Npower Championship 2012-13

Cardiff City are setting the pace in the Npower Championship 2012-13 with a commanding eight-point advantage in mid-January. Despite being held to a 0-0 draw by Ipswich, Manager Malky Mackay was far from dismayed. Craig Bellamy and Aron Gunnarsson both had opportunities to extend Cardiff’s lead at the top of the table but they had to settle for a point.

Cardiff also have Heidar Helguson, Joe Mason and Tommy Smith to call upon but striker Nicky Maynard will miss the remainder of the season having suffered cruciate knee ligament damage in September. Fellow striker Rob Earnshaw has returned to the squad after a brief loan spell at Maccabi Tel Aviv. Mason had previously found the target to secure a 1-0 victory over Birmingham, a fifth successive win for Cardiff that established them as clear league leaders. The FA Cup third round defeat at Macclesfield came when Mackay fielded a weakened side and the club won’t miss the distraction of a cup run.

Steve Bruce has taken Hull City into second place and is desperate to repay the financial support he has been given by the club’s owners. The Tigers have just signed Manchester United’s Robbie Brady and Sunderland’s David Meyler on permanent deals following successful loan periods at the KC Stadium. Bruce was awarded the Npower Championship manager of the month award for December and was delighted to have been afforded the opportunity to clinch two key signings. At the ages of 20 and 23, Bruce is keen that they become part of the club’s future as they bid for Premiership status.

Hull also signed striker Nick Proschwitz in the summer and Bruce is under no illusions that the investment is essential if the club are to continue to progress. Hull are closely pursued by Leicester, Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough with Watford, Brighton and Nottingham Forest not far behind.

Leicester boss Nigel Pearson has also been busy in the transfer market bolstering his squad for the months ahead. He looks to have picked up a star in striker Chris Wood who has struck six goals in three matches since his £2 million signing from West Brom. A first-half hat-trick for the New Zealander in the 4-0 thrashing of Bristol City will have sent a warning to their promotion rivals.

Crystal Palace’s challenge may hinge on the outcome of protracted negotiations over the future of Wilfried Zaha. Manager Ian Holloway is desperate that Zaha is available for the rest of the season, even if it means returning on a loan deal as part of any sale. Zaha has been heavily linked with Manchester United and other Premiership clubs in recent weeks.

Gianfranco Zola’s Watford secured a vital 2-1 victory at Middlesbrough to keep themselves firmly in contention with two goals from Matej Vydra. There was little between the sides and both look certain to be competitive, at least for a playoff place.

Bookmakers make Cardiff generally 4-5 in the Npower Championship betting with Leicester clear second-favourites at 9-2 and Hull at 8-1. Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace are 14-1 and 16-1 respectively. Cardiff are virtually unbackable to secure promotion at 1-6 with Leicester around even money. Hull are 7-4 to make it to the Premiership next season and you can get 11-4 about Crystal Palace or Middlesbrough. Watford are 11-2 with Brighton 7-1 and Nottingham Forest at 8-1. If you fancy a side to put together a lengthy winning run, there are some tempting odds still available for Blackburn 11-1, Leeds 12-1, Millwall 12-1 and Bolton 20-1.

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