A brief look at all games this weekend, including key man analysis.
The international break is out of the way and now we can look forward to a full Championship weekend. 11 Matches on the Saturday, and the 12th being shown as the lunchtime kick-off on Sky on Sunday as Brian McDermott’s Leeds United take on Lee Clark’s Birmingham.
Blackpool VS Wigan Athletic
After a strong start, Blackpool found themselves in the top two. They hit a rough patch in their past 5 games recording 1 loss followed by 4 draws on the spin leaving them clinging onto 6th place in the league. Wigan finished very strongly after finally finding their feet in this division especially at home, where they have recorded 3 wins back to back. They will be buoyed by the local Derby win over Blackburn and be in a confident mood.
Key Man: Nick Powell – The Man United man has found his rhythm recently showing the quality that forced Sir Alex Ferguson to put his faith in a gem from league two. He will be feeling good after a few solid performances, and recent tabloid praise.
Barnsley VS Middlesbrough
Barnsley look like they’ve lost their fighting spirit of previous seasons which saw them survive. They only have 5 points this season and only 1 coming in their last 5 games. It doesn’t make for good reading and they will be determined to put that right. Middlesbrough have had some tricky games on the road but have managed 5 points out of a possible 12 despite playing QPR, Forest and Wigan away already. They will be looking at October as a chance to progress up the table starting with an out-of-sorts Barnsley side that will be looking at this game as a fresh start to the season.
Key Man: Grant Leadbitter – The Ex-Sunderland midfielder has been in instrumental form so far this season and has been one of the few bright lights for Boro, after an impressive display against Yeovil he will be looking for more of the same in this game.
Blackburn Rovers VS Charlton
Blackburn have been solid at home this season. The sense of stability has at least seemed to help their cause for a promotion push and they do look competitive. Charlton are winless away from home and only have 2 points from their previous 5 games. There are even murmurs for the man who took them up, and obtained a relatively impressive position in the league last season to be sacked. Blackburn will be looking to build on their strong home form and will be the more confident out of the two sides.
Key Man: Jordan Rhodes - Last season’s top goal-scorer has hit 5 goals in his previous 4 games and looks to have settled straight back into the form he was in last season. The most natural goal-scorer this division has seen in years and just seems to get better and better.
Bolton Wanderers VS Sheffield Wednesday
Bolton have found this season a slog so far but have slowly improved their performances in recent weeks and trying to try freshen up the squad after a pretty stale start to the season. Wednesday are without a grain of luck or win this season. Both teams will no doubt desperate to kick start their season on Saturday. Wednesday just desperate for that first win of the season and Bolton will still be pinning their hopes on at least obtaining a play-off place this season.
Key Man: Jay Spearing – The former Liverpool man has been in good form so far this season, the hub of Bolton’s possession football and will be instrumental in winning the midfield battle on Saturday.
Ipswich Town VS Burnley
Ipswich are currently mid-table in the overall standings, however their home record is very impressive with 4 wins and only 1 loss coming against Leeds. They will be looking to the game on Saturday to keep that record going, and obtain at least a point. Burnley boast the best away record in the division, only falling to Brighton so far this season and find themselves early front runners in the division. I expect it to be a competitive game between two good sides.
Key Man: Danny Ings – The impressive young striker has been in inspired form this season and will no doubt be buoyed by the recent under 21 call up. I expect him to claim some headlines from the game Saturday.
Leicester City VS Huddersfield Town
Leicester have started well at home, winning their last 4 on the bounce at the King Power Stadium. They will want to rectify the hurt from the 1-0 loss to Doncaster just before the international break. Huddersfield have 1 away win so far this season, but drawing their last 2. They won’t go down without a fight, and go to Leicester with a good side.
Key Man: David Nugent – The experienced championship striker has been fantastic for Leicester at the King Power this season with 4 goals in the 5 home games in the league. He will be the one to watch this weekend, and don’t be surprised if his name pops up on the score sheet.
Millwall VS Queens Park Rangers
Back to back wins for Millwall at home will give them some confidence going into this matchup but with the two significant away losses before the international break still hanging over their head they couldn’t have wished for a trickier opponent to come back to. QPR haven’t really dazzled anyone away from home this season, that’s probably a fair comment but with just 1 goal conceded in 4 away games, and 2 goals conceded in the first 10 games overall speaks volumes about their defence. The Millwall frontline won’t be looking forward to this game, which looks like it could be frustrating afternoon for them.
Key Man: Charlie Austin – He has now started putting his name on the score sheet with 5 goals in his last 5 games. He will want to keep this form up, after last season where he started strong and then took his foot off the gas. He will be determined not to have another dip like that this season.
Nottingham Forest VS Bournemouth
Billy Davies impressive home record seems to be in full effect, just 2 points dropped at home this season and their last home game was a win against rivals Derby. Along with the Derby win, they went and lodged in an impressive performance and win against Brighton at the Amex. Bournemouth find themselves 8th in the league despite having a minus 6 goal difference and the second worst defensive record in the league. In their last game they won emphatically and will fancy their chances of an upset. I think if Forest can stay structured at the back they will come away with all 3 points, but wouldn’t be surprised to see an upset if the Forest back-line decide to take it easy.
Key Man: Jack Hobbs – The Ex-Leicester City man has been in impressive form for Forest this season, and will need to be on top form to stop one of the most explosive attacking teams in the division from causing an upset.
Reading VS Doncaster Rovers
Reading find themselves just outside the play-offs coming into the weekend, and for them the goal is clear and concise and that is promotion. I imagine they will be hungry to get all 3 points on Saturday after 2 disappointing games leading into the international break they will look to rectify that after a good period of rest. Doncaster themselves have been performing admirably this season. In their past 5 games they have beat Leicester and Wednesday, draw against Forest and only falling to early promotion flyers Watford and Burnley. There does seem a sense of no-fear about Doncaster this season, which makes them an unpredictable side to play against, that being said I expect Reading’s hunger to rectify their previous two games and put themselves in the top 6.
Key Man: Danny Guthrie – Nominated for player of the month for September which was very well deserved. He will be the one that can take the sting out of Doncaster this weekend, and set Reading up for all 3 points.
Watford VS Derby County
Watford are in good form recently winning 4 of their last 5 and unbeaten at home as it currently stands. 11 goals scored in their first 5 home matches and the highest scoring side in the division. Which is down to their ability in the final third and it has been great to watch. Derby have the second best away record in the division, and are the highest scorers on the road with 12 goals in 5 games. The second highest scoring side overall (behind Watford) and have been showing moments of exquisite team play. It will be Steve McClaren’s first away match and is set up to be like a goal-fest. Two teams that are known for scoring goals it’s guaranteed to be a low scoring encounter, with the home team looking like the favourites for all 3 points.
Key Man: Lewis McGugan – the Nottingham born midfielder will be the one looking to control the midfield battle, both sides like the ball in the middle of the pitch and I imagine that it will be midfield lynchpin to gain control of the midfield for his side.
Yeovil Town VS Brighton
Yeovil fans must be dreading every home game that currently comes up. They managed to score their first home goal in their last home game against Leicester but still without a point in their first 5 home games they will always be fearing the worse. I hope they can stay hopeful, as this was never a year to get bogged down with expectation. Brighton will be hurting after the loss to promotion rivals Forest before the international break, and I imagine that they will be looking at this game as a perfect chance to bounce back. No win in 4 on the road for Brighton, so they might go into the match with a little bit of caution but I expect them to bring back all 3 points, and Yeovil fans to go back still dreaming of that first home win.
Key Man: Ashley Barnes – With Ulloa injured and out of action Brighton need their long-serving striker to step into the breach and put his chances away. The former Plymouth man will be keen to take his chance and no better way than starting Saturday.
Leeds United VS Birmingham
Leeds United are in a dire run of form, momentary rest bite in their 2-1 win against a 10 man Bournemouth. 4 losses in their past 5 games will not be enough to appease the Elland Road faithful who will be going to this game with a lot of expectation. After the 3-1 loss to Derby, and showing unfortunate moments of school boy defending they will be looking to resurrect themselves live on sky, and in front of the home crowd. Birmingham, it has to be said are the most erratic side in the division. A 4-0 win over Millwall, and a 4-1 win over Wednesday is soiled by the 3 losses they picked up in their last 5 games alongside them results. They tend to struggle on the road with 4 straight defeats on the bounce, and their only win coming against Yeovil. I think it depends on who turns up for either side, Sam Byram is obviously struggling with a niggling injury but was on the bench against Derby so if he is anywhere near match fit that will be a massive lift to the Yorkshire club.
Key Player: Jesse Lingard – Lingard will more than likely be the centre attention piece of Sky when they analyse this game. The promising united youngster has hit the championship pretty hard with a series of goals, assists and man of the match performances. He will be keen to put on a show, and if it all goes well for him, it’s difficult to see how the Leeds defence will cope with such raw talent.
How do you think your team will fair this weekend?
image: © Chris Robertshaw