this outcome no bigger than 9/1, so Bet Victor are taking a chance by chalking-up a full two points bigger than anyone else.
For more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system, click here.