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Weekend's preview: the key fixtures!

18 March 2021

It's time to get ready for the weekend's EFL action once again!

Here are just a handful of the matches to look out for this weekend, starting Saturday lunchtime in the Sky Bet Championship...

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Brentford v Nottingham Forest (12:30pm) 

Brentford slipped to fourth in the Sky Bet Championship standings in midweek after they surrendered a two-goal lead against Derby County, to draw 2-2 at Pride Park. Ivan Toney was amongst the goals again, netting his 27th of the season on Tuesday night.

Next, the Bees welcome Nottingham Forest to the Brentford Community Stadium on Saturday, in the division’s early kick-off.

Chris Hughton’s Forest suffered defeat on Wednesday night against his old side, the runaway leaders Norwich City. Should Brentford be victorious on Saturday, it will be their first league double over Forest for the first time since the 2016/17 season.

Barnsley v Sheffield Wednesday 

You cannot take your eyes of Barnsley of late; the Tykes have been unplayable since the start of February and are unbeaten in 10 league games.

Nine wins and a draw have seen Valerien Ismael’s side rise up the league standings and move into fifth spot, five points ahead of AFC Bournemouth, who currently sit outside the Play-Off places. 

Saturday‘s fixture against rivals Sheffield Wednesday is not just one they will want win for the bragging rights, but at this point of the season with 11 games to go, it will be one they will want to win to secure Play-Off football as soon as possible.

On the other hand, Wednesday’s will be looking for a change of fortunes - they find themselves nine points off Championship safety, after a draw against Huddersfield Town in midweek. The last four league meetings between Barnsley and Wednesday at Oakwell have all ended 1-1, with the Owls scoring first in the last three.

Swansea City v Cardiff City (5:30pm)

The late game in the Championship comes from South Wales, as rivals Swansea City and Cardiff City go head-to-head at the Liberty Stadium. Both teams are fighting for promotion in their own right, Swansea looking to take the automatic route, with Cardiff City hoping to break into the Play-Offs in the closing weeks of the season.

Steve Cooper’s side were on the end of a 3-0 loss to Bournemouth in midweek, and will see this game as no better way to get back on the horse again. Cardiff, on the other hand, have been shaky over their last three league games, drawing twice and losing once during that run.

Bluebirds boss Mick McCarthy is looking to become the first Cardiff manager to win his first away league match against Swansea since Russell Osman in 1996/97.

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Portsmouth v Ipswich Town (1:00pm)

The early kick-off in Sky Bet League One comes from Fratton Park, as managerless Portsmouth host Ipswich Town.

After losing the 2020 Papa John’s Trophy Final against Salford City at the weekend, Portsmouth decided to end their four-year association with Kenny Jackett. A midweek loss to Peterborough United certainly didn’t help things for Pompey, but a win at the weekend could see them move back in within touching distance with the Play-Off places. 

Ipswich were also on the losing side in midweek, going down 2-0 to Fleetwood Town at Highbury Stadium. The Tractor Boys have lost only one of their 15 visits to Portsmouth in the Football League. However, that 1-0 defeat was during their most recent away match back in December 2019. 

Rochdale v Peterborough United 

Rochdale were surprise winners in midweek when picking up three points on the road against high-flying Lincoln City. Goals either side of the break from Oliver Rathbone and Stephen Humphrys helped the Dale to a shock result at the LNER Stadium.

Their fight against relegation sees them come up against another side within the automatic promotion race in Peterborough United at the weekend.

The Posh got back to winning ways on Tuesday night after two defeats, seeing off Portsmouth in a 1-0 win on home soil. Only Hull City have picked up more points in League One in 2021 than Peterborough, who have won 10 of their 16 league games this calendar year.

Sunderland AFC v Lincoln City 

Arguably one of the biggest games of the day comes from the Stadium of Light as third-placed Sunderland AFC take on fourth-place Lincoln.

The Black Cats have been sensational in the second half of the season, with manager Lee Johnson lifting spirits since joining the club. Recent winners of the 2021 Papa John’s Trophy, there is no doubt they will try to use that success as a springboard for promotion. 

Lincoln’s form has not been one to look back on for Michael Appleton, with just one win in seven league games. The Imps have slipped to fourth in League One, though a win at the weekend could see them recapture some of the positive form that saw them top the table earlier on in the season.

No team in League One has won more away matches than Lincoln this season.

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Newport County v Leyton Orient (1:00pm)

After winning three games against Colchester United, Bradford City and Morecambe respectively, Newport County were defeated in midweek by Port Vale at Vale Park.

However, those three wins have come at the perfect time for the Exiles and have lifted them back within a chance of making it into the automatic promotion places. Although they are four points off that last automatic spot, a winning mentality is back within Michael Flynn’s side. 

Leyton Orient are still without a manager after parting company with Ross Embleton, with player/interim manager Jobi McAnuff is still presiding over the hot seat. Orient have lost just one of their last 10 Football League matches against Newport, a 1-0 defeat in August 2016.

Cambridge United v Forest Green Rovers 

It is second against third in Sky Bet League Two this weekend, as Forest Green travel to Cambridge United, looking to leapfrog their opponents. This one has everything, with both teams looking to knock Cheltenham Town off top spot as they both sit a point behind the Robins.

Forest Green have two games in hand over Cambridge in second and Cheltenham in first, and they will undoubtedly be looking to finish the season strongly and make sure they are in those automatic promotion places on 8 May.

Rovers have won seven of their last 11 matches in League Two and have scored five more than they have conceded during this run, whereas the U’s have alternated between a victory and a loss in their last seven matches in League Two, beating Oldham 4-2 last time out.

Tranmere Rovers v Exeter City 

After performing admirably in the 2021 Papa John’s Trophy Final against Sunderland last Sunday, Tranmere Rovers’ attention is back on promotion to Sky Bet League One.

The Super White Army are hot on the tails of the three teams above them and, like Sunderland, have been performing exceptionally well since a new manager has entered the building.

Exeter City are the visitors to Prenton Park on Saturday afternoon, looking to claw another three points back, as they head for that final Play-Off spot in League Two.

All bodes well for the hosts, having won eight of their last nine home games against Exeter in the Football League, losing the other in September 2014.


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