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Match Previews

Sky Bet EFL: Matchday preview

31 March 2017

The Sky Bet Championship returns after the international break, meaning we've got a bumper weekend of football to get April under way.

Here's our preview of the EFL action over the next couple of days...

Top trio play host to strugglers

Newcastle United, Brighton & Hove Albion, Huddersfield Town – three teams chasing automatic promotion, firmly in the knowledge that any slip-up could prove crucial in the race for the top two.

On paper, this weekend might sound like a good one for the trio – home games against three sides at the opposite end of the table; Wigan Athletic, Blackburn Rovers, and Burton Albion.

However, the Magpies are winless in three, the Seagulls face a Rovers side still unbeaten since Tony Mowbray's appointment seven games ago, and the Terriers were thrashed by struggling Bristol City last time out.

Home bankers? You wouldn't count on it.

Pride Park bow for Gary Rowett

Gary Rowett was installed as the new Derby County manager in mid-March, with his first game in charge resulting in a 2-2 draw at East Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest.

After more than a century of appearances for the club as a player, Rowett now steps out as Rams manager for the first time on home ground.

His most recent Pride Park outing proved fruitful, when he led his former employers Birmingham City to a 3-0 win last season.

The visitors this time are Queens Park Rangers, and it's live on Sky Sports on Friday night.

Around the grounds

Reading host Leeds on Saturday evening in a potential Play-Off preview, while Sheffield Wednesday travel to Barnsley in the day's lunchtime kick-off.

Should the Owls drop points, Fulham could take their top-six spot with a win at Rotherham United, who will be relegated if they fail to register three points.

As for the Play-Off outsiders, Norwich City travel to Aston Villa, while Preston North End welcome Nottingham Forest to Deepdale.

Table: Click here to see the Sky Bet Championship table

Sky Bet Championship: Matchday 39 fixtures (3pm kick-off unless stated)

Friday 31st March 2017

Derby County v Queens Park Rangers (7:45pm - live on Sky Sports)    

Saturday 1st April 2017

Aston Villa v Norwich City
Barnsley v Sheffield Wednesday (12:30pm)    
Brentford v Bristol City
Brighton & Hove Albion v Blackburn Rovers
Huddersfield Town v Burton Albion
Ipswich Town v Birmingham City
Newcastle United v Wigan Athletic
Preston North End v Nottingham Forest
Reading v Leeds United (5:30pm - live on Sky Sports)    
Rotherham United v Fulham
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Cardiff City

Social media: Follow @SkyBetChamp on Twitter for goal updates

Bradford City - the last team standing

Following Doncaster Rovers' defeat in Sky Bet League Two last weekend, Bradford are now the only team in the EFL to remain undefeated at home in 2016/17.

The Bantams have won eight and drawn 12 of their 20 Valley Parade outings this term, and Walsall will be the next team to try and take three points on a visit to West Yorkshire.

However, the Saddlers have only won three games on the road, but have drawn half of their 20 away games so far.

The spoils were shared at Banks's Stadium back in August, and a draw has been the most common result in the history of this fixture. Will we see a winner this weekend?

Bolton Wanderers - The chase continues

Five straight wins for Bolton have given them a cushion over third-placed Fleetwood Town, and did bring them within four points of the leaders Sheffield United until the Blades' midweek triumph.

The table-toppers aren't in action this weekend, though, which gives the Trotters the chance to reduce that gap to four points and keep the race for the title alive.

Phil Parkinson's men have hit 16 goals in their last five games, with centre-back Mark Beevers scoring a quarter of those, and winger Filipe Morais providing the ammo for the vast majority.

The latest test for the promotion-chasers are Chesterfield, who are making their inaugural trip to the Macron Stadium. The Spireites' last visit was a triumphant one, winning 3-2 in the FA Cup, but that was at Wanderers' former home, Burnden Park.

Around the grounds

Fleetwood Town host Swindon Town as they bid to keep their automatic promotion hopes alive, while the Robins continue to battle against relegation.

Port Vale are the only team in the bottom nine to play at home, they take on AFC Wimbledon, while Shrewsbury Town, Gillingham and Oldham Athletic visit Bristol Rovers, Milton Keynes Dons and Southend United respectively.

Elsewhere, Play-Off hopefuls Millwall and Scunthorpe United meet at The Den, and Peterborough United host Charlton Athletic, having never beaten the Addicks at London Road in a EFL fixture.

Table: Click here to see the Sky Bet League One table

Sky Bet League One: Matchday 40 fixtures (3pm kick-off)

Saturday 1st April 2017

Bolton Wanderers v Chesterfield
Bradford City v Walsall
Bristol Rovers v Shrewsbury Town
Fleetwood Town v Swindon Town
Millwall v Scunthorpe United
Milton Keynes Dons v Gillingham
Peterborough United v Charlton Athletic
Port Vale v AFC Wimbledon
Rochdale v Northampton Town
Southend United v Oldham Athletic

Social media: Follow @SkyBetLeagueOne on Twitter for goal updates

Carlisle United - the search for a goal

A record-breaking unbeaten run to begin the season, the majority of the campaign spent inside Sky Bet League Two's top three, never mind the top seven.

Carlisle now need a reaction, having dropped outside of the Play-Off places following last week's home loss to Crewe Alexandra. It was their sixth defeat in seven games, a period in which they have failed to register a goal.

The Cumbrians make their way down to the other end of the country this weekend to take on Yeovil Town, and captain Danny Grainger insists there is still the confidence that the club can turn things around.

“We hadn’t been out of the top seven since the first month of the season, so it’s disappointing that we are now,” he told “The belief is still there, without a doubt.”

Play-Off chasers go head-to-head

Luton Town host Blackpool this weekend, in what would be a Play-Off Semi-Final if the season ended today.

The form team is certainly Blackpool, who have won five games during a nine-match undefeated streak, and they leapfrogged the Hatters last weekend.

As for Luton, they have won just one of their last eight, with four 1-1 draws in that period denting their top-three aspirations and leaving them looking over their shoulder at the chasing pack.

One of those teams is Mansfield Town, in ninth, who meet seventh-placed Exeter City this weekend, and would jump above the Grecians with a win. This Play-Off race is heating up!

Around the grounds

Leyton Orient, under the guidance of Omer Riza following Danny Webb's resignation this week, host Wycombe Wanderers as they continue their battle to beat the drop. Newport County are one point better off, six away from safety, and take on Crawley Town at Rodney Parade.

The two sides directly above the relegation zone are also both at home – Cheltenham Town take on Morecambe, who have lost six in a row, while Hartlepool United host promotion-chasing Portsmouth.

Three points for Doncaster Rovers could see them seal promotion, Plymouth's title chase continues at home to Accrington Stanley, and Stevenage are looking for an eighth straight home win, against Barnet.

Table: Click here to see the Sky Bet League Two table

Sky Bet League Two: Matchday 40 fixtures (3pm kick-off)

Saturday 1st April 2017

Cheltenham Town v Morecambe
Crewe Alexandra v Cambridge United   
Grimsby Town v Doncaster Rovers (1pm)
Hartlepool United v Portsmouth
Leyton Orient v Wycombe Wanderers
Luton Town v Blackpool
Mansfield Town v Exeter City
Newport County v Crawley Town
Notts County v Colchester United
Plymouth Argyle v Accrington Stanley
Stevenage v Barnet
Yeovil Town v Carlisle United

Social media: Follow @SkyBetLeagueTwo on Twitter for goal updates

Match officials: Click here to see the referees on EFL duty this weekend

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