We may only be seven matches into the 2016/17 EFL Championship season, but for some sides, the pressure is already firmly on as they look to kick-start their campaigns.
Here we take a look at five second-tier clubs that are already in need of an all-important three points this week.
The obvious one. Owen Coyle’s record of just two points from his opening seven games after taking charge at Ewood Park has left the club rooted to the bottom of the table and left many Rovers fans baying for the new boss’s blood just over three months after his appointment. Having slipped to a late 2-1 defeat at Elland Road in midweek, the Lancashire side host fellow early season strugglers Rotherham United on Saturday, desperate to claim their first win of the season. With the two sides having already leaked 31 goals between them, Rovers will be hoping to put their dismal form behind them and earn three points at Ewood Park, if they aren’t able to do so, Coyle’s Blackburn tenure could prove to be an extremely short-lived one.
Things are never dull at Elland Road. Despite Kyle Bartley’s late goal against Blackburn Rovers lifting them out of the relegation zone on Tuesday night, rumours have been rife that Garry Monk could become the seventh manager to be given the axe by United’s eccentric owner Massimo Cellino. Having earlier this summer promised season ticket holders a partial refund should the Elland Road club fail to reach the Championship Playoffs next May, the controversial Italian is said to be disgruntled having seen Monk’s side average just a point per game so far this term, with the former Swansea boss in dire need of a good run of results in order to satisfy his much-maligned employer.
Clear similarities exist between United and their hosts this weekend, Cardiff City. For Massimo Cellino, read Vincent Tan; both painted as pantomime villains by the media, always likely to make headlines. For the under-pressure Garry Monk, read Bluebirds’ gaffer Paul Trollope, who, like Monk, finds himself under intense scrutiny just a few months into a new job. The Bluebirds slipped into the relegation zone following a 3-0 humbling at the hands of Preston North End on Tuesday, with their only win of the campaign coming a month ago against a lowly Blackburn Rovers side. Though Trollope laughed off the suggestion that his job may be under threat following the defeat at Deepdale, should Saturday’s televised encounter see his side slip to a fourth successive defeat, leaving the Bluebirds mired inside the drop zone little over two years after competing in the Premier League, the City boss will find himself under considerable pressure.
A recurring theme amongst underperforming Championship sides this season seems to be the arrival of a new manager shortly before the season began. Former UEFA Champions League winner Roberto Di Matteo has been able to spend big at Tony Xia’s recently relegated side, yet despite their enormous £50million summer outlay, Villa have won just once all season, and have drawn four of their last five fixtures. Having already conceded 5 goals in the last 10 minutes of matches and dropped 9 points from winning positions, the Midlands side would be level on points with table-topping Huddersfield Town if they had seen out the matches in which they led, yet are instead rooted inside the bottom half of the early season table. With a tough trip to Ipswich Town and a mouth-watering home clash with Newcastle United on the horizon, Di Matteo needs to find a way of killing games off or seeing them out more effectively if he is to avoid becoming an early big-name managerial casualty. Having spent big on the attacking talents of Ross McCormack, Jonathan Kodija and Albert Adomah, there can be no excuses for the Italian if he fails to kick-start the Villains’ season in the coming weeks.
Having appointed the man who laid the foundations for Leicester City’s incredible Premier League title-winning campaign in Nigel Pearson, a well-respected and seasoned Championship operator, few would have predicted Derby County to have toiled so miserably in the season’s opening stages. Having missed out on a trip to Wembley after an excruciating 3-2 aggregate Playoff defeat against Steve Bruce’s Hull City side last season, the appointment of Pearson was supposed to be the final piece of the Rams’ puzzle, an experienced, no-nonsense manager taking charge of a talented group of players who should have won promotion under the Wembley arch in 2014, when they were somehow beaten by Harry Redknapp’s QPR in one of the most one-sided Playoff finals in recent memory. Seven games into the new season, the Rams have scored just one league goal, and find themselves in the midst of a three-game losing run after their 1-0 home defeat to Ipswich Town in midweek. Having bought in talented Manchester United youngster James Wilson on loan, and proven Championship goalscorer Matej Vydra in a big-money £8million deal, Pearson’s side’s inexplicable struggles in attack cannot continue for much longer, with the Rams, so often the pacesetters in recent Championship seasons, already playing catch-up as they travel to Ashton Gate tomorrow.
Betting: If you’re really feeling lucky ahead of this weekend’s championship fixtures, a somewhat unlikely 4 fold accumulator with Derby, Aston Villa and Blackburn all winning, as well as the televised fixture between Cardiff City and Leeds United ending level is available at odds of around 48/1 with Sky Bet.