With spot fixing allegations filling the football column inches this week it is finally time to get back to matters on the pitch. The Championship table has settled down, but another weekend of drama could see it all change once more. We preview five of the games in detail.
Leicester City v Burnley
What a game to start the weekend in the Championship. Leicester were displaced at the top of the table by Burnley last week who have now spent 9 of 19 weeks of the season in pole position. The Clarets returned to winning ways in a far from sensational 1-0 home win over Barnsley after being held by Watford in the midweek fixtures. Leicester, on the other hand, had a nightmare week on the road losing to manager-less Sheffield Wednesday and being taken apart by ever improving Brighton. A win for both sides is vital to set them up for the festive period let alone sit in top spot, but the win is more important to Burnley with many questioning their ability to maintain their success through the harsh winter. Leicester are almost unstoppable at home with just a single draw and defeat their only failings at the King Power stadium. It is no coincidence that Burnley’s faltering run of just one win in six came with an injury to top scorer Danny Ings. He should have fully recovered after starting last week and is this game’s key man.
Score prediction: 1-1 draw
Wigan v Bolton Wanderers
On the surface this is just a game between two of the mid-table teams in the Championship, but a meeting between these two is always a feisty affair and this derby has a little bit of extra spice with it being new Latics boss Uwe Rosler’s first game in charge at the DW stadium. It was far from a fairytale start for Rosler with his new side losing away to Millwall last week and being knocked out of the Europa League in Slovenia on Thursday evening. Without a win in five in the league he will need to inspire them, but the long trip abroad may be a good omen however as Wigan have won both of their games following away trips in the Europa League. Before away defeat at Middlesbrough, Bolton had been on a great run on the road with a draw and three consecutive victories. Following a disappointing start to the season a good run throughout December and Wanderers could be in the play off mix. Netting goals has been Wigan’s major downfall so far this season with Nick Powell their top scorer with just three league goals. The Manchester United loanee has shown glimpses of real talent and he is this game’s key man.
Score prediction: 2-1 Wigan win
Barnsley v Yeovil
The manager’s hot seat still remains vacant at Barnsley, with caretaker boss Micky Mellon the bookies favourite. This appointment is a huge call for Barnsley, but they will want a man in before the Christmas period otherwise it could be all to late to stage a recovery. Yeovil are enduring a great run of three games unbeaten, a best at this level, and if they take the points on Saturday they could climb out of the bottom three for the first time since September. Their recent success has come from some excellent business in the loan market by Gary Johnson who knew he needed some more numbers on board if the Glovers are serious about avoiding relegation. Barnsley top scorer Chris O’grady looks like he is going to remain sidelined for this one and the team have struggled to score goals in his absence. November loan signing Marcus Tudgay looks set to lead the line once again in his second loan spell at the club and he will be looking to open his account in his latest loan spell. Marcus is this game’s key man.
Score prediction: 1-0 Yeovil win
Watford v Sheffield Wednesday
Watford have been the major disappointments of the Championship so far this term. After coming so close to promotion last year making it to the play off final, the Hornets were tipped to go one better with their array of summer signings and the ever learning Gianfranco Zola at the helm. Unfortunately the winter months have been a real struggle. Wednesday’s struggles come as far less of a surprise. With just two victories all season the problems have come from a lack of clinical finishing in front of goal. The signing of Connor Wickham on loan could be the spark they need however. The Sunderland forward has been in fine form in his second loan spell in Sheffield with four goals in six games for Wednesday. With Wickham in form the Watford keeper Manuel Almunia will need to be on his toes all game. He is this game’s key man.
Score prediction: 2-0 Watford win
Blackpool v QPR
If you were going to put a bet on this weekend my tip would have to be that Blackpool will not finish the game with eleven players on the pitch. A shocking disciplinary record has tarnished their great start to the season. A total of eight red cards already this term, with five in the last two games is just unacceptable on the pitch and that is before you mention manager Paul Ince’s five game stadium ban for aggressive behaviour towards a match official. QPR, meanwhile, have been the machine of the Championship this season. Grinding out results home and away with very rare glitches along the way. The addition in the week of free agent Yossi Benayoun adds to there wealth of attacking options as Redknapp mounts his next assault on top spot after a stale 0-0 draw at home to Blackburn last time out. Rangers have relied on the lethal Charlie Austin to grab the goals and with a tally of nine Championship goals he certainly is doing so. He is this game’s key man.
Score prediction: 2-1 QPR win
Other fixtures with predictions
Saturday 3pm kick offs
Blackburn 1 Millwall 0
Bournemouth 2 Birmingham 0
Charlton 0 Derby 2
Doncaster 1 Leeds 3
Huddersfield 1 Reading 1
Middlesbrough 1 Brighton 2
Nottingham Forest 2 Ipswich 1