With the festive period truly upon us, here's what's coming up in what is one of the most exciting days in the football calendar...
Top of the table West Bromwich Albion will travel to South Yorkshire to take on third from bottom Barnsley where three points for the Tykes could lift them out of the relegation zone. Barnsley have not lost any of their last 17 home league matches against West Brom, a run which stretches all the way back to 1948 and on Thursday will be looking to win three consecutive Sky Bet Championship matches for the first time since September 2016.
Neil Harris will come up against his former club as Cardiff City take on Millwall at the Cardiff City Stadium - both sides are currently level on points sitting in 12th and 13th place respectively. The last four meetings between the two sides have ended in a draw, but having only lost one of their last 11 home league games (W7 D3 L1), Cardiff City will be feeling confident going into this one. They’ll have to keep Millwall’s Matt Smith quiet if they want three points however, as he has had a hand in eight goals in 20 league appearances this season, already one more than he registered with QPR in an entire season last campaign.
It’s 2nd v 4th as Leeds United face Preston North End at Elland Road in one of the most eagerly anticipated games of the day. Leeds will be wanting to keep the pressure on West Brom at the top and history is on their side as they’ve not lost a home league game to Preston since 2010. Alex Neil’s side will have to keep Patrick Bamford quiet who has found his form recently, scoring six goals in his last eight league games. Prior to this, he had failed to score in each of his previous ten appearances. It’ll be a tough contest though, as after losing four consecutive games, Preston have picked up seven points from their last nine (W2 D1) to take them back up to 4th.
In Sky Bet League One second placed Peterborough United welcome Darren Ferguson’s former club as Doncaster Rovers make the trip down the A1. The Posh jumped into the automatic promotion spots at the weekend after Ipswich Town suffered defeat to Portsmouth. Darren Ferguson’s side are unbeaten in their last four League One games, however as a club they are winless in their last five against Doncaster (D3 L2), so will be looking for their first victory over the South Yorkshire side since March 2016. Doncaster are in much need of three points, having not won in the league since a 7-1 win over Southend United in October.
Top of the table Wycombe travel to Fratton Park to take on Portsmouth, who after a poor start to the season now sit in 10th position - just two points outside the Play-Off places. Wycombe go into the game on the back of a 1-0 defeat to Oxford, their first loss in 12 games and will be looking to bounce back and extend their lead at the top. One player Gareth Ainsworth’s side will have to keep an eye on is Brett Pitman, who has been directly involved in five goals in five previous league matches against Wycombe (4 goals, 1 assist).
In the North East, Sunderland AFC will take on Bolton Wanderers as Phil Parkinson faces his former club. Sunderland are winless in their last four league games against Bolton, their last victory coming in the Premier League on October 2011, whilst Bolton haven’t won a league game at the Stadium of Light since November 2008, so it’s all to play for in this one. Three points for Bolton could lift them off the bottom of the table, should other results go their way.
In League Two, Cheltenham Town will look to continue their impressive first-half of the season. Currently in 4th position, they sit just two points off the automatic promotions places but on Boxing Day will face a tough test in Plymouth Argyle who are up to 9th in the table and just three points outside the Play-Offs. No side has had more different goalscorer than Ryan Lowe’s side this season, but for Cheltenham, it’s been one of their best ever starts to a season as they have lost just one of their last 15 league games (W7 D7).
League-leaders Swindon Town welcome Cambridge United and they’ll be going into the Christmas period full of confidence having picked up 22 pointes from the last 24 on offer (P8 W7 D1 L0), going unbeaten since a defeat against Crewe Alexandra back in October. It’ll be a tough test for Cambridge who haven’t tasted defeat on Boxing Day since 2014.
Towards the bottom of the table, Morecambe face fellow strugglers Oldham Athletic and three points will be valuable to either side as just five points separates 23rd and 17th place in the league table. It will be only the fourth EFL meeting between the two sides, with Morecambe winning one and losing two of the previous three encounters between the two sides.