The Championship league table is starting to take shape as we head towards the busy festive period. As always we preview five of the games in detail.
Nottingham Forest v Reading
The Friday televised Championship games have produced some great matches so far this season and this weeks offering shouldn’t disappoint. The visitors, Reading, have been building the foundations of a promotion push. Nigel Adkins side are on the cusp of the play off places and a win on Friday night could see them seize the opportunity to climb up to 5th above opponents Forest. The hosts will want to take the three points to keep pace with the top three with the clear aim of the season to gain promotion to the top flight for the first time since the turn of the millennium. Come the end of the season it will be a surprise if both of theses sides are not battling for promotion. The past month has been a difficult one for both sides and they look inseparable in terms of form and ability. This games key man is Simon Cox. The Forest front man has been under pressure from the City Ground fans after netting just three goals this term, but he did net the equaliser last time out against league leaders Burnley.
Score prediction: 1-1 draw
Bournemouth v Brighton
The south coast classico of the B’s is the lunch time offering in the Championship. The promotion honeymoon is well and truly over at Bournemouth. Without a win in five games and struggling to both score goals and keep them out has seen them slide out of the early hopes of a play off spot. The loan signing of Nico Yennaris from Arsenal shows Eddie Howe’s determination to improve on recent performances. Brighton, on the other hand, have faired much better in recent weeks with three consecutive victories in their last three and unbeaten in five. After a slow start to management in England Oscar Garcia has got the Seagulls playing flowing football that harks back to the prime of Gus Poyet’s reign. The Cherries skipper and former Brighton player Tommy Elphick has been in and out of the side so far this season, however with Elliott Ward out injured until the New Year and Steve Cook a doubt it will down to Elphick to marshal the back line and keep his former side from going away with the three points. He is this games key man.
Score prediction: Bournemouth 2-1 win
Blackpool v Sheffield Wednesday
The most talked about topic of the week in the Championship has involved Sheffield Wednesday. To sack or not to sack? That is the question on the lips of the Wednesday board and the rumour mill is in full circulation with the majority of the leading bookmakers taking odds for the next permanent Sheffield manager with odds shortening by the day. At the time of writing however, Dave Jones was still in his position as he makes his plans to try and overcome one of the leagues real promotion contenders. Blackpool have quietly been going about their business in the shadow of surpise leaders Burnley, but with Paul Ince returning to the dug out after his five game ban expect them to go from strength to strength. Just two defeats all season is the sort of form that will put you right in the hunt come the end of the season. One of the leagues young talents and a potential January target for Premier League sides has to be Tom Ince. The young forward has been leading the Tangerines in their great start to the season and he is this games key man. A defeat in this one and expect a P45 on Dave Jones’ desk come Saturday evening.
Score prediction: Blackpool win 3-1
Doncaster v QPR
Many people will probably be putting QPR down on their three aways having looked at both the Championship league and form tables. Neither are particularly pretty reading for a Doncaster fan. Sitting 22nd in the league and in rotten form with just four points from their last six games. A win last week against fellow relegation contenders Yeovil seemed to suggest that they were on the up, but a miserable 2-0 away defeat at Charlton in midweek has lowered morale once more. There is a glimmer of optimism for Donny fans. QPR’s away form of late has dipped slightly from the early standards they set, without an away win in four with there imperious home form keeping them level with the top two. Weirder things happen on a common basis than a Doncaster win, I just can’t see it myself however, and with Charlie Austin in full confidence it could be a rout at the Keepmoat. Austin is this games key man.
Score prediction: QPR win 3-0
Middlesbrough v Bolton Wanderers
It was never going to be easy for new head coach Aitor Karanka, his side travelled to in form Leeds in his opening game and in the cruel world of football instead of an easy home opener against an out of form side positioned at the foot of the table his side play the league’s most in form side Bolton. After a start to the season which didn’t see Wanderers win until October they have been leaping up the table winning their last three to put them in the dog fight that is the Championship mid table. If I were a betting man I wouldn’t imagine they stay there for long with a play off place being the target for Dougie Freedman after missing out on the final day last season. After netting again last week Jermaine Beckford has scored 5 in his last six and he is again the key man in this match.
Score prediction: Bolton win 2-0
Remaining fixtures with predictions
Barnsley 1 Birmingham 2
Blackburn 2 Leeds 2
Charlton 1 Ipswich 0
Huddersfield 1 Burnley 1
Leicester 3 Millwall 1
Watford 2 Yeovil 0
Wigan 1 Derby 1