The Sky Bet Championship is back with a bang this weekend, with four fixtures on Sky Sports live across a full weekend of action. As always, it’s set to be explosive…
Second City Derby
Arguably the biggest game of the weekend comes at Villa Park on Sunday, live on Sky Sports from 12pm, when Dean Smith’s Aston Villa side welcome their fiercest rivals, Birmingham City, to Villa Park.
Villa go in to the derby with a brilliant recent run against the Blues and are unbeaten in the last 12 meetings between the two sides. Smith’s Villa have also won back to back games in the Sky Bet Championship and thumped Derby County 3-0 last time out. They are also unbeaten in their two matches at home since he took over.
Garry Monk’s Birmingham City side have only won three times on their travels under their manager but having enjoyed one of the longest unbeaten runs in the country before their recent defeat at Derby County, Blues have been in great form. They will be relying on their strike force of Che Adams and Lukas Jutkiewicz, who have 18 goals between them this season, to cause the home side issues on Sunday.
Will Canaries make it six in a row at Swansea?
Norwich City are sitting pretty at the top of the Sky Bet Championship and will be confident of making it six consecutive wins with victory at Swansea City tomorrow afternoon.
If they take all three points at the Liberty Stadium, it will be the first time since March 2015 that they’ve won six straight games. The visitors though have only won twice at Swansea in the last 12 attempts and haven’t won there at this level since 1962.
Swansea will be heavily reliant on their striker, Oli McBurnie, who has 16 goals for the Swans since his debut in February, and a win against the Canaries could well propel the home side in to the play-off places.
Can Lambert upset the Baggies?
Paul Lambert is still searching for his first victory as boss of Ipswich Town and if he is to do it this weekend, his side will have to keep out a West Bromwich Albion side who are the top scorers in the Championship this season, with 37 goals.
Town are without a victory in their last nine games against Albion and the visitors re-discovered their goal scoring touch last time out, beating Leeds 4-1. But they haven’t kept a clean sheet at Portman Road in the last 19 attempts.
The home side are still winless at home this season and haven’t secured victory on their own patch since April – but will they upset the odds under the lights later on against the Baggies? Find out from 7.45pm, live on Sky Sports Football.
Can Preston continue their good form in the all Lancashire clash?
Alex Neil’s Preston North End side welcome Blackburn Rovers to Deepdale on Saturday, and are unbeaten in their last seven games, representing their best ever Sky Bet Championship run.
The home face a Rovers side who have been resilient this season, only losing three times so far this campaign. Their midfield maestro, Bradley Dack, has been hugely influential for the visitors and has had a hand in 18 goals during his last 17 appearances - scoring 12 goals and creating six assists.
If Preston are to continue their impressive recent run, they will look to Callum Robinson who himself has contributed eight goals and two assists for the Lilywhites.
Will Sheff Utd return to winning ways?
The Blades go in to this Yorkshire meeting having only lost on one occasion in the last 12 meetings between the two sides. But they travel to the New York Stadium, having not scored in their last two Sky Bet Championship games.
Meanwhile, The Millers are in the midst of a run that has seen them go on unbeaten in five matches – their best tally without defeat for over two years.
The home side are the division’s set piece specialists and Chris Wilder’s side will have to be wary of Rotherham’s threat, having scored ten of their 14 goals from set plays.
The game is live on Saturday afternoon from 12.30pm on Sky Sports Football.
Around the grounds
Leeds United and Middlesbrough are another of the two sides who will be looking to keep the pressure on Norwich at the top of the table.
Leeds face Bristol City at Elland Road on the back of a big defeat against West Bromwich Albion, but have only lost once at home in their last 12 matches. By contrast, the visitors have lost the last three on the spin.
Boro face a tricky trip south to Brentford on Saturday and will have to keep top scorer Neal Maupay at bay. The striker is in red hot form with 12 goals already this term, but Boro have only conceded a record low, eight goals, since the start of the season.
Derby County are on the Sky Bet Championship’s longest current run of games without keeping a clean sheet – nine matches. They face a Sheffield Wednesday side at Hillsborough, having not won on any of their last four visits. The Owls have scored the most goals of any teams this season (nine) outside the box but will be hoping to win only their second game at home since August.
Elsewhere, QPR travel to Stoke City, having won 16 points since the start of October and are in great form. But Stoke have kept three consecutive clean sheets, thanks in no small part to their in-form keeper, Jack Butland.
Nottingham Forest face a tricky trip to Hull City who have improved of late, while Millwall entertain a struggling Bolton Wanderers and Wigan will hope to continue their strong start to the season at home when they play Reading.