Every side returns to Championship action this weekend after a mixed weekend in the FA Cup for the Championship sides. Leicester extended their lead at the top of the table in midweek, whilst Derby closed the gap on second placed Burnley with another win. This weekend sees all twelve games on Saturday. We preview five of them in detail.
Barnsley v Millwall
Another big game at Oakwell for both sides as it is 23rd against 21st. Both sides have struggled to get the wins required of late so it is going to be a nervy affair.
The second game against a side around them for Barnsley, after a dramatic game against Doncaster last week in which the Tykes snatched a late equaliser to share the spoils. There second game on the road in midweek was a very different game with them coming up against the improved Wigan side. The gulf in class was clear with the Lactics winning with ease. Barnsley are still just about within touching distance of safety, but a result in this one really is a must. A win and they will be just two points behind Millwall with a game in hand. Nick Proschwitz netted a brace last weekend against Doncaster and could be the figurehead of the Barnsley attack for the rest of the season. He is this games key man.
Millwall themselves are in the middle of a run against teams around them and have picked up two points from their last two games which is not a disaster, but it has done little to help there causes. There have been signs that Ian Holloway is starting to make an impact on the Lions players as they are showing more fight and commitment to the cause. If they could manage just their second away win of the season in this one they will feel a lot more confident about avoiding the drop and give them a much needed boost going into a tough run of fixtures.
Last meeting: 1-0 Millwall win
Match odds: Barnsley 5/4 Draw 23/10 Millwall 11/5
Score prediction: 2-1 Barnsley win
Yeovil v Doncaster
Another crunch game at the lower end of the Championship table in this clash between last years League 1 champions who visit the League 1 play off winners from last term.
Yeovil have stopped the rot in the last couple of weeks with a couple resolute draws after a run of just three points from a possible twenty-four. Time is quickly running out for the lads from Somerset to mount a great escape with sixteen games to go and still six points from safety. Gary Johnson remains positive and knows that if his team can pick up results in games like this against teams around them then they have got every chance with several other teams struggling to put results together. The Glovers acquired the services of experienced midfielder Rubén Palazuelos on a deal until the end of the season. The Spaniard is a great addition to the side and will add some grit to the Yeovil midfield. He is this games key man.
At the start of the month Doncaster would have been feeling confident about their league position with Billy Sharp being an instant hit on his return to the Keepmoat. However, three games without a win including being pegged back by Barnsley late on last weekend has drawn them back into the dogfight. Rovers currently sit 20th in the league just six points clear of the relegation zone with more games played than all the sides beneath them. Billy Sharp remains suspended after seeing red at Brighton and his absence has given Paul Dickov a real headache as it appeared he had just found a winning formula for his side. Things change quickly in football and a win for Doncaster here and they once again will feel content with their league position.
Last meeting: 2-1 Doncaster win
Match odds: Yeovil 5/4 Draw 23/10 Barnsley 11/5
Score prediction: 1-1 draw
Burnley v Nottingham Forest
The game of the weekend in the Championship has to be the meeting at Turf Moor. The visitors, Forest, have matched leaders Leicester for form over the last few weeks, whilst Burnley still sit second in the table despite growing pressure from the chasing pack.
Burnley will be written off right up until the week that their promotion is mathematically certain. Until that day happens the Clarets will continue to impress the rest of the football league with their exciting brand of attacking play. Sean Dyche’s side have not tasted league defeat so far in 2014, a run spanning nine games. Seven points from their last three games has restored confidence after a run of three successive draws. The fitness of Danny Ings and Sam Vokes between now and May will keep the Turf Moor fans sweating as without them they seem to lack that killer instinct to put the ball away.
Not to be outdone by their opponents, Forest have not been defeated themselves since November in the league and had not lost in any competition in that time until their defeat to Sheffield United in the FA Cup last weekend. The Reds responded well to this set back on Wednesday when they held the league’s runaway leaders Leicester to a 2-2 draw and maybe even feel they should of got the win, they led with just ten minutes to go against ten men. Their great run of form has closed the gap to Burnley with a win on Saturday making the gap just two points and at the end of play this could be the margin that separates the four teams from second to fifth. Andy Reid remains at the heart of the Forest side with the absence of Henri Lansbury and is going to have to be at his best to control the game against the Burnley midfield. He is this games key man.
Last meeting: 1-1 draw
Match odds: Burnley 5/4 Draw 11/5 Forest 23/10
Score prediction: 1-1 draw
Brighton v Wigan Athletic
These two sides have been quietly going about their business on the edge of the top six and find themselves only four points away from a play off spot with a game in hand. That makes this one another huge game and the Amex crowd expects their team to give them something to shout about.
January was not the best month for Brighton on and off the pitch. Some indifferent form in the league and the loss of Ashley Barnes to Burnley and Liam Bridcutt to Sunderland have done little to help their cause. They have responded well in the last couple of weeks however, back to back wins at home against Leeds and Doncaster, alongside earning a replay against Hull in the cup has left them brimming with confidence. With the great record Brighton have at the Amex they go into every game expecting to get the win and that will be no different against the Latics. Leonardo Ulloa has filled the striking void for Oscar Garcia and is in great form having netted in each of Brighton’s last three games. He is this games key man.
The Wigan revival is one of the achievements of this Championship season. Especially when you consider that this is the first job at this level for the relatively inexperienced manager Uwe Rosler. Credit has to go to Dave Wealen for appointing a man at the second attempt to continue the philosophy of team spirit and work rate first instilled by Roberto Martinez. Whilst the home form of the Latics has been almost faultless, their results away from the DW have left a lot to be desired. Wigan have managed just five away wins and lost eight, compared to eight home wins and just two defeats. This record will need to improve if they are going replace Reading in sixth place. The news in midweek that Ben Watson had suffered a double leg break against Barnsley is a huge blow for the club and it is going to be a difficult gap to fill.
Last meeting: 1-0 Brighton win
Match odds: Brighton 6/5 Draw 23/10 Wigan 9/4
Score prediction: 2-1 Wigan win
Huddersfield Town v Sheffield Wednesday
Nothing better than a Championship Yorkshire derby to get the fans excited amongst this terrible weather. The passion from the fans always sets the tone on the pitch and this one will not disappoint.
Huddersfield appear to be coming out of their poor run of form with two wins from their last three games. A bad end to January has seen their outside hopes for a play off spot slip away with fans focus already turning to building foundations for a play off push next season. The Terriers’ home form has remained impressive all campaign with the Town faithful being treated to some cracking games with goals a plenty. Adam Clayton has been the star of the show in the recent wins with some fine strikes and he is drawing attention from plenty of clubs. Clayton is this games key man.
Wednesday suffered their first loss of the calender year at the hands of Wigan a week ago and lost again to Derby this midweek, but remain solidly in mid-table, nine points clear of the relegation zone that not that long ago they occupied on a regular basis. The Owls had their FA Cup clash against Charlton postponed last weekend due to a waterlogged pitch and fell to the crusading Derby County at Hillsborough on Tuesday. In a game the Owls dominated they lacked that cutting edge upfront and conceded through a late strike from Patrick Bamford that came right out of the top draw. Wednesday’s away record is envious. They have not lost on the road since Stuart Gray first took caretaker charge and will hope to continue this record on Saturday.
Last meeting: 2-1 Huddersfield win
Match odds: Huddersfield 23/20 Draw 12/5 Wednesday 9/4
Score prediction: 2-0 Huddersfield win
Other fixtures with score predictions
Saturday 3pm kick offs unless stated
Middlesbrough 1 Leeds 1 (12:15)
Blackpool 0 Birmingham 0
Bolton 0 Watford 1
Charlton 0 Q.P.R 2
Derby 2 Bournemouth 0
Leicester 3 Ipswich 1
Reading 2 Blackburn 1