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Match Previews

Preview: Matchday 27

12 January 2018

A bumper weekend of EFL action is in store, with full programmes of fixtures from the Sky Bet Championship, League One and League Two. Here’s our Matchday preview…

Steel City derby

Friday takes us to Bramall Lane, where Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday face off in a crucial derby meeting that is live on Sky Sports.

Both sides’ last six games have yielded just one victory each, with United sitting in seventh and Wednesday in 16th.

The Owls will also have a new man in the dugout for the fixture, as Jos Luhukay takes charge of his first match since being appointed as the successor to Carlos Carvalhal.

Read more: Jos Luhukay takes charge at Hillsborough

Karanka’s Forest bow

Rounding off Matchday 27 in the Sky Bet Championship are Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa, with the former, like the aforementioned Sheffield Wednesday, welcoming a new manager to the club.

Aitor Karanka, formerly of Middlesbrough, took the reins at the City Ground last Monday and will be aiming to begin his tenure with a positive result against Steve Bruce’s men.

Read more: Aitor Karanka appointed as Middlesbrough manager

The two clubs’ last three clashes have all been tight affairs, with sole 2-1 triumphs for both, which was preceded by a 2-2 draw in September 2016.

Around the grounds

Saturday’s Championship schedule gets under way at the home of Cardiff City, where the Bluebirds entertain Chris Coleman’s Sunderland.

Three wins in four games for Bolton Wanderers have aided the Trotters’ survival bid and, their next assignment comes away Brentford, who themselves had picked up nine points from nine until a recent loss at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Birmingham City have registered consecutive victories in their last two Championship outings, but things don’t get any easier for Steve Cotterill’s men, who host second-placed Derby County. Rams’ duo Gary Rowett and Scott Carson were named the division’s Manager and Player of the Month on Friday.

Gallery: View the EFL’s monthly award winners for December

At the Riverside Stadium, two clubs loitering just outside the Play-Off places go head-to-head, with Middlesbrough hosting Fulham.

Sky Bet Championship: Matchday 27 fixtures (3pm kick-off unless stated)

Friday 12th January 2018

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

Saturday 13th January 2018

Barnsley v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Birmingham City v Derby County
Brentford v Bolton Wanderers
Bristol City v Norwich City
Burton Albion v Queens Park Rangers

Cardiff City v Sunderland (12:30pm - live on Sky Sports)
Hull City v Reading
Ipswich Town v Leeds United
Middlesbrough v Fulham
Millwall v Preston North End
Nottingham Forest v Aston Villa (5:30pm - live on Sky Sports)

Appointments: The match officials on weekend duty

From strength to strength

It’s five and seven games respectively unbeaten for Doncaster Rovers and Plymouth Argyle in Sky Bet League One, and they meet on Saturday at the Keepmoat Stadium.

That form has seen Darren Ferguson’s team climb to 11th in the standings, while the Green Army are a place behind Rovers in 12th.

Both boast watertight defences too, given that the home team have conceded one goal in four matches, and the visitors just twice in that amount of time.

Bridging the gap

Blackburn Rovers go into their home clash with Shrewsbury Town knowing they can reduce the deficit to the Shrews to two points if they’re triumphant.

Back-to-back draws have meant the men from Ewood Park have lost ground on their opponents, who are positioned directly behind league leaders Wigan Athletic at present.

Should the Latics lose out against Peterborough United though, it would present an opportunity for Paul Hurst’s Town side to go top with a win.

Around the grounds

Graham Alexander takes Scunthorpe United to Portsmouth, who, like the Iron, are occupying a top-six spot at present.

Things are tight in the Play-Off picture and, fifth-placed Bradford City may very well end up third if they manage to defeat Northampton Town at Valley Parade.

After picking up the League One Manager of the Month award for December, Rotherham United boss Paul Warne will have his sights set on a collective success at Oldham Athletic on Saturday.

A narrow win over Richie Wellens’ side got Charlton Athletic back on track last time out, and they head to lowly Bury this weekend — the Addicks are a single point adrift of the top six.

Sky Bet League One: Fixtures (all 3pm kick-off)

Saturday 13th January 2018

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

Appointments: The match officials on weekend duty

City or County?

Lincoln City, like all of the clubs who are situated in a Play-Off position at present, have 43 points to their name.

The Imps were on an impressive streak of form until losing out at table-toppers Luton Town, with Danny Cowley named the division's Manager of the Month for December. They have a chance to bounce back when second-placed Notts County travel to Sincil Bank.

County recorded a resounding 4-1 win in this fixture back in September, however, their most recent meeting came in the Checkatrade Trophy, where Lincoln prevailed 2-1 on that occasion.

No Stags stagnation

The above says it all; Mansfield Town are in a rich vein of form. Steve Evans has watched his players pick up 10 points out of a possible 12, to rise into the Play-Off pack.

Cambridge United, their opposition this weekend, will provide a tough test though, taking into account the four-game unbeaten run they are currently on.

Mansfield haven’t lost to the U’s since April 2015, with two Town wins and three draws in the period that has subsequently followed.

Around the grounds

As previously stated, the race for those top spots is certainly hotting up, as third to 10th is covered by just three points.

At the top of that specific pile are Coventry City, who face an Exeter City team in eighth, while it will be fifth versus ninth when Wycombe Wanderers entertain Colchester United at Adams Park.

Points are equally as valuable at the bottom, and Barnet will be hopeful of obtaining some at Crawley Town. There are difficult away trips for fellow strugglers Chesterfield and Forest Green Rovers too, who visit Luton Town and Swindon Town respectively.

Sky Bet League Two: Fixtures (all 3pm kick-off)

Saturday 13th January 2018

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

Appointments: The match officials on weekend duty

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