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Match Previews

Preview: Matchday 32

15 February 2018

Men in form

There's are plenty of standout fixtures in the Championship this weekend, but one that immediately catches the eye is Fulham versus Aston Villa, two teams with promotion aspirations, and two teams who are bang in form.

Visiting Villa have notched seven straight wins, the latest coming against Second City rivals Birmingham City last weekend, and they're now sitting pretty in second after Derby County dropped points twice in four days.

Fulham surged to the play-offs in the second half of last season, and nine-game unbeaten run has propelled them to fifth. They've won their last six at Craven Cottage, scoring 16 and conceding just two in that period.

This should be good!

Friends reunited

Barnsley's 2015/16 was one that will stick in the memory of Tykes supporters, and many neutrals, for a long time. From the bottom of League One, the club rose to the play-offs, lifted the League Trophy, and secured promotion.

It was a turnaround masterminded by Lee Johnson, before he departed to Bristol City in the February, and completed by his assistant, Paul Heckingbottom, who swapped Oakwell for Elland Road earlier this month.

Now 'Hecky' will welcome Johnson to the home of Leeds United, where he'll be looking to get one over on his old boss as he searches for a first win in charge of the Whites.

Around the grounds

With Villa facing that tricky test at Fulham, Cardiff City will be hoping to leapfrog them into second place. A positive result at home to Middlesbrough would give them the chance to do so.

Norwich City and Ipswich Town go head-to-head on Sunday lunchtime in the latest instalment of the East Anglian derby. The Canaries haven't lost any of the past nine meetings.

Burton Albion boss Nigel Clough welcomes former side Nottingham Forest to the Pirelli, where the Brewers haven't won since mid-September.

Two of the EFL's founding members meet, with Preston North End hosting leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers. The first fixture between the pair came in September 1888, a 4-0 win for the Lilywhites.

Elsewhere, three teams in the thick of the relegation mix are in action against clubs from the capital. Birmingham City and Sunderland host Millwall and Brentford respectively, while Bolton Wanderers travel to Queens Park Rangers.

Sky Bet Championship: Matchday 32 fixtures (3pm unless stated)

Saturday 17th February

Birmingham City v Millwall
Burton Albion v Nottingham Forest
Cardiff City v Middlesbrough
Fulham v Aston Villa
Preston North End v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Queens Park Rangers v Bolton Wanderers
Sunderland v Brentford

Sunday 18th February

Norwich City v Ipswich Town (12 noon - live on Sky Sports)
Leeds United v Bristol City (4:30pm - live on Sky Sports)

APPOINTMENTS: Match officials on weekend duty

Shrews on top

When Shrewsbury Town were overtaken by Wigan Athletic at the top of League One in late November, many suspected the wheels might fall off. But that has certainly not been the case.

Under the expert stewardship of Paul Hurst, the Shrews regained form, and three wins from their last four games have seen them rise once again to the top of the table.

With Wigan Athletic in FA Cup action and Blackburn Rovers not playing until Monday, they'll remain there for the time being regardless of Saturday's result, but they face another tough test when Rotherham United – seven unbeaten and with five straight wins – arrive at Montgomery Waters Meadow.

MNF

As mentioned above, the League One weekend will be extended, with some Monday night football to enjoy between promotion-chasing Blackburn and a Bury side fighting for League One survival.

Rover's February form has been inconsistent, but one defeat since mid-October is an admirable record, and the struggling Shakers know they are very much up against it.

However, they have moved off the bottom of the table under Ryan Lowe and put together a five-match unbeaten run, while George Miller, who has four goals in four games since returning on loan, has proved an inspired piece of business.

Around the grounds

There's also some Sunday afternoon football taking place, when Peterborough United look to get their play-off push back on track at home to Blackpool, who are looking to steer themselves clear of trouble.

Chris Powell's perfect record as Southend United boss may have come to an end, but he's still unbeaten and plays host to Portsmouth this weekend. As for Milton Keynes Dons boss Dan Micciche, he's yet to win, and his side face play-off chasers Charlton Athletic on Saturday.

Bristol Rovers travel to an AFC Wimbledon side sitting in 21st, a position which could be filled by Northampton Town or Fleetwood Town by Saturday evening. The Cobblers go to Scunthorpe United, while the Cod Army visit a Doncaster Rovers side who are still looking over their shoulder.
Elsewhere, form sides Gillingham and Plymouth are in action, with the former hosting Walsall and the Pilgrims – now just three points off the top six – visiting Oxford United.

Sky Bet League One: Matchday 32 fixtures (3pm unless stated)

Saturday 17th February

AFC Wimbledon v Bristol Rovers
Doncaster Rovers v Fleetwood Town
Gillingham v Walsall
Milton Keynes Dons v Charlton Athletic
Oxford United v Plymouth Argyle
Scunthorpe United v Northampton Town
Shrewsbury Town v Rotherham United
Southend United v Portsmouth

Sunday 18th February

Blackpool v Peterborough United

Monday 19th February

Blackburn Rovers v Bury

APPOINTMENTS: Match officials on weekend duty

Coleman's chase

No game for Luton Town this weekend, and that means Accrington Stanley can move within three points of the Hatters when using up their game in hand on Saturday afternoon.

On paper, a trip to League Two's bottom club Barnet should be easy, but this is a division capable of springing a surprise or two. The Bees stung high-flying Notts County at the Hive last weekend with a late goal which gave Graham Westley his first win since taking charge.

Stanley, however, have racked up eight wins in nine games, and are currently on a four-game winning streak. If they can extend that to five, Luton might have something to think about when they return to action.

Managerless match-up

Cambridge United and Grimsby Town are two clubs under caretaker management, after recently departing with respective bosses Shaun Derry and Russell Slade.

Joe Dunne took charge of the U's in midweek as they took on struggling Chesterfield, and a late, late goal from Harrison Dunk gave them a first away victory since September.

The Mariners haven't played since Slade's exit, but it will be down to Paul Wilkinson to halt their slide down League Two after a 12-game winless run.

Around the grounds

Wycombe Wanderers have been the EFL's entertainers in recent weeks, and they take their seven-game unbeaten run – in which they've hit 19 goals – to Cheltenham Town.

The chase for the top seven remains so tight, and eighth-placed Exeter City versus fifth-placed Mansfield Town is a fixture that catches the eye. Notts County and Lincoln City travel to Newport County and Crawley Town looking to maintain their play-off push, while Swindon Town host Port Vale.

At the opposite end of the table, Jack Lester has failed to drag Chesterfield out of trouble, and they visit Carlisle United where they will aim to end a three-game losing run. Forest Green Rovers' home form has pulled them out the bottom two, but it's an away day at a Morecambe side one point and one place further back for Mark Cooper's men on Saturday.

Last but not least, Stevenage host a Yeovil Town team unbeaten in four League Two outings.

Sky Bet League Two: Matchday 32 fixtures (all 3pm)

Saturday 17th February

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

APPOINTMENTS: Match officials on weekend duty

 


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