Southampton visit struggling Nottingham Forest in a match both sides will be looking to win for very different reasons, while Crystal Palace host Leeds in a battle to get into the top six. Doncaster, meanwhile, could end the weekend bottom if they fail to get something from Cardiff’s visit to the Keepmoat, if Coventry can overcome Derby at Pride Park.
BRIGHTON v BRISTOL CITY 15.00, Amex Stadium (Saturday)
Brighton followed up their shock 2-0 defeat at the hands of Coventry with a thumping 3-0 win over top team Southampton in two games which give an insight into the Seasiders’ season to date. They will be without captain Gordon Greer after his late sending off against Southampton as Gus Poyet searches for consistency to help Albion push on.
Like their hosts, Bristol City have lost to Coventry and beaten Southampton recently, and with a last-gasp win over Millwall last time out, Derek McInnes’s side opened a three point gap between themselves and the bottom three.
What to watch out for: Craig Mackail-Smith has not lived up to his £3million price tag to date and he will be keen to hit a purple patch soon.
Brighton – Brezovan, El-Abd, Hall, Dunk, Taricco, Noone, Bridcutt, Navarro, Barnes, Paynter, Mackail-Smith
Bristol City– James, Foster, McGivern, Fontaine, Nyatanga, Skuse, Kilkenny, Adomah, Elliot, Cisse, Maynard
Recent form: Brighton – WLLLLW; Bristol City – LLDLWW
CRYSTAL PALACE v LEEDS 15.00, SelhurstPark
Fresh from their League Cup semi-final first leg win over Cardiff and with most of his squad recovered from a virus that affected 20 players, Dougie Freedman will have his sights set on getting into the top six. Defensive duo Paddy McCarthy and Anthony Gardner have been vital in recent week as the club boast the most clean sheets in the division.
Like the hosts, Leeds know a win could see them into the play-off places, despite only winning one of their last five league matches. With Robert Snodgrass going somewhat off the boil as the transfer window approaches, Simon Grayson will be looking to other members of his squad stepping up to the plate to help the play-off push.
What to watch out for: Palace winger Wilfried Zaha has caught the eye with some outstanding displays and he will again be showing off his skills in front of watching scouts.
Palace – Speroni, Clyne, McShane, Gardner, Parr, Wright, Jedinak, Garvan, Zaha, Scannell, Murray
Leeds – Lonergan, Kisnorbo, Lees, White, O’Dea, Brown, Clayton, Pugh, Snodgrass, Becchio, McCormack
Recent form: Palace – LWWLWL, Leeds – WDLLLW
DERBY COUNTY v COVENTRY CITY 15.00, Pride Park
Four wins in five for Nigel Clough’s men has seen them rediscover their early season form. With key players returning to fitness, the Rams are another team who can enter the top six with a win in this Midlands derby. Theo Robinson is back from injury to spearhead the attack for the home side and he scored in the FA Cup win over Crystal Palace.
Coventry are still bottom and seven points from safety despite winning two of their last three matches. The Sky Blues are unlikely to be able to strengthen the squad in the January window, so Andy Thorn will need to instil the spirit and determination he displayed as a player if they are to escape the drop.
What to watch out for: Sky Blues target man Lukas Jutkiewicz has been a rare highlight this season with nine goals, and his performances have earned the attention of some promotion chasers.
Derby – Fielding, Brayford, Roberts, Barker, Shackell, Bryson, Bailey, Green, Ward, Ball, Robinson
Coventry – Murphy, Keogh, Hussey, Wood, Christie, Bell, Baker, Thomas, Deegan, Jutkiewicz, McSheffrey
Recent form: Derby – DWLWWW; Coventry – LWWLWL
DONCASTER v CARDIFF CITY 15.00, Keepmoat Stadium
Donny keep picking up important wins mixed in with defeats and go into this game knowing a victory could place them just a point from safety. Dean Saunders has a battle on his hands to keep hotshot Billy Sharp; while a fee with Leicester has been agreed for the forward, Doncaster have offered him a new contract.
Cardiff have kept pace with the leading pack with back-to-back wins which also showed there is depth to the Bluebirds squad. An impressive win over Reading displayed Cardiff’s promotion credentials and with some squad rotation in recent games Malky Mackay has demonstrated his squad has staying power
What to watch out for: All the talk is of Southampton, West Ham and Middlesbrough, but Cardiff too are in the running and a win could see them top the table.
Doncaster – Ikeme, O’Connor, Hird, Friend, Ilunga, Coppinger, Stock, Goulon, Bennett, Hayter, Sharp
Cardiff – Marshall, McNaughton, Hudson, Turner, Taylor, Kiss, Gunnarsson, Conway, Cowie, Whittingham, Miller
Recent form: Doncaster – WLWLLW; Cardiff – WDLDWW
HULL v PETERBOROUGH 15.00, KC Stadium
Hull have appointed Nicky Barmby as their permanent manager with the Tigers still sitting in the play-off places after losing their last three games, firing blanks in the process. With the top four opening a gap on the rest and just four points separating the next nine sides, Hull need to reverse recent form to feel comfortable in the top six.
There were 78 goals scored at both ends in Peterborough’s first 20 games, but the last five matches have seen the Posh tighten up their defence at the expense of some attacking instinct. Credible draws against Birmingham and Middlesbrough with professional wins against sides in the bottom three vindicate Darren Ferguson’s change in approach.
What to watch out for: George Boyd has taken time to get used to being without Craig Mackail-Smith but the creative midfielder is finding his form and has one of the best left pegs in the league.
Hull – Gulacsi, Rosenior,Dawson,Chester,Hobbs, McKenna, Stewart, Evans, Koren,McLean, Fryatt
Peterborough – Lewis, Bennett, Zakuani, Wootton, Alcock, Kennedy, Rowe, Kearns, Boyd, Sinclair, Taylor
Recent form: Hull – WWWLLL; Peterborough – LDWWDD
IPSWICH v BLACKPOOL 15.00, Portman Road
Fancied by many for promotion, Ipswich recovered from an alarming blip which saw them flirt with the relegation zone, but Paul Jewell’s side have now suffered three defeats on the bounce. They will be glancing over their shoulders rather than up over the coming weeks.
Blackpool’s own inconsistency can be summed up with their last two results – a 3-0 thumping at Birmingham preceded by a convincing 3-0 win over promotion chasing Middlesbrough. The Tangerines remain just outside the play-off places but have the experience to push on over the remaining 21 games.
What to watch out for: Tricky winger Matty Phillips has been the spark for Blackpool this season – his pace and traditional wing play catching the eye.
Ipswich – Lee-Barratt, Cresswell, St Leger, Sonko, Delaney, Bowyer, Martin, Andrews, Murphy, Chopra, Emmanuel-Thomas
Blackpool – Gilks, Crainey, Evatt, Baptiste, Cathcart, Sylvestre, Basham, Phillips, LuaLua, Taylor-Fletcher, McManaman
Recent form: Ipswich – WWDLLL; Blackpool – WDDWLW
LEICESTER v BARNSLEY 15.00, King Power Stadium
Nigel Pearson has not had the desired effect since re-joining the Foxes, picking up just one win from the last six games leaving his side six points from the play-off places. Despite beating Crystal Palace in their last game, the Foxes are on the prowl for a striker and have had a bid for Billy Sharp accepted.
Barnsley sit comfortably in mid-table and though they lost to Doncaster last time out, their thumping win over Leeds shows they are not to be taken lightly. The front pair of Ricardo Vaz Te and Craig Davies are a handful for any defence.
What to watch out for: Surprisingly, this is a mid-table clash despite both teams being tipped to be at opposite end of the table at the start of the season.
Leicester – Schmeichel, Peltier, Konchesky, Mills, Bamba, King, Wellens, Abe, Gallagher, Nugent, Beckford
Barnsley– Steele, McEverly, Edwards, Wiseman, McNulty, O’Brien, Done, Perkins, Drinkwater, Davies, Vaz Te
Recent form: Leicester – LDLDLW; Barnsley – WLLLWL
MIDDLESBROUGH v BURNLEY 15.00, Riverside Stadium
Middlesbrough will be determined to get back on track after being well beaten by Blackpool last week as they fight for the three points they need to possibly top the table. That defeat came after four wins in five but Tony Mowbray is still after the consistent goalscorer needed to give his side that vital edge.
Eddie Howe’s men sit just three points from sixth after turning around a below par first quarter of the season. Having picked up nine points from a possible 12, the Clarets are well placed to take advantage of any slip-ups by sides ahead of them.
What to watch out for: On-loan Manchester City defender Ben Mee has been in sparkling form for Burnley and they are keen to sign the youngster on a permanent basis.
Middlesbrough – Steele, Hoyte, Bennett, Bates, Williams, Bailey, Robson, Arca, Haroun, McDonald, Emnes
Burnley – Grant, Trippier, Duff, Edgar, Mee, McCann, Wallace, Marney, Stanislas, Rodriguez, Paterson
Recent form: Middlesbrough – WWWWDL; Burnley – WLWWWL
MILLWALL v BIRMINGHAM 15.00, New Den
Kenny Jackett faced calls from fans to go as Millwall fell to 21st place, just two points clear of the relegation zone. Scoring is a concern for Jackett as the Lions work to avoid falling victim to second season syndrome; defensively their performance matches last season’s effort. The Lions have just one win in their last six.
The Blues will be ruing their inconsistency – they find themselves just a victory away from the top six despite winning just two of their last nine league games. Without the Europa League to distract his squad, Chris Hughton will be desperate for his side to find the run of form needed to establish their promotion credentials.
What to watch out for: Nikola Zigic. Consistency has never been his forte at St Andrew’s with four goals in 25 appearances this term, but after his brace in midweek win over Ipswich the 6ft 6ins striker will frighten the Millwall defence.
Millwall – Mildenhall, Robinson, Smith, Dunne, Lowry, Trotter, Feeney, Howard, Abdou, Kane, Bouazza
Birmingham – Myhill, Murphy, Caldwell, Pablo, Spector, Burke, N’Daw, Beausejour, Fahey, King, Zigic
Recent form: Millwall – LDLWLL; Birmingham – WLDDLW
NOTTINGHAM FOREST v SOUTHAMPTON 15.00, City Ground
Forest ended a seven game goalless run in some style, scoring three against Ipswich just as they had done eight games previously. However, they remain in the bottom three and Steve Cotterill will be seeking a solution to the club’s goalscoring blues – only Coventry have scored less this season.
Surprising back-to-back defeats have cut Southampton’s cushion at the top to two points, after they seemed set to run away with the league. Nigel Adkins will be eager to avoid a slide into the play-off places and may use the January transfer window to bolster his squad.
What to watch out for: Saints will be missing leading marksman Ricke Lambert, who has scored or assited 22 goals this season – one more than Forest’s entire squad have managed.
Forest – Camp, Cunningham, Chambers, Gunter, McCleary, McGugan, Greening, Moussi, Majewski, Reid, Tudgay
Southampton – Davis, Richardson, Fonte, Fox, Hooiveld, Schneiderlin, Hammond, Guly, Lallana, De Ridder, Barnard
Recent form: NottinghamForest – LLDLLW; Southampton – LDDWLL
PORTSMOUTH v WEST HAM 15:00, Fratton Park
After a difficult start and off-the-field problems, Michael Appleton has guided his Pompey side into mid-table. With another new owner on the horizon, Appleton will be determined that his progress is not derailed with midfielder Hayden Mullins central to their recent upturn.
The Hammers have been excellent on the road this season with seven wins, and go to Fratton Park confident of returning with three points and possibly top spot. Sam Allardyce has used his strong midfield to good effect this season, working hard in both boxes to compliment his direct approach.
What to watch out for: Marko Futacs. The exciting Hungarian forward has a shoot on sight policy and the ability to get Pompey fans on the edge of their seats.
Portsmouth – Henderson, Ben-Haim, Pearce, Halford, Mattock, Lawrence, Mullins, Kuseklepp, Norris, Kitson, Futacs
West Ham – Green, Faubert, Tomkins, Reid, McCartney, Nolan, Noble, Collison, Diop, Cole, Baldock
Recent form: Portsmouth – WWDLWD; West Ham – LLWDWL
WATFORD v READING 17.20, Vicarage Road
Having lost just twice in the last 12, Sean Dyche sees his relegation favourites sitting on a six point buffer to the bottom three. Loan signing Michael Knightly has added a creative edge to the Hornets going forward and Nyron Nosworthy, who has been a key part of the defensive unit, is close to joining the club permanently.
The Royals sit fifth as Brian McDermott continues his impressive first job in league management. Defeat to Cardiff last time out was a blow which followed four straight wins. A victory here could see them consolidate their place in the promotion race.
What to watch out for: Both sides have a striker on Premier League radar – Marvin Sordell for Watford and Simon Church for Reading will both be looking to impress in front of the TV cameras.
Watford – Loach, Hodson,Dickinson, Mariappa, Nosworthy, Kightly, Buaben, Hogg, Yeates Deeney, Sordell
Reading– Federici,Griffin, Pearce, Gorkss, Cummings, Kebe, Karacan, Leigertwood, McAnuff, Le Fondre, Church
Recent form: Watford – WDDDWL;Reading– LWWWWL
Tags: Cardiff, Championship, Coventry, Crystal Palace, Doncaster, Ipswich Town, Leeds, Middlesbrough, Nottingham Forest, Southampton, West Ham