Surprise leaders Crystal Palace will be hoping for more success, while there’s an early six pointer at Cardiff…
- Crystal Palace v Derby
It has been a remarkable season for Crystal Palace, who go into this weekend’s round of matches sitting in the lofty heights of first place in the Championship. Their current situation becomes all the more impressive when you consider that the Eagles lost their first three league fixtures, so an unbeaten 13 game run, including ten victories in that period has taken everyone by surprise. Even a change of manager hasn’t derailed the momentum, Holloway has overseen two wins out of two thus far, and his free flowing side are the division’s top goalscorers.
Derby’s season, in contrast, has been a little more subdued, but the Rams are currently on a decent run of form and are handily placed to make a challenge for the play off places over the coming weeks. Even so, Crystal Palace have the momentum right now, and with Wilfred Zaha, fresh from his England debut, pulling the strings, anything other than a home victory seems unlikely.
- Cardiff v Middlesbrough
Something has to give at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday. Cardiff, who boast the only 100% home record in the whole of English football, welcome a Middlesbrough side who are unbeaten in nine games in all competitions and haven’t lost away from the Riverside since September. After a slowish start, Boro are flourishing under the guidance of Tony Mowbray and this season represents their best opportunity yet for a return to the Premier League.
He has sorted the club’s inability to score goals that hindered any progress last season, and with a solid enough defence, they have all the credentials for a concerted promotion push. Malky Mackay will be thankful for his sides impressive home form, where his side have gained 24 of their 31 points so far, but the pressure is very much on at Cardiff to avoid another failed promotion attempt. Both these sides have real quality right throughout their squads, and it is no surprise to see both so highly placed at this stage of the season. Third against second, it should be a cracker.
- Nottingham Forest v Sheffield Wednesday
Two famous names in English football who have long occupied top flight status throughout history will both believe that they are slowly heading in the right direction of once again competing in the Premier League. This season will come too soon for both, but the foundations are in place for an eventual return.
Forest’s main issue this season has been a lack of consistency. They were the last Championship side to lose their unbeaten start to the season, but have since suffered with fluctuating results. Impressive wins have coincided with surprise losses (including a 4-1 defeat at home to Millwall earlier this month) and frustrating draws. But with funds available after the completion of a takeover from Kuwait in the summer, Sean O’Driscoll will be backed with time and resources to assemble a squad capable of challenging for promotion inn the next couple of years.
Sheffield Wednesday are back in the Championship after a three year hiatus spent in the depths of League One. Their immediate priority is survival, but with players such as Chris O’Grady and Michail Antonio, coupled with a manager who knows this division better than most, they should have enough to avoid the drop and will aim to be more ambitious next season. One issue that Jones needs resolving quickly is his side’s leaky defence. Only Ipswich, Burnley and Bristol City have shipped in more. Nottingham Forest will be favourites for this one, but with their inconsistent nature, anything is possible.