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Match Previews

Sky Bet Championship weekend preview

20 February 2015

We look ahead to the weekend action in the Sky Bet Championship.

THE BORO ARE BOUNCING

Middlesbrough v Leeds United


Middlesbrough welcome an in-form Leeds United to the Riverside Stadium this Saturday lunchtime, having returned to the summit of the Sky Bet Championship in midweek.

Boro came from behind to earn a point at Birmingham City, despite being reduced to 10 men for the second period of the game.

Dimi Konstantopoulos’ foul on the stroke of half-time led to the goalkeeper’s dismissal, and their task was made harder when the Blues scored the ensuing penalty. However, Patrick Bamford’s 10th goal of the season rescued a point, and preserved Boro’s nine-game unbeaten league run.

Aitor Karanka’s side have lost just twice in front of their own fans this term, picking up 31 points from their 15 games at the Riverside. They have only conceded nine goals in that period, the joint-lowest of any side in the division.

However, they face a rejuvenated Leeds side who have won four of their last five games, and steered themselves eight points clear of the relegation zone in 13th.

The Whites have only conceded two goals in those games, with the latest clean sheet coming in a 1-0 win over Millwall.

Alex Mowatt’s fine free-kick was the difference in that match at Elland Road, but their away form remains inconsistent as they’ve won just three of their 15 matches on the road.



CLOSING THE GAP

Watford v Norwich City

Watford and Norwich City are the two in-form Sky Bet Championship sides having both won each of their last three games, and they lock horns at Vicarage Road this weekend.

The Hornets edged past Bolton Wanderers in their last outing courtesy of a 90th-minute Troy Deeney winner, which secured a 4-3 victory.

Slavisa Jokanovic’s men now sit just four points behind table-toppers Middlesbrough, and they have a fit and firing Odion Ighalo available to unleash on the Canaries, who has scored 12 goals in his last eight appearances.

Norwich recorded their third straight league win against Wolverhampton Wanderers last week, and it was three points that saw them back into the Play-Off places for the first time since October.



Alex Neil has lost just once in his first seven games since taking charge of the club in January, winning five of those, to take the Carrow Road outfit on their best run of form since September.

That hot streak was kick-started with a win over this weekend’s opponents Watford, as Bradley Johnson, Lewis Grabban and Alexander Tettey strikes saw them to a 3-0 triumph in the reverse fixture. That result means Norwich have scored a minimum of two goals in each of their last five meetings with Watford.

WINNERS AT LAST

Wigan Athletic v Charlton Athletic


Two of the Championship’s most out-of-sorts teams, Wigan Athletic and Charlton Athletic, meet on Saturday but they do so having both won in their last outing.

Wigan picked up just their fifth victory of the season after Jason Pearce scored the only goal of the game on his debut to see them past Reading.

This time around, following two matches away from home, it’s back to the DW Stadium for the Latics, who’ve failed to win there in seven attempts under manager Malky Mackay.

Charlton, meanwhile, registered a much-needed triumph against Brentford a week ago, to end a hapless run of 13 games without a win. Those points saw Guy Luzon’s side up to 18th in the table, and eased their relegation fears, putting them six clear of Millwall.

The Addicks stole the spoils in the reverse fixture on the second week of action back in August, as Franck Moussa grabbed the winner in the third minute of stoppage-time at The Valley.

These two sides have only met seven times in their history, the first of which was back in 2005. They’re locked at three wins apiece, with the other game ending goalless.



AROUND THE GROUNDS

If Middlesbrough do slip up against Leeds, Bournemouth and Derby County are primed to pounce, sitting just one point behind the leaders.

The Cherries are unbeaten in four, with two wins and two draws, ahead of a trip to Brentford, who have dropped out of the Play-Offs following three defeats in four.

Steve McClaren's Rams haven't lost in five, notching three victories in that period, and their opponents Sheffield Wednesday haven't tasted success for over a month, going six matches without a three-point haul.

Ipswich Town are next in the standings, sitting fourth, trailing Boro by two points, and have secured back-to-back wins going into their weekend clash with Reading at Portman Road.

The Tractor Boys possess the division's best home form so the Royals will be up against it, particularly as they've lost their last two games and have only won three of 15 on the road, conceding 30 goals.

Looking towards the teams chasing the Play-Offs; below Brentford, who take on second-placed Bournemouth, is Wolverhampton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers.

While Wolves, who have lost two of three, host lowly Rotherham United, Blackburn welcome the visit of rock-bottom Blackpool to Ewood Park, where the Tangerines haven't tasted success since 1977.

Lee Clark's men are 10 points from safety at the foot of the division and are yet to win away from home in 15 attempts this term, recording a slim five points.

Nottingham Forest sit directly below Blackburn and take on Bolton Wanderers this Saturday, with Dougie Freedman still undefeated as Forest boss. His side won twice before a 4-4 draw with Blackpool last time out but they remain 12 points adrift of the Play-Offs.

The mid-table mix also features Birmingham City and they go up against Brighton & Hove Albion after five draws in a winless run of six matches. The Seagulls, meanwhile, find themselves fighting at the bottom and are above the relegation zone on goal difference going into the weekend.

Millwall are the only team in the bottom three that could climb to safety this weekend, but they must overcome Fulham to have any chance of doing so. They will take confidence from the fact they saw off the Cottagers 1-0 in the reverse fixture.

Meanwhile, it's 14th against 15th at the John Smith's Stadium, where Huddersfield Town lock horns with the out-of-form Cardiff City, who ended a stretch of three successive defeats with three draws on the spin but remain without a victory since the second week of January.

SKY BET CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND FIXTURES

Friday 20th February 2015


Wigan Athletic v Charlton Athletic

Saturday 21st February 2015

Blackburn Rovers v Blackpool
Brentford v AFC Bournemouth
Brighton & Hove Albion v Birmingham City
Derby County v Sheffield Wednesday
Huddersfield Town v Cardiff City
Ipswich Town v Reading
Middlesbrough v Leeds United
Millwall v Fulham
Nottingham Forest v Bolton Wanderers
Watford v Norwich City
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Rotherham United

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