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Match Previews

Sky Bet Championship weekend preview

27 February 2015

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

DERBY DAY

Norwich City v Ipswich Town


Norwich City’s meteoric rise under manager Alex Neil continued in midweek with a fifth straight victory, and they take on fierce rivals Ipswich Town in the East Anglian derby on Sunday.

The Canaries came from behind to beat Blackburn Rovers 2-1 on Wednesday, and now sit just four points away from the automatic promotion places, having won seven of their last nine.

Ipswich haven’t dropped outside the Play-Off positions since early November, and they kept up their promotion surge with a 4-2 win over Birmingham City last time out.

That triumph was their third in four games, meaning they trail second-placed Middlesbrough by just three points.



Both sides possess lethal options in attack, with Ipswich boasting the Sky Bet Championship’s top goalscorer in Daryl Murphy, who has 21 goals, while Norwich’s Cameron Jerome has closed the gap on him of late, and now has 16 for the season. Mick McCarthy added to his ranks on Friday, too, with the loan signing of Leicester City front man Chris Wood.

The reverse encounter back in August went the way of Norwich, as Lewis Grabban’s 24th-minute goal sealed the points for the Norfolk side.

The last time these two met twice in a season, Norwich recorded an impressive 9-2 aggregate double over the Tractor Boys, after 4-1 and 5-1 wins.

RELEGATION SIX-POINTER

Rotherham United v Millwall


Relegation-threatened Rotherham United and Millwall lock horns this weekend, and a win for either could be hugely significant in their bid to beat the drop this season.

Both teams were comprehensively beaten in their midweek fixtures, as Rotherham fell 3-0 to Watford and Millwall were overturned 3-1 by Sheffield Wednesday.

The Millers are 21st on 34 points, three clear of Ian Holloway’s Millwall, who sit in the first of the relegation places. It would take an extraordinary effort for the Lions to jump above opponents Rotherham this weekend, due to their inferior goal difference, but three points would certainly aid their survival cause, and draw them level.

After their midweek defeat to the Owls, Holloway called for togetherness at Millwall and the Lions are unbeaten in their last five visits to Rotherham, suffering just on defeat there since the turn of the millennium. But they were defeated 1-0 in the reverse meeting, when Ben Pringle scored the only goal of the game for Steve Evans' side.

WARY OF THE DROP

Bolton Wanderers v Brighton & Hove Albion


Just ahead of Rotherham and Millwall are Bolton Wanderers and Brighton & Hove Albion, in 18th and 19th, and they meet at the Macron Stadium locked on 37 points apiece.

Bolton’s run of three successive defeats has dragged them into the relegation fight, and their form neatly summarises the fast-changing nature of the Sky Bet Championship, after they sat comfortably in 13th just three weeks ago.

Defeats to top-half sides Watford, Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough has seen them fall, with Neil Lennon’s men collecting just two wins in their last 10 outings.

Brighton, on the other hand, could make it three wins on the bounce when they head north this weekend, having beaten Birmingham and Leeds United in the last seven days.



Those victories came after a four-game winless run for the Seagulls and they could jump as high as 13th with a win over the Trotters, who've suffered three straight defeats to their weekend opponents after losing twice last season, before a 2-1 reverse earlier this campaign.

AROUND THE GROUNDS

Blackpool and Wigan Athletic occupy the bottom two places in the Sky Bet Championship and they go head-to-head at Bloomfield Road.

The two clubs are cut off at the foot of the division with Blackpool on 22 points and Wigan on 25, with the latter nine from safety. The Tangerines haven't won in five outings and Malky Mackay's Latics have registered only one victory in 10.

Mackay's former club Cardiff City were the latest team to inflict defeat on Wigan, ending their seven-match run without three points, and this weekend the Bluebirds host Play-Off chasing Wolves, who have won their last two to move within five points of the top six.

Brentford lie between Kenny Jackett's side and Watford, who sit in the lowest Play-Off place. The Bees go to winless-in-eight Birmingham, while the Hornets are at Leeds United, with the Whites having the chance to bounce back after seeing their run of three victories on the spin coming to an end last time out.

Nottingham Forest maintained their good form in midweek, though, seeing off Bournemouth 2-1 for a fourth win in five undefeated outings under Dougie Freedman, ahead of their visit to out-of-form Reading, who have fallen to three defeats in four.

Fulham have experienced the same run over their most recent four outings, meaning they haven't won in six going into their game against in-form leaders Derby County. The Rams have notched five wins in seven, including two over the last seven days.

Elsewhere, Bournemouth host Blackburn on their worst run of form this term – four winless matches, including two defeats – whilst Charlton Athletic entertain Huddersfield Town, with three points separating the teams in the mid-table mix.

The weekend's Sky Bet Championship schedule is completed by second-placed Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday, in 11th, with the pair clashing at Hillsborough.

Aitor Karanka's Boro possess the third-best away form in the division, conceding just 12 goals in 16 on the road, while the Owls have tasted success only three times in 16 games on home soil, scoring a league-low eight goals in those matches.

SKY BET CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND FIXTURES

Saturday 28th February 2015

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

Sunday 1st March 2015

Norwich City v Ipswich Town

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