The Championship sees its first real derby weekend of the season as London, the Midlands, Yorkshire and Lancashire see rivals face up to each other in four fixtures, with Crystal Palace hosting Millwall, Blackpool facing Burnley, Birmingham City taking on Leicester City and Leeds United paying a visit to Sheffield Wednesday.
In addition, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers and Burnley are without management while Ipswich and Peterborough are still looking to gain a foothold in a league that is gradually slipping away from them – in essence, we have a weekend filled with action to look forward to.
SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY v LEEDS UNITED, 19.45, Hillsborough (Friday)
Sheffield Wednesday are desperate to get out of their worst rut since Dave Jones’ appointment at the club but will have to do so against a Leeds United side gaining momentum, a prospect few clubs would look forward to.
Wednesday’s problems stem from costly errors being made as the side desperately attempt to return to form. Wednesday have lost seven of their last eight games with the most recent defeat coming at home against Hull City, a side which, given their own lull in form, should have been there for the taking.
For Leeds, the visit to Wednesday couldn’t come at a better time, following their previous Yorkshire derby win against Barnsley a fortnight ago. Neil Warnock’s side have developed a knack of grinding out results and will look to extend their unbeaten run to five games.
What to watch out for:
While Charlie Austin has written goalscoring headlines with his 12 goals in nine games this season, Luciano Becchio’s eight have helped Leeds secure 14 of their 17 points – the most recent of which coming against Barnsley. Becchio is already nearing his goal tally for last season – he scored 11 in 41 games last time round – with three quarters of the season still remaining. The striker may find Wednesday’s faltering defence easy prey.
Sheffield Wednesday – Kirkland, Buxton, Mattock, Taylor, Llera, J Johnson, Semedo, McCabe, Antoni, Bothroyd, Rodri
Leeds – Kenny, Peltier, Lees, Pearce, Drury, Austin, Norris, Diouf, Varney, Becchio, Gray
Recent form: Wednesday – LLLLDL; Leeds – LLWWDW
CRYSTAL PALACE v MILLWALL, 13.00, Selhurst Park
Crystal Palace will look to continue their remarkable rise to prominence in the Championship, with the visit of arch rivals Millwall providing one of the prominent fixtures of the day. Millwall’s season hasn’t started as they would have liked; the same was being said about Palace after the first three fixtures of the season – all of which the Eagles lost. Since then, Palace have been unbeaten in seven games, winning Dougie Freedman the manager of the month award and striker Glen Murray the player of the month gong. Millwall’s saving grace has come in the form of experienced forward Darius Henderson, whose recent goalscoring antics have helped secure points against Burnley, Bristol City and Bolton.
What to watch out for:
Palace have managed to get themselves into a habit of conceding goals. Recently however, they have also found a tenacity that was perhaps missing earlier in the season – three of the last four wins have seen Palace come from behind to secure all the points.
Palace – Speroni, Blake, Ward, Delaney, Moxey, Jedinak, Garvan, Zaha, Moritz, Bolasie, Murray
Millwall – Taylor, Dunne, Osborne, Lowry, Malone, Henry, Wright, Trotter, Abdou, Woods, Keogh
Recent form: Palace – WDWWWW; Millwall – LLLDDW
BIRMINGHAM CITY v LEICESTER CITY, 15.00, St Andrews
Given that the team from the second capital were play-off challengers last season, it could be said that Birmingham City’s current form isn’t to type. City sit just above the relegation zone on eleven points following a stuttering start to the season, their most recent defeat coming at home to manager Lee Clark’s former side, Huddersfield Town.
Leicester City’s manager Nigel Pearson knows the difficulty of being an embattled manager following a difficult end to August and start to September, but he should give hope to the likes of Clark by proving that such spells can be overcome. Leicester have won their last five games in a row, catapulting them to second in the table.
What to watch out for:
Leicester have found a striking partnership that seems to work; David Nugent has scored five goals this season while Jamie Vardy has scored four. Both strikers have created chances for one another, creating a threat that should concern Blues fans who have seen their side concede plenty of goals.
Birmingham – Butland, Spector, Caldwell, Pablo, Murphy, Elliott, Burke, Mullins, Caddis, Lita, Lovenkrands
Leicester – Schmeichel, De Laet, Morgan, Moore, Konchesky, Marshall, Drinkwater, King, Knockaert, Nugent, Vardy
Recent form: Birmingham – DWLWLL; Leicester – LWWWWW
BOLTON WANDERERS v BRISTOL CITY, 15.00, Reebok Stadium
Bolton sacked manager Owen Coyle following the club’s 2-1 defeat to Millwall, their fifth of the season. Coyle’s side had a tumultuous start to the season, having failed to collect points consecutively since their opening day defeat to Burnley. The Wanderers are being closely linked to Crystal Palace manager Dougie Freedman although it is unlikely that any appointments will be made prior to the weekend’s fixture.
Bristol City have had a similar start to Bolton; the club sit one place above Bolton in the league on the same points total with a slightly better goal difference. City haven’t won a game in their last four fixtures, suffering similarly to Bolton in their failure to find meaningful form.
What to watch out for:
Bolton’s lack of a goalscoring striker to partner the experience of Kevin Davies will be their biggest concern. Young striker Marvin Sordell was signed for a significant fee and big hopes but has so far failed to make an impact since joining during the winter transfer window. A visit from Bristol City might just see a change to his goalscoring form.
Bolton – Bogdan, Mears, Mills, Knight, Ricketts, Eagles, Andrew, M Davies, Lee, K Davies, Sordell
Bristol City – Heaton, Cunningham, Carey, Wilson, Fontaine, Adomha, Skuse, Pearson, Woolford, Stead, Baldock
Recent form: Bolton – WLWLDL; Bristol City – LWDLDL
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION v MIDDLESBROUGH, 15.00, American Express Stadium
Two draws and a defeat in their last three fixtures have seen Brighton drop out of the top two in recent weeks, form which doesn’t concern manager Gus Poyet. Following their 0-0 tie with Derby County, Poyet suggested he was happy with his side’s work-rate.
The visit of Middlesbrough will be a tough test for the Seagulls however, with Tony Mowbray’s side collecting both of their most recent wins away from home at Blackburn and Watford.
What to watch out for:
Lukas Jutkiewicz has had a glut of goals which have made him the club’s leading scorer this season with four strikes so far, but the attacker is a doubt for the weekend’s fixture with a knee injury. Another goal-scorer who could be over his injury problems is Scottish international Craig Mackail-Smith, who is scheduled for a return to Brighton’s line-up following a spell on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.
Brighton – Kuszczak, Bruno, Greer, El-Abd, Bridge, Orlandi, Buckley, Dicker, Bridcutt, Dobie, Mackail-Smith
Middlesbrough – Steele, Hoyte, Amougou, Friend, Woodgate, Leadbitter, Thomson, McEachran, Emnes, Carayol, Miller.
Recent form: Brighton – WWWLDD; Middlesbrough – WLWLDW
CHARLTON ATHLETIC v BARNSLEY, 15.00, The Valley
A surprising yet richly deserved win at Blackpool helped give Charlton a much-needed lift prior to the international break, the result helping the South-East Londoners move to 15th in the table and clear of the building relegation battle.
For Barnsley, two defeats in a row have dragged them back towards the foot of the table. While their most recent defeat to Leeds United was expected yet disappointing, their defeat to Peterborough was of genuine concern and the trip to an improving Charlton will be a tough challenge for Keith Hill’s side.
What to watch out for:
Charlton have strengthened their attacking options with the addition of experienced striker Rob Hulse. The QPR loanee made his debut for the side in a late cameo appearance at Blackpool and is likely to feature more prominently following the international break. Hulse has a scoring record of a goal every three games – providing a different kind of attacking threat to what the The Addicks currently have.
Charlton – Hamer, Morrison, Solly, Cort, Wiggins, Holland, Jackson, Stephens, Pritchard, Wright-Phillips, Hulse
Barnsley – Gonzalez, Stone, Wiseman, Foster, Golbourne, Dawson, Cywka, Mellis, Davies, Harewood, Etutu
Recent form: Charlton – LLWDLW; Barnsley – DLWDLL
DERBY COUNTY v BLACKBURN ROVERS, 15.00, Pride Park
Derby used the two-week break as an opportunity to take a moral-building and team-bonding trip to Miami, and manager Nigel Clough will hope that his side will take a refreshed approach to the season. The Rams haven’t started the season badly but will perhaps feel disappointed that they haven’t converted more draws into wins. Their last result, a 0-0 draw against Brighton, possibly deserved more reward for the effort put in.
For Blackburn, the lack of a manager may be their biggest concern. Many clubs use international breaks as an opportunity to make big changes, yet Steve Kean’s resignation hasn’t been followed by a decision to appoint anyone. Alan Shearer has said he would be open to discuss a return to the club, but no approach has been made.
What to watch for:
Steve Kean’s resignation was a decision many fans welcomed. It hasn’t however been a decision reflected by their form. Kean suffered one defeat this season prior to being sacked; Rovers have drawn two and lost one of the games that have followed. A visit to a hard-to-beat Derby side could consign them to a further game without a win.
Derby – Fielding, O’Connor, Brayford, Keogh, Roberts, Bryson, Coutts, Hendick, Hughes, Ward, Sammon
Blackburn – Robinson, Orr, M. Olsson, Dann, Hanley, Formica, Pedersen, Murphy, Etuhu, Rhodes, Gomes.
Recent form: Derby – LWLWDD; Blackburn – WWLDDL
HUDDERSFIELD TOWN v WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS, 15.00, Galpharm Stadium
Having followed a run of three wins in a row with two defeats, Huddersfield Town manager Simon Grayson must have been relieved to have entered the international break on the back of a 1-0 win at Birmingham City. Huddersfield have had a fantastic start to the season, sitting sixth in the league thanks to a team ethic fostered by the former Leeds United manager.
The visit of third-placed Wolves will be a tough test for the Terriers however, as Stale Solbakken’s side have lost just one of their last six games. The Black Country side have also reinforced their attacking options by signing winger Jermaine Pennant from Stoke on a three-month loan.
What to watch for:
French midfielder Bakary Sako has been a force to be reckoned with in Wolves’ team. The powerful midfielder is their second highest scorer and a constant threat with forceful runs and a fearlessness in front of goal.
Huddersfield – Smithies, Dixon, Clarke, Gerrard, Hunt, Norwood, Clayton, Ward, Southern, Scannell, Novak
Wolves – Ikeme, Zubar, Johnson, Berra, Ward, Sako, Edwards, Davis, Boukari, Ebanks-Blake, Doyle
Recent form: Huddersfield – WWWLLW; Wolves – WWWWLW
Prediction – 2-2
HULL CITY v IPSWICH TOWN, 15.00, KC Stadium
Wins at Bolton, Millwall and Leeds gave Hull City fans hope that a Steve Bruce-led side might challenge for promotion once again, only to see their side go on a three-game losing run which included a defeat to Peterborough – Posh’s first win of the season. Bruce will have been pleased at his side’s resilience in their win at Sheffield Wednesday however, a result which eased the fear of an endless losing streak.
The same cannot be said about Ipswich Town however. The Tractor Boys sit in 23rd place at the moment with just seven points to show for their efforts. Manager Paul Jewell has used the international break as an opportunity to strengthen his side, recruiting experienced midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker on a free-transfer and goalkeeper Stephen Henderson on loan.
What to watch for:
Nigel Reo-Coker stated his frustration at the lack of Premier League clubs willing to give him a chance, and the midfielder will hope to prove his doubters wrong at Ipswich. The player hasn’t featured in a competitive game since his release by Bolton Wanderers last season, so Jewell may choose to introduce him gradually to his side.
Hull – Amos, Chester, Bruce, Dudgeon, Faye, Olofinjana, Elmohamady, Koren, Quinn, Aluko, Simpson
Ipswich – Loach, Ainsley, Smith, Chambers, Cresswell, Martin, Drury, Luongo, Murphy, Taylor, Chopra
Recent form: Hull – WWLLLW; Ipswich – LLLDDL
NOTTINGHAM FOREST v CARDIFF CITY, 15.00, City Ground
Nottingham Forest started the season brightly, with manager Sean O’Driscoll guiding them to an unbeaten start spanning six games – that unbeaten run came to an abrupt end as Forest fell to consecutive defeats to Leeds United and rivals Derby County. O’Driscoll will hope that his side’s 1-0 win over Peterborough prior to the international break might kick off another unbeaten spell.
For Cardiff City, the season so far has shown their winning credentials as they currently lead the Championship race having only lost two games this season. Crucial to Cardiff’s impressive start is their home form; the two defeats collected so far have both come at away grounds, and a visit to the City Ground is never an easy one to make.
What to look out for:
Billy Sharp is yet to find his scoring touch since his loan move from Southampton – in the six games he’s featured in, he hasn’t scored a single goal. With Dexter Blackstock sidelined due to suspension, now might be the time for Sharp to score some goals.
Forest – Camp, Moloney, Halford, Collins, Harding, Gillett, McGugan, Jenas, Reid, Cox, Sharp
Cardiff – Marshall, McNaughton, Taylor, Hudson, Connolly, Mutch, Whittingham, Noone, Smith, Helguson, Bellamy
Recent form: Forest – DDLLDW; Cardiff City – WWLWWW
WATFORD v PETERBOROUGH, 15.00, Vicarage Road
Gianfranco Zola recently admitted that defending isn’t in his sides DNA; results this season reflect such an assertion as the Hornets have conceded a total of 18 goals already. Watford’s home form is possibly their biggest concern – Zola’s side have lost three home games at Vicarage Road already this season and have won one and drawn one. Not entirely inspiring prior to a visit from a Peterborough side desperate to pull clear of the relegation zone.
Darren Ferguson’s side have had a recent revival, winning two of their last three games – both away from home. Ferguson has been dealing with the pressures of managing a relegation-threatened side with calm, entrusting his side to get the results he feels they are capable of getting. Posh’s trip to a Watford side stuttering at home couldn’t come at a better time.
What to look for:
Peterborough striker Emile Sinclair has been linked with a move away from the club. The striker is crucial to Posh having any hope of staying in the division and will be the focus of the attention against Watford.
Watford – Almunia, Doyley, Nosworthy, Dickinson, Yeates, Hogg, Murray, Pudil, Abdi, Vydra, Iwelumo
Peterborough – Olejnik, Little, Brisley, Zakuani, Alcock, Bostwick, Swanson, McCann, Sinclair, Boyd, Barnett
Recent form: Watford – LLDWWL; Peterborough – LLLWWL
BURNLEY v BLACKPOOL, 17.20, Turf Moor
Football is full of surprises and Eddie Howe’s return to Bournemouth is one such surprise. The manager, whom Burnley appointed in January 2011, left the club for personal reasons. The Lancashire club have had a difficult start to the season, losing half of this season’s ten games – despite having the league’s top goalscorer in Charlie Austin.
Blackpool’s start to the season hasn’t gone according to plan either. The Seasiders were promotion favourites after missing out on promotion through the play-offs last season. Ian Holloway’s side have lost three of their last four games leaving Ian Holloway frustrated with his side’s lacklustre defending.
What to look for:
Ian Holloway cited his team’s susceptibility from set pieces as a major weakness following their last defeat to Charlton Athletic. If Blackpool are to secure more wins, it’ll be this weakness which Holloway will need to address, or alternatively an Achilles heel which Burnley should exploit.
Blackpool – Gilks, Baptiste, Eardley, Cathcart, Crainey, Gomes, Osbourne, Angel, Taylor-Flethcer, Ince, Delfouneso
Burnley – Grant, Tripper, Shackell, Edgar, Mills, Stanislas, Marney, McCann, Stewart, Vokes, Austin
Recent form: Blackpool – DWLLWL Burnley – WLWDDL
Tags: Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Championship, Crystal Palace, sheffield wednesday