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Match Previews

npower Championship weekend preview

3 May 2013


It's as you were for Hull City as they look for automatic promotion from the npower Championship - they needed a win last Saturday, and their situation is the same as they approach the final afternoon of the season.

The second-placed Tigers could have sealed their return to the Premier League six days ago but lost 2-0 at Barnsley, with their nearest challengers Watford having closed to within a point the previous night.

So, once again, all Steve Bruce's men have to do is match or better the Hornets' result at home to Leeds United - whereas Hull's challenge is a home fixture with Cardiff City, who are already champions.

Front-man George Boyd told "We're one win away from the Premier League and that isn't something to be scared of. We'll be looking to go out there and play our game on Saturday.

"It's disappointing that we haven't got there already and we've let ourselves down in the last three games, but we've got to put that out of our minds.

"We've still got a great opportunity and I'd rather be in our position than Watford's because, like I said, we know that a win against Cardiff will take us up. This is all about one game and our destiny is in our own hands."

Cardiff's return to English football's top flight for the first time in over half a century was confirmed in mid-April and they wrapped up the title two Saturdays ago.

Their fate is already sealed but they will still want to finish on a high and pick up three points, particularly after drawing four of their last six games, and anything they can collect at the KC Stadium could open up second spot for Watford.

Manager Malky Mackay, a former Watford player and manager, told the South Wales Echo: "It is about integrity. We have a duty to go out there and give our best and that is exactly what we will be doing.

"We will be aiming to win at Hull, we want to end the season on a positive note and as usual we will have a lot of supporters there who would expect nothing less of us.

"Watford are a club still close to me. There are some wonderful people there and I had some good times at the club.

"But what Saturday is about, as I say, is integrity. The fact is we don't have to do anything under-hand like lose a game or draw it. We will be going out to win at Hull because that is what we do every game."


It is all on at the top of the npower Championship and it is all still to play for at the bottom too, with two of the relegation places still open - and seven teams still able to fill them.

And perhaps the most tense venue of the afternoon will be the John Smith's Stadium, where Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town and Barnsley will do battle with a point or more guaranteeing the Terriers' safety, while a win could save Barnsley - and it may also relegate their hosts.

Huddersfield start the day 18th in the table on 57 points, three clear of third-bottom Barnsley and with a better goal difference, so their fate is in their own hands but a defeat, coupled with wins for Peterborough United and Sheffield Wednesday plus a draw for Millwall, would send them down.

Manager Mark Robins - ahead of facing his former employers  - told the Yorkshire Post: "It is amazing to be on 57 points in the Championship and not be mathematically safe.

"But Bristol City was a big win for us. From the position we were in when I came here and the position we are in now, we are running out of games and other teams are running out of games.

"There are a few teams below us in the division and they have to put on a show next Saturday. We are at home and can finish things off against my old club. They had a great result in beating Hull. It will be a tasty affair."

The equation is simple; if Barnsley win, that will be enough for survival as they will go level on 57 points with Huddersfield, who will drop below them on goal difference.

A point for Barnsley would take them on to 55, but that would only be enough for survival if fourth-bottom Peterborough lost at fifth-placed Crystal Palace or fifth-bottom Sheffield Wednesday suffered a heavy defeat at home to mid-table Middlesbrough because of the Tykes' inferior goal difference.

They could stay up with a defeat if Peterborough also lost, and even then they would be requiring a six-goal swing along with Wolves not winning at fourth-placed Brighton and Hove Albion.

Boss David Flitcroft told "I've been relaxed all the way through. I'm delighted we're in this position and delighted that the lads have given themselves a shot to stay in this division.

"Everyone up and down the land have done their predictions and everyone will be wrong again. We can only affect what we can do. We only control this game.

"We've been in this situation for 20-odd games, it's just another situation for us."


That's just two of the final-day npower Championship fixtures that affect one end of the table or another, with another eight matches also being significant.

That goes to show how tight the division is this season with an automatic promotion place and two Play-Off spots up for grabs, along with a pair of positions in the relegation zone to be avoided.

Let's start at the top, where Watford are third and hoping to overhaul Hull City for second spot and a place in the Premier League without having to go through the Play-Offs.

Gianfranco Zola's Hornets are a point behind Hull and have a home game against 16th-placed Leeds United to face on Saturday. If they better the Tigers' result at home to champions Cardiff City then they are up and Hull are in the Play-Offs, if they don't then they will finish in their current spot.

Brighton and Hove Albion are fourth and guaranteed a Play-Off position prior to their home game against second-bottom Wolverhampton Wanderers - more on their plight later.

Crystal Palace are fifth and host fourth-bottom Peterborough United, while Bolton Wanderers are sixth with a home game against Blackpool to come. One of those two clubs will definitely be in the Play-Offs as the only other two teams who can reach the top six, Nottingham Forest and Leicester City, meet at the City Ground..

Palace are on 69 points and Bolton have 67, so wins in their respective matches will be enough for them unless Forest beat Leicester by a significant margin to pip Bolton on goal difference - the Trotters' figure is currently three better than the Reds'.

Forest are level on 67 points with Bolton so will beat them to the top six if they better their result or manage that goal difference swing, while Leicester are on 65 and can only reach the top six if they win at Forest and Bolton don't beat 15th-placed Blackpool.

At the bottom, Wolves have 51 points and will definitely be relegated if they fail to pick up a win away to Brighton, or if either Peterborough or Barnsley pick up at least a point in their matches.

Barnsley and Peterborough are third and fourth-bottom respectively, level on 54 points, with Posh having the advantage on goal difference.

A point at Crystal Palace will mean Posh can only be overhauled by Barnsley but if they match the Tykes' result they should be safe so long as there isn't a seven-goal swing on goal difference in the Tykes' favour. If they are both beaten then Barnsley will go down unless Wolves win at Brighton while making up the goal difference, in which case they will both drop.

Fifth from bottom are Sheffield Wednesday - a point further on and with a better goal difference than Barnsley - so as long as they match the Tykes' result they will be safe.

Millwall are a point and a place better off than the Owls and with a better goal difference too, so a point at 13th-placed Derby County should be enough though if they are beaten, a point for Wednesday plus wins for Barnsley and Posh will send them down.

Huddersfield Town are 18th and have that home game against Barnsley to negotiate, while Blackburn Rovers are 17th, three points clear of the bottom three, and with a better goal difference, so it would take an unlikely sequence of results for them to go down. A point at 10th-placed Birmingham City would be enough to secure their Championship status.

So all of that means there are just two games that do not affect the promotion or relegation battles - 14th-placed Burnley at home to 11th-placed Ipswich Town, and ninth-placed Charlton Athletic hosting Bristol City, who cannot get off the bottom of the table.

Click here for all the weekend's action

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