Once again in the Championship there are some great matches at both ends of the table and with 22 of the 24 sides in action on Saturday there are going to be plenty of talking points from these games. We preview five of them in detail.
Watford v Leicester
Everyone can remember what happened the last time these sides met and both clubs have ambitions to go one better than the play offs this season. Leicester return to Vicarage road for the first time since the dramatic events of the play off semi final and are in top form winning four of their last five in the league and off the back of defeating Fulham in an eventful League Cup tie. Watford, on the other hand, have struggled recently winning just one of their last four and are just not getting the rub of the green. The strike force of Vardy and Nugent added a goal each to their respective tallies against Bournemouth last week for Leicester and Manuel Almunia will have to be on top form if he is going to stop them. He is the key man in this mouthwatering game. After the goal fest in the play off meeting and with both teams netting forty-six league goals between them so far this season this could be a cracker.
Score prediction: Watford win 3-1
QPR v Derby
QPR have hit the rails by their high standards so far this season as they are without a win in their last three games and it isn’t getting any easier for Harry Redknapp’s side. The visitors to Loftus Road are Steve McClaren’s resurgent Derby County side. Since coming in McClaren has got a goal shy team scoring for fun with eleven goals in his four games in charge. Despite their recent blip QPR’s home form has been almost faultless winning five and drawing one whilst Derby have only lost once on the road this campaign. It is going to be hard to separate these two sides and Charlie Austin is the key man to make the difference. The marksman has already managed six goals in the Championship this season and will be expecting to score in this one after two games without a goal. Loftus Road has been a fortress this season and QPR will look to bounce back and give McClaren his first loss as derby boss.
Score prediction: QPR win 2-0
Leeds v Yeovil
Yeovil picked up only their second win of the season and their first ever win at this level at Huish Park last week against promotion hopefuls Nottingham Forest. Leeds, however, would have hoped to be fairing much better than their opponents by this stage of the season, but have struggled to consistently pick up points. So far this season Brian McDermott’s men have failed to win two consecutive league fixtures, yet still find themselves on the cusp of the play off places. No one would have imagined this time last year that the Glovers would be visiting Elland Road but don’t think Gary Johnson will be asking any less from his players as they still look to establish themselves in the second tier. It is key that Leeds get on top early and the key man in this match is the United captain Rudolph Austin who will look to control the middle of the park. Leeds go into this match as massive favourites but if Yeovil grab an early lead it will be a nervy day at Elland Road.
Score prediction: Leeds win 3-1
Birmingham v Charlton
Two Championship regulars who both find themselves at the bottom end of the table face off at St Andrews and pressure is on both sides to get a result. Birmingham boss Lee Clark has a very young squad with a limited budget, however they are slowly learning their trade in one of the toughest leagues in the Europe. Charlton have managed just two wins this season although they are unbeaten in their last four games. Scoring goals has been the main problem for the Addicks. The boys from the Valley have found the target just nine times in their opening twelve Championship matches. Birmingham have had a similar problem netting just seven times themselves. Having scored last time out at Derby Lee Novak is this games key man as he hopes to steer the Blues away from the foot of the Championship table. Both teams are struggling so far this term with the hold saying goals win you games being the main problem so expect a tight affair that could swing on a mistake from either side.
Score prediction: 1-1
Notts Forest v Blackpool
Another clash between two promotion hopefuls looks like one of the stand out games this weekend. Currently occupying 6th and 4th respectively in the table these sides have been involved in some of this seasons most dramatic games and come off disappointing results last weekend. Forest falling to Yeovil 3-1 while Blackpool let a 2-1 lead slip against Lancashire rivals Blackburn in the added time. With manager Paul Ince still serving his stadium ban it will be left to assistant Alex Rae to try and get a result at the fortress that is the City Ground. Forest have picked up fourteen points from a possible eighteen at home conceding just five goals. Tom Ince will again lead the line for Blackpool and Forest will have to keep him quite if they hope to get a result. That job will probably be given to loanee Jack Hobbs who is looking for back to back promotions from the Championship after featuring twenty times for Hull last season. Hobbs is this game’s key man. At the end of the season sides will look back at games such as this one and feel they were defining moments for them and neither side will want to lose ground on pacesetters Burnley.
Score prediction: Forest win 3-2
Remaining fixtures with predictions
Ipswich 2 Barnsley 1
Blackburn 3 Middlesbrough 1
Bournemouth 2 Bolton 0
Doncaster 1 Brighton 1
Millwall 0 Burnley 2
Sheffield Wednesday 0 Reading 1
Wigan 2 Huddersfield 1