With Sky Bet League One and Sky Bet League Two teams in FA Cup action this weekend, all eyes are on the Sky Bet Championship with a full round of fixtures set to take place with top of the table clashes and big derbies at the centre of the action...
Steel City rivals clash under the lights
Promotion chasing Sheffield United will be hoping to return to winning ways on Friday night as they welcome fierce rivals Sheffield Wednesday to Bramall Lane.
The Blades are unbeaten in their last seven at home and have enjoyed an enjoyable recent run against the Owls. They will be hopeful of continuing their good run in the derby as will their striker, Leon Clarke, who has netted six times in his last six games against Wednesday.
The Owls come in to the game having lost the last four in a row, while Chris Wilder’s side have only lost once in their last 15 clashes with Wednesday and you have to go back to 2009 for the last time the visitors won at Bramall Lane.
The derby will kick off the weekend’s action on Friday night, live on Sky Sports Football from 7pm.
Midlands clash at Pride Park
Frank Lampard’s Derby side are in superb form as they welcome an Aston Villa team to Pride park on Saturday who haven’t won on the road since the opening weekend. Derby meanwhile have not lost at home since then and are unbeaten against Villa on their own patch since 2008.
Lampard will come up against Villa assistant John Terry in the dugout and will be hoping he can get one over on his former team mate and friend. It was Terry who reportedly recommended Jack Marriott to Lampard before he signed for Derby and the striker is in red hot form – he has been directly involved in seven goals in his last six appearances, netting five times.
London rivalry at Loftus Road
After winning for the first time under their new manager Thomas Frank against Millwall on Saturday, Brentford travel to rivals QPR on Saturday hoping to overturn a terrible recent run of away games having not won in their last ten.
They will be heavily reliant on Neil Maupay, who is the Sky Bet Championship’s top scorer this season with 11 goals already, but he has failed to hit the back of the bet in their last two outings. QPR meanwhile were unfortunate to lose at Blackburn last week, but have won their last two league games at home and are in good form.
Steve McClaren’s side, though, haven’t got the better of Brentford in the league for over two years and that makes this game another tough one to call.
Can the Baggies bounce back against top of the table Leeds?
The Saturday evening kick-off live on Sky Sports from 5.30pm, will see table topping Leeds United travel to the Hawthorns to face a West Brom team without a win in four.
Despite being the division’s top goalscorers with 33 goals, the Baggies have only scored twice in their recent winless streak and will hope to get back to winning ways against Marco Bielsa’s side.
Leeds have only kept once clean sheet in their last 24 visits to West Brom and have lost on four of their last five visits, but if they were to score first on Saturday evening and fail to win the game, it would be the first time this season they had lost a single point from a winning position.
Around the grounds
Nottingham Forest welcome Stoke City to the City Ground on Saturday high in confidence after seeing off Sheffield United last weekend. Forest have lost just the once in their last 11 at home.
Gary Rowett’s side have actually fared better away from home and have taken maximum points from two of their last three games on the road. Stoke will have to keep Forest striker Lewis Grabban quiet though with the striker scoring nine goals in his last nine appearances.
Elsewhere, Middlesbrough and Norwich will be hopeful of keeping the pressure on at the top of the table with home games against Wigan and Millwall, respectively. Boro have the most clean sheets in the league this season and Wigan haven’t scored in their last four visits to the Riverside.
The Canaries are unbeaten in their last 20 home matches against Millwall and are in scintillating form with eight wins from their last ten league games.
Meanwhile, Birmingham City will hope to return to winning ways against Hull City at St. Andrews and Blackburn entertain Rotherham United at Ewood Park having lost only once at home this season, winning their last two.
The clash at the bottom sees Paul Lambert in charge away from home for the first time as manager of Ipswich Town as they face Reading at the Madjeski Stadium, having only won once on the road this season.
The other games in the league see Bolton Wanderers welcome Swansea City and Bristol City entertain Preston North End.