Blackburn v Hull
Lambert deployed a midfield diamond in last weekend’s 1-1 draw at table-topping Middlesbrough, a game that Rovers arguably deserved to win having created the better chances on balance. But it was a system that deemed wingers Craig Conway and Elliott Bennett surplus to requirements and those two might be chomping at the bit to prove their worth if called upon here.
Such competition for places really plays into Lambert’s hands and his opposite number Steve Bruce is hardly renowned for being the quickest to react to tactical conundrums, so a second successive setback in east Lancashire might well be on the cards after last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at Burnley, which was Hull's fourth defeat in six away games.
Rotherham v Birmingham
The Millers might be third from bottom after successive defeats to bottom two Charlton and Bolton, but no fewer than eight teams sit below them in shot ratio terms. Maybe Stewart was right, believing there was too much style and not enough substance, but there’s enough promise in the basics to believe an end-product man like Warnock can make an immediate impact.
Gary Rowett is notoriously shrewd when it comes to negating the strengths of predictable opposition but his Birmingham side aren’t always the most reliable when the onus is on them to make the running and the favourites tag on the road might not suit. Rotherham were 2-0 winners in the reverse fixture at St Andrew’s and the price is right on them completing the double.
Rochdale v Millwall
This is a game that’s highly likely to produce a winner one way or another. Since the end of October, these two teams have drawn only two out of 34 matches between them, but it’s debatable whether the Londoners should be favourites in the Lancashire foothills at the end of a 240-mile trip north. Both my 16-match and 24-match ratings suggest the prices should be reversed.
Rochdale are just eight point above the drop zone but there’s no panic at Spotland, and there never will be. Hill was typically philosophical after the Gresty Road setback, pointing out the similarities between this season and last when Dale had 38 points (currently 37) after 28 matches before embarking on a late play-off push with seven wins in their next dozen outings.