Just the ten games in the Championship this weekend, however still lots up for grabs as any three of the bottom five could find themselves in the relegation zone come the final whistle. We preview four of the big games this weekend in detail.
Blackburn Rovers v Burnley
We start this week’s preview with the East Lancashire derby which is live on Sky this Sunday lunchtime. Fans of both teams feel this is one of the fiercest rivalries in the whole country and both will be desperate to get one over on their neighbours.
Last weekends 4-0 defeat at Bolton came as a shock to fans and coaching staff alike with manager Gary Bower describing the performance as “out of the blue to all of us”. They remain six points off of the play offs in tenth, but could close that gap to three with Wigan not in league action. Jordan Rhodes has scored just once so far in 2014 and that came on New Years day. He has gone eight league games without a goal and will need to find his shooting boots soon to help climb the table. The return of Paul Robinson from injury has been a great addition at the back and prior to the defeat last time out he had kept three consecutive clean sheets. This record has seen him short-listed for the February player of the month and he is this game’s key man.
Another week and another weekend preview applauing Sean Dyche and his players for proving all their doubters wrong. The win last week against Derby came controversially with Chris Martin sent off for a debatable second yellow card and the game turned on its head. The Clarets remain unbeaten in 2014 Championship action and match league leaders Leicester for form over the last six games. Danny Ings has still not scored since the 1st February and will want to end his goal drought sooner rather than later. Despite this, Sam Vokes has taken over the mantle admirably and also made the short-list for the February player of the month. He will be the main threat to Robinson’s clean sheet and will want to continue his form into March.
Last meeting: 1-1 draw
Match odds: Blackburn 17/10 Draw 11/5 Burnley 8/5
Score prediction: 1-1 draw
Brighton v Reading
These two teams have been battling it out for sixth place since the turn of the year, but coming into this one neither of them sits in the play off spots as in form Wigan have leapfrogged them. However, with the Latics in FA Cup action this is a great chance for these sides to reclaim sixth.
For Brighton to end the day in the top six they will need a very convincing win by at least a four goal margin. At this point Oscar Garcia would take a scrappy 1-0 and the three points over a solid Reading side. Brighton’s form at the Amex has been the backbone of their fine season and remained consistent all season. Their home defeat against Wigan was only their forth at home all year and their first since early December. Since Ashley Barnes departed for Burnley the responsibility to get the goals has been mounted on Leonardo Ulloa until they acquired the services of Jesse Lingard on loan from Manchester United. The young talent had a good spell at Birmingham early this season netting six goals and showed early signs last week of being a useful signing for Brighton. He will hope to open his account for his new club on Saturday and is this game’s key man.
Reading have taken just four points out of a possible twelve in their last four games which is far from the form required to make the top six. They have however, won impressively on their last two trips away from the Madejski, winning 3-0 over Millwall and 3-1 over Q.P.R. to keep on the heels of the leading pack of five teams. The Royals have already made the trip down to Brighton this year losing 1-0 in the third round of the FA Cup. With Nigel Adkins being the tactician he is, he would have analysed this game meticulously and will be coming into this huge game with a plan to take all three points back to Berkshire.
Last meeting: 0–0 draw
Match odds: Brighton Evens Draw 5/2 Reading 13/5
Score prediction: 1-0 Reading win
Barnsley v Nottingham Forest
Both these sides are coming off of the back of a disappointing result last weekend. Barnsley were hammered 5-0 by Huddersfield, whilst Forest were played off of the park by Wigan at the City Ground in a 4-1 defeat.
Hopes of a repeat of last years great escape are slipping through the fingers of the Tykes faithful. After winning their big meeting with Millwall a fortnight ago there was belief that they had turned a corner and could plan some sort of route away from the foot of the table. However, last week’s crushing defeat at Huddersfield brought fans back down to earth with a bump. With the prospect of no points from their next three games as they face leaders Leicester on Tuesday and travel to Watford next weekend they could be cast adrift from their relegation rivals who all have more favourable fixtures. Barnsley have won just five games all season, but four of them have come at Oakwell which serves as a glimmer of hope as they face Forest.
Having come through a difficult end to February facing the top two in back-to-back games with a single points Forest would have seen March as a month they could kick on. Unfortunately that did not go to plan last week against the league’s form side Wigan as they failed to impose themselves on the FA Cup holders. This run and Forest’s recent injury crisis only got worse when Billy Davies was handed a five game touchline ban following an incident at half time against Leicester. This leaves Forest without their two creative sparks in Henri Lansbury and Andy Reid who remain long term absentees and without their manager to marshal the game from the bench. These injuries will mean utility man Greg Halford could be used in a more forward position as he was over the festive period which saw him net some vital goals. He is this game’s key man.
Last meeting: 3–2 Forest win
Match odds: Barnsley 9/4 Draw 12/5 Forest 23/20
Score prediction: 2-1 Forest win
Yeovil v Sheffield Wednesday
A couple of months ago these two sides were tied down to the foot of the Championship table. At present thirteen points and eight league places separate them as Wednesday consolidate in mid-table and Yeovil continue their fight for an against the odds survival.
Yeovil’s game at the Madejski last week was vintage Championship action. The game literally had everything. Controversial decisions, sending offs, a missed penalty, an own goal and late drama. The result was the Glovers travelled back to Somerset with a valuable point that could be the difference between relegation and survival come May. Yeovil have equalled their longest unbeaten run of this season with four games without a loss and will be targeting a new record as they face Wednesday. James Hayter is enjoying his time in the Championship as he reaches the latter years of his career and he will do everything he can to fire the goals to keep the Glovers in the second tier. He is this game’s key man.
The work of Stuart Gray should be recognised in the end of season awards. He has taken Wednesday from a certain relegation to hopes of a top half finish. In his three months in charge he is yet to taste defeat on the road, a run of seven games. After missing out on the chance of a Steel city derby in the FA Cup quarter finals focus has turned to ending the season well to build for next season. A gritty 1-0 win over Middlesbrough last week maintained Wednesday position in fifteenth. The improvement at Hillsborough has been built around the solid defensive unit. Their last six victories have seen the Owls win to nil.
Last meeting: 1-1 draw
Match odds: Yeovil 19/10 Draw 23/10 Wednesday 11/8
Score prediction: 2-0 Wednesday win
Other fixtures with predictions
Saturday 3pm kick offs
Birmingham 0 Q.P.R 1
Blackpool 0 Bournemouth 2
Derby 3 Millwall 0
Doncaster 0 Huddersfield 1
Leeds 2 Bolton 1
Middlesbrough 1 Ipswich 1