THE gaps are starting to appear in the Sky Bet Championship table as we hit the midway point. Sporting Life’s Tom Carnduff previews the upcoming action.
The top two, as has been the case for a few weeks now, remains a battle between Norwich and Leeds with the duo separated by a single point.
The Canaries are the last team to play in the Championship this weekend as they travel to take on Bristol City in the late kick-off.
Daniel Farke’s side are currently enjoying a nine-game unbeaten run in the league, with the 0-0 draw away at Hull the only time they have dropped points during that time.
Leeds meanwhile, face Bolton who are looking to push themselves out of the relegation places.
It’s a tough ask though with Leeds enjoying a four-game winning run. Marcelo Bielsa’s boys also have the third best away record in the league having only been beaten twice on the road.
Two sides who are hoping to close the five-point gap on the automatic spots is Sheffield United and Derby. The Blades have third spot on goal difference after their 2-0 win over Reading last weekend.
They kick off this weekend’s footballing action as they host West Brom on Friday night. The Baggies are one point behind Chris Wilder’s men in 5th, although they would need victory to overtake their opponents.
Derby meanwhile welcome local rivals Nottingham Forest for what promises to be an incredibly entertaining Monday night clash.
Forest are firmly in the hunt for a spot in the play-offs, while Derby are looking to make it four wins from five.
Middlesbrough are the other top-six side in action as they go to QPR. Steve McClaren’s side have started to pick up points following a slow start and have won three of their last four home encounters.
Aston Villa will be looking to continue their revival under Dean Smith’s leadership as they welcome Stoke to Villa Park.
These two sides are in great form at the moment which sets this one up to be a highly-entertaining game between two sides who will still hold promotion aspirations.
In between them is Birmingham, who still remain in the top-six hunt under Garry Monk.
This week sees them face Blackburn, who also join the Blues on 30 points. These two sides have seen mixed form in recent weeks and they’ll both fancy their chances of victory here.
At the other end of the table, Brentford are away at Hull aiming to halt their run of five games without victory.
The Tigers have picked up some valuable points in recent weeks though with the likes of Norwich, West Brom and Middlesbrough all unable to grab victory against Nigel Adkins’ team.
Bottom club Ipswich will want to snap a four-game losing streak at home to Wigan, while Millwall can push themselves away from the drop zone with a result against Preston.
Rotherham, who have lost just one home game this season, welcome managerless Reading. The FA Cup draw sees ‘Warneiola’ take on Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium, but this is one of a number of important fixtures for the Millers before then.
Elsewhere, Sheffield Wednesday make the trip to Swansea looking for their first away win in four.
The Swans have lost their last two at home though and will be eager for victory against a side below them in the standings.
The latest episode of the Sky Bet Championship podcast is available to listen to now. Gareth Jones, Tom Carnduff and ex-Leeds, Middlesbrough and Millwall strike Noel Whelan discuss all things second tier.