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Sky Bet Championship preview: 16-17 Feb

15 February 2019

Things are heating up both ends of the Sky Bet Championship table, and there are plenty of huge fixtures to look forward to again this weekend.

A big West Midlands derby

Games between Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion are always fascinating affairs, but there's an added spice to this weekend's derby clash, with plenty at stake for both sides. For the hosts, it's a chance to potentially move within four points of the Play-Off places, depending on results elsewhere. Should the Baggies take the bragging rights, however, they'll keep up their hunt for automatic promotion. Both sides are looking to get back to winning ways, and this game - the first between the two in the league at Villa Park since 2015 - provides the perfect opportunity to do so.

High stakes for Wanderers and Canaries

Speaking of having plenty to play for, Saturday's game between Bolton Wanderers and Norwich City could be a defining one for both sides. With Leeds United not in action, a draw or win for Norwich would send them back to the top of the table, while Bolton are seeking back-to-back wins and have a chance to move out of the bottom three. The history books suggest there could be late drama here; Norwich have scored a 90th-minute goal in three of their last four league meetings against Bolton. Just 14 games remain in 2018/19, and a host of sides will be keeping an eye on the result in this one.

Sharp's fine form to continue at the Lane?

Billy Sharp leads the Championship scoring charts and will be hoping to keep up his claim for this season's Golden Boot when Sheffield United host Reading. The in-form striker has a great record in this fixture, having been involved in six goals in his last six league starts against the Royals - he's also scored 11 of United's last 20 league goals. Like Norwich, the Blades could go top if results go their way, while Reading will be looking to pull further clear of relegation trouble after winning in midweek.  

Around the grounds

Elsewhere, Rotherham United welcome Sheffield Wednesday to the New York Stadium for a Yorkshire derby in Saturday's early kick-off. The hosts are in need of a win and are strong at home, but haven't beaten Wednesday in a home league match since March 1976.

If either Nottingham Forest or Preston North End are to put in a late push for a Play-Off place, they'll want three points this weekend. The sides go head-to-head at Deepdale on Saturday, North End having picked up an impressive 14 points in 2019 already. Victory for Forest could put them within two points of sixth place.

Two sides in poor form meet at Portman Road on Saturday, as bottom-of-the-table Ipswich Town take on 17th-placed Stoke City. The Potters are 10 points above the relegation zone while the Tractor Boys are the same distance from safety.

Finally, on Sunday, Blackburn Rovers face Middlesbrough at Ewood Park. With Derby County not playing, Boro will find themselves inside the Play-Offs regardless of Saturday's results by the time this one kicks off, and will be hoping to consolidate their standing with victory over their former boss, Tony Mowbray.

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