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Match Previews

Preview: Matchday 34

23 February 2018

Following a reduced schedule last weekend, the latest matchday in the EFL brings us three days of action. Here’s the preview…

Wear-Tees clash

Sunderland go into their home clash with Middlesbrough on the back of a narrow loss at Bolton Wanderers, which saw the Black Cats drop to the foot of the Sky Bet Championship table.

That defeat was Chris Coleman’s side’s fourth in five outings, but a derby fixture could be just the tonic to get them back on track.

Boro’s recent form has been somewhat up and down, with two wins and two losses in their previous four games — Tony Pulis’ men are just three points adrift of the top six at present though.

Brewers’ bounce

After moving off the bottom on Tuesday night thanks to a crucial victory at Barnsley, Burton Albion could potentially pull themselves out of the Championship relegation zone this weekend.

The Brewers will be looking to back up their Tykes triumph when Millwall visit the Pirelli Stadium. However, things won’t be straightforward against a team who are in decent form of late.

Neil Harris’ Lions have gained 14 points from a possible 18, and they were successful in getting the better of Sheffield Wednesday in their midweek meeting, coming from behind to win 2-1.

Around the grounds

Before all of the above takes place, there’s Friday night football from the KCOM Stadium, where Hull City welcome Sheffield United, in an encounter that’s live on Sky Sports.

A hat-trick of wins looms for Brentford – that’s if they can see off a Leeds United side which have drawn their last two Championship matches 2-2.

The league leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers have a tough assignment with Fulham their opponents in West London on Saturday evening — that one is also live in front of the Sky Sports cameras. The hosts have won seven in a row at the Cottage.

Then, on Sunday, second-placed Cardiff City face off against Bristol City, in a Severnside derby which concludes the weekend’s EFL action.

Sky Bet Championship: Matchday 34 fixtures (3pm kick-off unless stated)

Friday 23rd February

Hull City v Sheffield United (7:45pm - live on Sky Sports)

Saturday 24th February

Birmingham City v Barnsley
Burton Albion v Millwall
Leeds United v Brentford
Norwich City v Bolton Wanderers
Preston North End v Ipswich Town
Queens Park Rangers v Nottingham Forest
Reading v Derby County
Sheffield Wednesday v Aston Villa
Sunderland v Middlesbrough
Fulham v Wolverhampton Wanderers (5:30pm – live on Sky Sports)

Sunday 25th February

Cardiff City v Bristol City (12 noon)

Rampant Rotherham

It’s six wins and counting for Paul Warne’s Millers, in a run which has seen United concede just twice, as well as defeating high-flying sides such as Shrewsbury Town and Scunthorpe United away from home.

Home turf is where they next take to the field, as Doncaster Rovers make the relatively short trip to the New York Stadium.

Rovers emphatically ended a recent poor spell with a 3-0 defeat of Fleetwood Town in their meeting at the Keepmoat Stadium on Saturday. Will they be able to halt Rotherham’s rampage?

Plymouth’s Play-Off push

That’s where the Pilgrims could very well be positioned by the close of play on Saturday, should they get a positive result at home to Bradford City.

Derek Adams has seen his players move to within one point and one place of League One’s top six and, with sixth-placed Charlton Athletic doing battle with Shrewsbury Town this weekend, there’s a distinct possibility of Argyle leapfrogging the Addicks.

In saying that, the Bantams have play-off aspirations of their own, and a first success for Simon Grayson could see an ascent back into that pack too.

Around the grounds

Undoubtedly on a high from their FA Cup victory over Premier League runaway leaders Manchester City, Wigan Athletic face more cup heroes — Rochdale — who earned a last-gasp draw against Tottenham Hotspur. FA Cup Final rehearsal, anyone?!

Getting to the top is one thing, but remaining there is another, and that will be on the agenda for Blackburn Rovers, who travel to Walsall.

No defeats in three and five for Oldham Athletic and Southend United respectively. There’s a good chance something has got to give in this match-up, or will both maintain their unbeaten streaks?

Two sides out of form and in need of the points clash at Highbury Stadium — will either Fleetwood Town or Milton Keynes Dons get back to winning ways?

Sky Bet League One: Matchday 34 fixtures (all 3pm kick-off)

Saturday 24th February

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

The boy Dunne good

Having seen their four-game winning streak brought to and end by Barnet on Saturday, Accrington Stanley have an opportunity to perhaps lay the foundations for another run.

It won’t be easy though, against a Cambridge United outfit that aren’t in too bad form themselves at the moment, with interim head coach Joe Dunne guiding the U’s to three successive maximum-point hauls.

This encounter is sure to be an intriguing one, taking into account the confident mood with which both sides head into the game in.

Applying the pressure

Wycombe Wanderers’ deficit to top-of-the-table Luton Town stayed at five points after both recorded comfortable wins last time out.

Gareth Ainsworth’s Chairboys have matched the Hatters stride for stride over the course of the recent fixture schedule, and even managed to defeat them in January.

They can continue to pile on the pressure this weekend, welcoming a Morecambe side battling towards the lower reaches of the table.

Around the grounds

Several sides in the pack behind the top three will fancy their chances of reducing the distance between the Play-Offs and an automatic promotion place.

One of those in question are Mansfield Town, who have a date with Coventry City at the One Call Stadium — the Sky Blues have lost their last three in League Two.

Failure to defeat Grimsby Town could see Exeter City replaced in the top seven by Lincoln City, who welcome Crewe Alexandra to Sincil Bank.

Chesterfield and Barnet won’t want to be cut adrift at the bottom, and they’re in action against Swindon Town and Colchester United respectively.

Sky Bet League Two: Matchday 33 fixtures (all 3pm kick-off)

Saturday 24th February

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

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