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Match Previews

Sky Bet Championship weekend preview

9 January 2015

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

Saturday 10th January 2015

Birmingham City v Wigan Athletic

The Blues (14th – 31 points): Fought back from two goals down last weekend, eventually overcoming non-league Blyth Spartans 3-2 in the FA Cup. Top scorer Clayton Donaldson is one of a number of first-team players who will return to the side after being rested for the Cup clash.

The Latics (23rd – 20 points): Picked up a rare win on Boxing Day away at Leeds, but that was followed up with defeats at home to Sheffield Wednesday and an FA Cup loss at Bolton last time out. Liam Ridgewell is expected to feature after sealing a loan move from MLS outfit Portland Timbers.

High five: Wigan are unbeaten in their last five clashes with Birmingham, dating back to a Premier League encounter in September 2010. Two of those meetings have finished goalless, but the Latics have won the other three, including a 4-0 rout of the Blues back in August.

Blackpool v Millwall

The Tangerines (24th – 14 points): Have picked up half of their points over their last seven games, with Lee Clark's side showing plenty of fight in their bid for survival. Pushed Premier League Aston Villa all the way last weekend, before succumbing to a last-gasp 1-0 defeat. Grant Hall is expected to make his debut after joining on loan from Tottenham.

The Lions (22nd – 23 points): Three successive defeats have seen Millwall drop into the relegation zone, and they failed to overcome League 1 Bradford last weekend, sharing the spoils in a six-goal FA Cup thriller. New signings Paris Cowan-Hall and Dan Harding are expected to make their debuts this weekend.

Home, sweet home: The last four fixtures between the sides have seen the home side pick up all three points, with the Lions earning a 2-1 win at the end of August. If Millwall can end that run at Bloomfield Road this weekend they will level the head-to-head record at 15 wins each, with 16 draws to boot.

Bolton Wanderers v Leeds United

The Trotters (15th – 29 points): An eight-game unbeaten run was ended with defeat to Huddersfield to close out the year, but Neil Lennon's side were straight back to winning ways last weekend with a 1-0 win over Wigan in the FA Cup. Defender Matt Mills is available for selection after an ankle problem.

The Whites (20th – 24 points): Have failed to win in their last five league outings, picking up just a solitary point in that period. They also crashed out of the FA Cup to Sunderland at the weekend, losing 1-0 to the Premier League side. Skipper Jason Pearce is set to return to the squad after shaking off a knee injury.

Bournemouth v Norwich City

The Cherries (1st – 48 points): Sit top of the table after five successive wins, which helped earn Howe the Sky Bet Championship Manager of the Month award for December. They hit five more goals at the weekend when they romped to a 5-1 FA Cup victory at Rotherham.

The Canaries (7th – 37 points): Manager Neil Adams stepped down earlier this week following an inconsistent spell and an FA Cup defeat to League 1 side Preston North End. He has been replaced by Alex Neil, who departed Scottish club Hamilton Academicals to take over at Carrow Road. The new boss will be in the dugout for this game.

On to a winner: Before this campaign, the two sides last battled it out in The Football League during the 1950s. In the last four seasons of that decade, one game in each campaign finished as a draw while the other saw three points go to Bournemouth. August's meeting saw the spoils shared, so can the Cherries continue the trend?

Brentford v Rotherham United

The Bees (6th – 40 points): Have lost three games in a row, with two league defeats at the end of 2014 followed up by a disappointing 2-0 reverse at home to Brighton in the FA Cup. Lewis Macleod’s debut is on hold after the former Rangers youngster picked up a knock in training.

The Millers (19th – 26 points): Are unbeaten in six league games, although only one of those fixtures has seen them take all three points. They were trounced in the FA Cup last weekend, losing 5-1 at home to Championship leaders Bournemouth. Jack Barmby has joined on a month's loan from Leicester.

Keep it clean: Clean sheets are very much the norm in this fixture, with just six goals coming over the last five games. Both matches ended goalless in 2008/09, and last season Rotherham picked up six points while keeping Brentford at bay in the two League 1 clashes. Brentford shut Rotherham out at the New York Stadium in a 2-0 success back in August, and will be looking to do the same this weekend.

Cardiff City v Fulham

The Bluebirds (12th – 31 points): The Welsh side are without a win in five league outings, but they advanced in the FA Cup last time out with a 3-1 win over League 1 Colchester. Scott Malone could make his debut after completing a move from Millwall earlier this week.

The Cottagers (17th – 28 points): Lost their last two fixtures of 2014, both by a 2-0 scoreline, but stopped the rot with a goalless draw against Wolves in the FA Cup last weekend. Alex Kacaniklic could return to the team after being recalled from a loan spell at FC Copenhagen.

On the attack: There has only been one clean sheet in this fixture since November 1989. Aside from  Nathan Blake earning Cardiff a 1-0 win at Ninian Park in 1993, both teams have found the net in this encounter, including the 1-1 draw earlier this term.

Charlton Athletic v Brighton & Hove Albion

The Addicks (13th – 31 points): Are without a win in seven league games, losing three of those, and were knocked out of the Cup by Blackburn last weekend after falling to defeat at The Valley. Midfielder Yoni Buyens will miss out through suspension after seeing red in the 2-1 loss to Rovers.

The Seagulls (21st – 23 points): Chris Hughton got off to a winning start with an impressive 2-0 win at Brentford in the Cup last weekend. The new boss welcomes several players back to the squad as they look to extend their three-game unbeaten league run, including Bruno, Joe Bennett, Adrian Colunga.

Huddersfield Town v Watford

The Terriers (18th – 28 points): Lost 1-0 at home to Reading in the Cup last weekend, but took four points from their last two fixtures of 2014 to take them clear of the relegation zone. Jonathan Hogg's late red card means he will sit this fixture out, but centre-back Joel Lynch is back in contention after a groin problem.

The Hornets (5th – 41 points): Four wins from their last five games was the perfect response to their four defeats in November, although manager Slavisa Jokanovic could not overcome his former side last weekend, when they lost 3-0 to Chelsea in the FA Cup. Heurelho Gomes and Fernando Forestieri are fighting to be fit for the trip.

Goals galore: These two have produced some entertaining fixtures since first locking horns in the Championship in 2012, with 23 goals coming over the five matches - an average of over four goals per game. Ten-man Watford beat the Terriers 4-2 earlier in this season, and have been victorious on their last three visits to Huddersfield.

Ipswich Town v Derby County – 12.15pm – live on Sky Sports

The Tractor Boys (2nd – 47 points): Haven't lost since October - a run of 11 league games - earning an FA Cup replay with Southampton after a 1-1 draw last weekend, and they boast the best home record in the division. Daryl Murphy struck six goals in December to take the Sky Bet Championship Player of the Month award.

The Rams (3rd – 45 points): Closed out the year with two wins, without conceding a goal, before battling to a 1-0 win over Conference side Southport in the FA Cup last weekend. Darren Bent has joined on loan and could make his Derby debut at his former stomping ground.

Ram raid: With Derby failing to beat the Tractor Boys at home since 2006, Portman Road has a habit of providing some relief. Since 2009, results have alternated between an Ipswich win and three points for the Rams, and the pattern favours Steve McClaren's side this weekend.

Nottingham Forest v Sheffield Wednesday

Forest (11th – 31 points): Are without a win in six games, and their poor form continued last weekend when they crashed out of the FA Cup to League 1 side Rochdale, losing 1-0 at Spotland. Chelsea full-back Todd Kane has joined on loan, thanks to the Sky Bet Transfer Fund, to boost Stuart Pearce's defensive options.

The Owls (10th – 34 points): Ended the year with two wins and almost produced a famous FA Cup victory last Sunday against Manchester City, eventually losing 2-1. Goalscoring midfielder Lewis Baker has signed on loan from Chelsea, and will be hoping to add to Wednesday's poor record of 18 goals from 24 league games, which is the joint-fewest in the division.

Familiar faces: The most-played fixture of the weekend sees Forest and Wednesday face off for the 136th time. Sheffield Wednesday lead the head-to-head with 55 wins to 53, but Forest haven't lost to the Owls in eight games, dating back to September 2008.

Reading v Middlesbrough

The Royals (16th – 29 points): The inconsistent Royals have won two, drawn two, and lost two of their last six league outings, and they recorded an FA Cup triumph at Huddersfield last weekend. Jem Karacan could return to the matchday squad for the first time since September 2013 after battling back from a knee injury.

Boro (4th – 43 points): Have suffered just one defeat in their last 11 games, and Aitor Karanka guided his side into the next round of the FA Cup with a 2-0 win at Barnsley last time out. Midfielder Adam Clayton sits this one out after being dismissed in the clash at Oakwell.

All-square: These two sides have met in The League on 25 occasions, with nine draws and eight wins apiece after the Royals earned a 1-0 victory earlier this season. The only thing that does separate the sides is a solitary League Cup success for Middlesbrough in 1998, when Craig Hignett struck an 89th-minute winner en route to a Wembley date with Chelsea.

Sunday 11th January 2015

Blackburn Rovers v Wolverhampton Wanderers – 2.00pm

Rovers (9th – 35 points): Have won just one of their last six league fixtures, but grabbed a victory at Charlton last weekend to advance in the FA Cup. Gary Bowyer has a number of players back in contention, with defensive duo Grant Hanley and Alex Baptiste returning, as well as Josh King and Corry Evans.

Wolves (8th – 37 points): Five consecutive defeats seem a distant memory, with 10 points from 12 putting Wolves back within touching distance of the Play-Offs, and they battled out a goalless stalemate at Fulham in the Cup last weekend. Dominic Iorfa and Kortney Hause have rejuvenated the defence, and the youngsters have been rewarded with new contracts.

All games are 3pm kick-offs unless stated.

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