The weekend’s full Sky Bet Championship programme kicks off in style with a delicious double-header on Friday night, as well as some cracking encounters on Saturday. Here’s the preview…
2018 started very differently for Bristol City and Aston Villa, with the latter romping the Robins 5-0 in a New Year’s Day spectacular at Villa Park – live on Sky Sports Red Button.
Back then, City hit a sticky patch in form, that heavy defeat in the Midlands was their second loss in a winless streak seven, whilst Villa were on a run of seven consecutive Sky Bet Championship victories.
This time around Lee Johnson’s side find themselves out of form again, without a point in two matches despite a four-game winning streak not long ago. There is good news for the hosts though, as unlike 10 months ago, Villa have mustered one win in their last seven league fixtures.
Villa will have to look back to 1982 for their last win at Ashton Gate, and with the home advantage on Friday, the Robins will be out to continue this record and banish any New Year’s Day woes once and for all.
Still buzzing after conquering Manchester United in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night, Derby County will hit the road again this week when they face Bolton Wanderers on Saturday.
If history continues in Lancashire, then the party at Pride Park will not be spoilt as the Rams have come away with points from 12 of the 14 encounters between these sides this century and are unbeaten against Bolton in the last nine.
The last time Rams boss Frank Lampard was at the University of Bolton Stadium, the former Chelsea midfielder scored a hat-tick as the Blues thrashed the hosts 5-1.
Yet the Trotters will now face a different on-field threat, a side occupying a play-off spot having won four in their last six Sky Bet Championship matches. After a clean sheet last Saturday and no cup action during the week, Phil Parkinson’s side will be ready and refreshed for this one.
Around the grounds
Birmingham City stunned leaders Leeds United on Garry Monk’s return to Elland Road last Saturday, ruining the Whites’ unbeaten start as well as notching their first league win. The Blues host the Championship’s last winless side, Ipswich Town, who haven’t been successful at St. Andrew’s since 2012.
Leeds will look to bounce back in the other Friday night fixture, traveling to 10th-placed Sheffield Wednesday for a Yorkshire derby that is live on Sky Sports, as is Saturday’s tea-time game between Stoke City and Rotherham United, who haven’t met in the league since 2005.
Queens Park Rangers are unbeaten in their last three meetings with Swansea City at this level and they face each other this weekend, as do Blackburn Rovers and Nottingham Forest, with the former unbeaten in their last six matches against the latter.
If it is goals you are looking for, Hull City verses second-placed Middlesbrough has cooked up 15 goals in the last four matches and the division’s top scorers West Bromwich Albion are away at bottom club Preston North End.
Friday 28 September
Bristol City v Aston Villa (8pm live on Sky Sports red button)
Sheffield Wednesday v Leeds United (7:45pm live on Sky Sports)
Saturday 29 September (Kick-off 3pm unless stated)
Birmingham City v Ipswich Town
Blackburn Rovers v Nottingham Forest
Bolton Wanderers v Derby County
Brentford v Reading
Hull City v Middlesbrough
Millwall v Sheffield United
Norwich City v Wigan Athletic
Preston North End v West Bromwich Albion
Swansea City v Queens Park Rangers
Rotherham United v Stoke City (live on Sky Sports)