This weekend brings the final round of Championship football before the international break takes hold once again. Fortunately, there are some potential classics to look forward to over the coming days.
Cardiff City vs. Derby County (Saturday, 15:00)
Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City side sit top of the Championship table, after an impressive seven wins from ten matches. Their thrilling performance against fellow-early pacesetters Leeds United during the week has only enforced the idea that the Bluebirds are not to be underestimated this campaign.
Derby County visit the Cardiff City stadium on Saturday, looking to inflict only a second league defeat on the Welsh side this season. The Rams have struggled on their travels of late, with their only away league victory this season coming at lowly Bolton Wanderers. Gary Rowett’s men will need to put in a top-class performance if they stand any chance of leaving Wales with anything. With Cardiff knowing that only all three points will guarantee their position at the top of the table going into the international break, Derby have their work cut out.
Hull City vs. Birmingham City (Saturday, 15:00)
After a hectic transfer window, both in terms of players leaving and arriving, Hull City are perhaps suffering from trying to change too much in a short space of time. Leonid Slutsky’s men sit in 17th position in the Championship, having already shipped a whopping 18 goals. The former Russia manager will hope that his side can reverse their fortunes this weekend and start to climb up the table, to alleviate the mounting pressure on his rather broad shoulders.
Their opponents are Birmingham City, who, since disposing of Harry Redknapp, have drawn at Derby and beaten Sheffield Wednesday. Lee Carsley will lead the Blues for the final time this weekend, before newly-appointed Steve Cotterill takes charge of first-team affairs on Monday. Carsley, who will remain at St. Andrews as assistant manager, will be hoping to end his caretaker stint on a high. With Hull without a victory since the end of August, you wouldn’t put it past him.
Reading vs. Norwich City (Saturday, 17:30)
Reading entertain Norwich City on Saturday evening, with both managers in need of a good result to avoid questions being asked about their respective futures. After reaching the play-off final last season, Jaap Stam’s Reading have had a rather poor start to this campaign, winning just two of their opening nine matches. Despite being relatively tight at the back, they have struggled to find the back of the net so far, scoring only eight league goals. The Dutchman will hope that their fortunes can change in front of the Sky cameras, or else his future at the Madejski Stadium may be called into question.
After a difficult August, in which they suffered embarrassing defeats against Sunderland and Millwall, Norwich have greatly improved this month, shoring up at the back and climbing up the table. Their lack of recent goals could be seen as a concern, although Daniel Farke is confident that his strikers will be firing on all cylinders sooner rather than later. This encounter will be extremely interesting, as will the potential fallout of the result.