4/23 Recap: I’ve come to a realization recently.  There is a chance that I am either the world’s unluckiest man or the universe’s crummiest European football handicapper.  I’m leaning towards the second.  As I try to watch each game I select, by the most legal means available, I find myself thinking “I hope nobody uses me as a resource for their gambling.”  Yesterday, Newcastle and Athletic Bilbao didn’t exactly doom themselves to calamity.  Theo Walcott’s goal was Everton’s lone shot on target.  Athletic Club put three millimeters wide and was denied by some fantastic saves.  I don’t know what to do anymore.  A more negative version of myself would have thrown in the towel.  Instead, until I right my ship, if you use these picks as a standard in any fashion, probably just do the opposite in the interim.

4/23 Results:
My Picks: Levante 1 Athletic Bilbao 1 (DRAW +275)
                  Newcastle United 2 Everton 1 (Newcastle +0.5 goals [-150])
Actual Results: Levante 3 Athletic Bilbao 1
                            Everton 1 Newcastle United 0

My focus will solely be on Roma and Liverpool in the Champions League today.  But to avoid jinxing the holy hell out of my beloved Reds, I’m avoiding that match here like the plague.  Instead, my picks are going to be from the one competition that I’ve seen some semblance of success.  Onwards to the Championship.

ENGLISH CHAMPIONSHIP
Cardiff City @ Derby County (2:45 PM ET/ESPN+)

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This is why I love the Championship.  There is always something at stake in pretty much every match.  Rarely do you find one that at least one of the participants isn’t vying for promotion or staving off relegation.  It is as if their schedule makers made some cosmic pact with a higher power to make all of their games worth watching.  Today is no different.

Matchweek 44’s main event sees second place Cardiff City travel eastward to Derby County.  The Bluebirds have cooled down since the last time I picked them, but have won two in a row.  They are a point ahead of Fulham for automatic promotion.  Derby is a point out of the final spot in the promotion playoffs, but are losers of three in a row, including their last match at the iPro Stadium.

Cardiff won’t be happy that their recent hiccups gave the title to Wolverhampton Wanderers, but they can’t afford to blow automatic promotion entirely.  They are a side that can score in droves but tend to play more conservative in big matches.  Derby can’t afford to be conservative as they need a win to put the pressure on their pursuers for once.

The two played to a 0-0 draw in September.  While a point would be vital for either side, I can’t see that level of coyness from them.  It should be a rapid pace early.  If Cardiff score, expect the bus to be parked.  If Derby does, this game will open up fantastically.  For the casual viewer though I have bad news.  Get that parking space ready.

PREDICTION: Cardiff City 1 Derby County 0 (Cardiff MONEYLINE [+150])

EFL CHAMPIONSHIP
Barnsley @ Nottingham Forest (2:45 PM ET/EFL iFollow)

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Nottingham Forest is one of the most storied clubs in England, in a way.  They don’t have a lengthy list of accomplishments, but when Forest were kings they reigned supreme.

But nowadays, like fellow big-time lingerers Leeds United, Forest fans always find themselves wanting more.  But at least they aren’t dealing with what Barnsley is at the moment.

The Colliers are in a relegation fight yet again.  I say again because Barnsley has become quite accustomed to the see-saw between the Championship and League One.  They went down in 2013-14, came up last year, and are now in danger of going down again.  And outside of last year’s 14th place finish, this battle is normative.  Their previous best finish since the competition rebranding was 17th.

Both teams come into this game in middling form, which is why the majority of the sites I’ve looked at are pegging this one as a stone cold draw.  Forest have nothing to play for and Barnsley can’t afford to go home empty-handed.  How can I not agree with this sentiment?  I agree even more when the game’s pick ’em and money lines (per Bovada) are so even it isn’t even worth it to choose one or the other.

PREDICTION: Barnsley 1 Nottingham Forest 1 (DRAW [+230])

If you have any picks you’d like to see made, you can contact me on Twitter @TREVORutley.  In addition to the available media listed for each game, be sure to try out our Gameview service while watching as well.  Also, here is a link for my results throughout and the points system.  Cheers!