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Match Previews

Preview: Matchday 44

20 April 2018

More action is ahead of us, as another weekend of EFL football awaits. We preview it all here…

A Championship crowning?

Wolverhampton Wanderers could be confirmed as champions with just a solitary point at Bolton Wanderers this weekend.

Nuno Espírito Santo’s side face the Trotters before Cardiff are in action later on that day, and will want to wrap things up as soon as possible.

Matters are important for their opponents too, especially given the tight nature of things down at the other end of the table. Bolton are two points and two places above the relegation zone, but have played a game more than 22nd-placed Barnsley, who are in that final unwanted spot.

Automatic ambitions

The race for that Sky Bet Championship second spot is going right to the wire, with a possible three teams still in with a shout of achieving promotion automatically.

A respective trio of Cardiff, Fulham and Aston Villa all head into the latest round of encounters knowing that maximum points are pretty much a necessity.

For Neil Warnock’s Bluebirds, it’s a Saturday night home clash with Nottingham Forest, but that comes after Fulham’s Friday meeting at Millwall, and Aston Villa’s trip to Ipswich the day after.

How will things be looking at the close of play on Saturday?

Around the grounds

With Derby County currently sitting just one point and place outside the Play-Off places, a victory over top six occupants Middlesbrough would come as a welcome boost as the campaign approaches its conclusion.

The division’s two bottom clubs face off at the Stadium of Light, as both Sunderland and Burton Albion look for three much-needed points.

There’s a Yorkshire derby at Elland Road where Paul Heckingbottom welcomes his former side to his new home. Three points for the Tykes combined with favourable results elsewhere would see them out of trouble — for the time being, at least.

There are those who of course still harbour Play-Off aspirations, with Preston North End, Sheffield United, Brentford and Bristol City, along with the aforementioned Derby, all looking to reduce the gap or even rise into the top six.

Sky Bet Championship: Matchday 44 fixtures (3pm kick-off unless stated)

Friday 20th April

Millwall v Fulham (7:45pm - live on Sky Sports)

Saturday 21st April

Birmingham City v Sheffield United    
Bolton Wanderers v Wolverhampton Wanderers    
Brentford v Queens Park Rangers    
Bristol City v Hull City  
Cardiff City v Nottingham Forest (7:45pm - live on Sky Sports)  
Derby County v Middlesbrough    
Ipswich Town v Aston Villa    
Leeds United v Barnsley    
Preston North End v Norwich City    
Sheffield Wednesday v Reading    
Sunderland v Burton Albion    

Tight at the top

Portsmouth will be hoping to make home advantage pay when Charlton Athletic visit Fratton Park on Saturday, as securing all three points for the first time in four matches would see them overtake Lee Bowyer’s men in the league table.

Just two points currently separate the two sides, with the Addicks in fifth and Pompey sitting in eighth, meaning the hosts are also playing for the chance to move into the Play-Off spots.

That would, however, require Plymouth Argyle and Scunthorpe United, who both have 64 points and reside in sixth and seventh place respectively, to drop points this weekend.

Hotting up at the bottom

As the end of the season draws nearer, the battle at the bottom of the Sky Bet League One table could be a lot closer after matchday 44 as AFC Wimbledon host Oldham Athletic, and Rochdale take on Bradford City.

Victory for the Latics would see them overtake Neal Ardley’s side, while results elsewhere could still have a huge impact on their season.

If Oldham are to find success, Walsall must return from Scunthorpe United with all three points to avoid dropping into the bottom four, but victory for Rochdale over 10th-place Bradford could see them move level with Wimbledon.

Around the grounds

Wigan Athletic could clinch promotion this weekend with victory at Fleetwood Town, although they would need Shrewsbury Town to drop points at home to relegat

Blackpool travel to Gillingham as they look to extend their winning run to four consecutive matches, while their opponents haven’t won in seven.

Doncaster Rovers are unbeaten in six matches and host 17th-placed Oxford United, with victory providing the possibility of rising into the top half of the table and mathematically secure safety.

Sky Bet League One: Matchday 44 fixtures (all 3pm kick-off)

Saturday 21st April

AFC Wimbledon v Oldham Athletic    
Doncaster Rovers v Oxford United    
Fleetwood Town v Wigan Athletic    
Gillingham v Blackpool    
Northampton Town v Plymouth Argyle    
Portsmouth v Charlton Athletic    
Rochdale v Bradford City    
Rotherham United v Bristol Rovers    
Scunthorpe United v Walsall    
Shrewsbury Town v Bury    
Southend United v Milton Keynes Dons

Road to recovery

After failing to find success in six league games, Swindon Town are looking to bounce back and reassert themselves in the race for the Play-Offs with victory over struggling Grimsby Town.

However, the Mariners will be eager to take all three points away from the County Ground as it could see them all but guarantee their safety – Chesterfield would need four wins from the last four games in order to catch them.

Carlisle could also mount a late charge to extend their season by at least two games, if they are able to recover from three matches without a win, as they currently sit four points off the pace going into the final straight.

Finish line in sight

If Exeter City get anything from their encounter with Crawley Town they will guarantee themselves a shot at promotion, and while going up automatically is still on the cards, there will be no possibility of them dropping out of the top seven.

They currently trail Wycombe Wanderers, who reside in the third and final automatic promotion spot, by two points as they target a return to League One for the first time since 2012, having lost the Play-Off Final last season.

Victory for Notts County could produce the same outcome for them, although currently holding a six-point lead over eighth-place Mansfield Town means David Flitcroft’s men would have to falter against visitors Port Vale, who are hoping to guarantee their safety this weekend.

Around the grounds

Wycombe will be hoping to defend their position in third place when they host Accrington Stanley, who were promoted midweek and are now gunning to be crowned divisional champions.

At the bottom, Barnet are in desperate need of three points if they are to keep their survival hopes alive and face Newport County, while Chesterfield’s fate is also out of their own hands as they take on Forest Green Rovers.

Elsewhere, Lincoln City are aiming to maintain their play-off position with victory over Colchester United, Cheltenham Town look to reel in Cambridge United in the middle of the table, and Crewe Alexandra host Morecambe, who go in search of a first win in seven.

Sky Bet League Two: Matchday 44 fixtures (3pm kick-off unless stated)

Friday 20th April

Coventry City v Stevenage (7:45pm)

Saturday 21st April

Barnet v Newport County
Cambridge United v Cheltenham Town    
Carlisle United v Luton Town    
Crewe Alexandra v Morecambe    
Exeter City v Crawley Town    
Forest Green Rovers v Chesterfield    
Lincoln City v Colchester United    
Mansfield Town v Port Vale    
Notts County v Yeovil Town    
Swindon Town v Grimsby Town    
Wycombe Wanderers v Accrington Stanley

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