We are set for another great weekend of Championship action as we race towards the end of January. With all teams in action this Saturday we preview five of the big games in the Championship this weekend.
Derby County v Nottingham Forest
The sides shared the points back in September but both have faired rather differently in the time since then and some Derby fans feel a win here could end Forest’s realistic chances of promotion.
Derby picked up a massive victory last weekend against Ipswich which saw them climb to second in the table. Derby have lost just once all season at home and an win here in the early game would put them top of the table and throw all the pressure on Bournemouth who lost at home to Norwich last weekend. New signing Stephen Warnock could feature as could Darren Bent who was on the bench last weekend. Johnny Russell may only have six league goals so far this campaign but he plays a vital support role for Steve McClaren’s side. Russell has the ability to pop up with a big goal and is this game’s key man.
Forest meanwhile have really been on the slide for the past couple of months and boss Stuart Pearce this week came out and said this current spell is the toughest he has faced in management to date. The Reds have not won since November, a run now spanning seven games in the league. They were also chucked out of the FA Cup by League 1 Rochdale so all is not rosy at the City Ground. They have had problems at both ends conceding eight in their last three which they have all lost, whilst only scoring 1 in that time. There are reports that strikers Matty Fryatt and Britt Assombalonga could both be out injured which would be a massive blow for Forest.
Score prediction: 3-1 Derby win
Brighton and Hove Albion v Brentford
Brighton appear to be back heading in the right direction, whilst Brentford fail to fall away from the top six and credit to them for their consistency through what has been a tough run of fixtures.
The Seagulls have not had a lot to shout about this season, but recent weeks have seen a real turnaround at the AMEX since Chris Hughton took over as manager. Unbeaten in four Championship games and through to the 4th round of the FA Cup where they host Arsenal. There last two matches have both been away trips to the capital and they claimed maximum points with a 2-0 win over Fulham and a 1-0 win at Charlton last weekend. Can they continue this good record against London clubs as the Bees make the trip down south? Brentford have some real attacking threat so it is going to be a real test for the Brighton defence. For that reason, defender Lewis Dunk is this game’s key man.
Brentford now are play-off candidates within their own right. As the fixtures drift by the Bees remain in the top six and do not look like they will be going down anytime soon. They returned to winning ways last weekend at home to Rotherham after back-to-back defeats against Wolves and Ipswich. An area for improvement for Mark Warburton’s side in the second half of the season is consistency away from home. Brentford have put in some solid performances on the road so far, but have the ability to concede too many goals, 20 from their 12 away games to date. Interestingly Brentford have not been involved in a draw since October, a run of 12 games. That run will come to an end eventually and with Brighton improving a point would be a good result for both sides.
Score prediction: 2-2 draw
Millwall v Ipswich Town
Two sides that did not get any points last weekend meet at the Den with rather different agendas for the rest of the season.
Millwall had a Christmas and New Year to forget and that has continued into 2015. Four straight defeats in the Championship scoring just one, although the worst result of the run was last weekend’s defeat to lowly Blackpool which has drawn the Lions deep into the relegation scrap. Things only got worse in midweek as Ian Holloway’s side were dumped out of the FA Cup in a 3rd round replay 4-0 at Bradford. As an apology for the shocking performance, club chairman John Berylson has offered to refund fans ticket costs for the game at Valley Parade. With promotion chasers Ipswich in town it could be another bad day at the office for Millwall. Keeper David Forde has put in several man of the match performance and he may have to do the same this weekend his side are going to get anything out of this game. Forde is this game’s key man.
Ipswich will want to forget the events of the past seven days. It started with the crunch match against Derby last weekend in which the Tractor Boys failed to get their game going and threw the points away with a defensive mix up. Then on Wednesday they hosted Premier League Southampton with real hopes of causing a cup upset, but once again Mick McCarthy’s side failed to perform to their best and they lost out again 1-0. Each of their next four games come against sides in the bottom four so fans will be looking for maximum points to put pressure on both Bournemouth and Derby who face a fixture pile-up as they remain in the FA Cup.
Score prediction: 2-0 Ipswich win
Sheffield Wednesday v Bolton Wanderers
Sheffield Wednesday have got back into the grove after a difficult winter period at the end of 2014, whilst Bolton continue to impress under Neil Lennon and will be looking to start chipping away at the 11 point gap to the play-offs.
After a ten game winless run from September to November, the Owls have put some great results together over the last month or so winning five of their last seven games and in the process ended any fears of slipping into a late relegation scrap. The match at Fulham appears a glitch for Stuary Grey’s side as other than that Wednesday have conceded just three goals in the other six games in their recent run. Their home form has been a bit sporadic and if the Owls want to be considered serious play-off contenders they need to make Hillsborough a fortress.
Bolton are showing over the last couple of months what a good footballing side they can be if they are willing to put in maximum effort and commitment into the team cause. In his short time at the helm to date Neil Lennon’s reputation as a manager has blossomed and set him up to one day definitely be a Premier League manager. The Trotters are without a win in their last two league games, but progressed in the cup against Wigan to set-up a great tie at Liverpool next weekend. Lennon will have to ensure that his player’s focus is on the game in Sheffield first however, as otherwise they could easily get turned over. Veteran forward Eidur Gudjohnsen got his first goal since returning to Bolton on a free transfer and can provide that touch of class to open up a defence. He is this game’s key man.
Score prediction: 1-1 draw
Watford v Charlton Athletic
A capital clash at Vicarage Road as Watford look to bridge the gap to the top three who are starting to pull away against Charlton who desperately need to stop the slide they are on under a new manager.
December saw the Hornets return to their early season form with four victories and just one defeat from their five league games. 2015 did not start so well however as they were outplayed by Chris Powell’s Huddersfield side, losing 3-1. With the FA Cup over after one game at the hand of Chelsea, Watford have no distractions to stop their push for an automatic promotion spot. They have a bit of catching up to do, currently seven points behind second place Derby, but with a trip to Bournemouth coming in a fortnight they know it is an achievable feat. Striker Troy Deeney has gone five games without a goal and will want to his current tally of nine for the season. He is this game’s key man.
Former Charlton boss Bob Peeters was most definitely a victim of his own success. Such was the fine start the Addicks made to the season it is understandable to see their recent form as unacceptable. Without a win since November and no signs of ending that run anytime soon was too much for the Charlton board and they parted company with the Belgian. New man Guy Luzon comes into the fold for Charlton and is a risky appointment with a squad at breaking point and just eight points clear of the relegation zone. The former Standard Leige manager may want to add to the squad this month, but for the time being he will have to deal with what he has got and attempt to get the side winning again.
Score prediction: 3-0 Watford win
Other fixtures with score predictions
Saturday 3pm kick offs
Fulham 1-1 Reading
Leeds United 1-3 Birmingham City
Middlesbrough 2-0 Huddersfield Town
Norwich City 2-1 Cardiff City
Rotherham United 0-3 AFC Bournemouth
Wigan Athletic 0-2 Blackburn Rovers
Wolverhampton Wanderers 4-1 Blackpool