Championship preview with Sporting Life

It’s set to be another entertaining week in the Sky Bet Championship. Sporting Life’s Tom Carnduff previews the upcoming action.

There’s been a change at the top of the table, with Norwich beating Leeds in what proved to be a highly-entertaining encounter last time out.

The Whites have the chance to claim back top spot, even if it is for less than 24 hours, when they travel to take on Middlesbrough at a slightly earlier kick-off time of 1pm on Saturday.

Boro were shocked in the FA Cup by Newport in midweek and Tony Pulis will be aiming for a response from his players in front of what is set to be a near capacity crowd.

Norwich meanwhile, have the small matter of the East Anglia derby to deal with on Sunday as they welcome Ipswich to Carrow Road.

The Tractor Boys may still be bottom of the league, but they will feel that they have been slightly unlucky in recent weeks not to have picked up more points than they have.

It may appear a straightforward result on paper, but a local derby in this division has shown us in the past that anything can happen.

That’s one televised clash on Sunday, but another kicks off the weekend as Aston Villa welcome title hopefuls Sheffield United to Villa Park on Friday.

Friday night games tend to be low-scoring affairs, but the attacking quality of these two sides means that this one could buck the trend. 

Little separates these two in the betting, which shows how it is a game that can go either way.

One team looking to capitalise on any potential slip-up from the likes of Sheffield United and Leeds, who all play before them, are West Brom. The Baggies taking the Saturday late kick-off slot away at Stoke.

Darren Moore’s side are in a bit of a ‘hit-and-miss’ patch of form, although they still remain firmly in the promotion race, while Nathan Jones is looking to secure that second win as Stoke boss.

Fresh from winning the Manager of the Month award, Tony Mowbray will look to replicate Rovers’ fine January form and bounce back from defeat at Brentford as they welcome the in-form Bristol City to Ewood Park.

Lee Johnson’s side have won their last seven in all competitions, while the win over Swansea extended their unbeaten run to 13 games.

At the other end of the table, there’s a Lancashire derby as Bolton take on Preston, with the home side looking to close the gap to safety with a win.

They face a North End side who have looked inspired in recent weeks. Alex Neil sticking to his methods and, combined with a strong January transfer window, it’s starting to reap the rewards with some really positive results in recent weeks.

Two teams sitting in between them are Rotherham and Wigan, and the pair meet at the New York Stadium with the Latics looking to improve their away record.

They’ve won just one of their 15 away games in the league this season, but they have won two of their last four and that should give them some confidence heading into this one.

Derby will be hoping that they can break back into the play-offs as they face Hull. The Rams have been kept out by Bristol City’s fine form, and only goal difference separates them and sixth.

Hull have been transformed from relegation candidates to promotion outsiders under Nigel Adkins’ guidance, and they’ll want another good result at a tough venue.

Brentford, who have seen an upturn in results and hit five at home to Blackburn last weekend, will be hopeful that will put them in a good place as they face a tricky test at the City Ground.

Martin O’Neill grabbed his first victory as Nottingham Forest boss when they beat Wigan in their last home game, and he’ll be wanting consecutive victories in front of their own supporters.

Birmingham could find themselves a point outside of the top-six at the close of play if they can beat a QPR side who have lost their last three in the league.

Steve McClaren’s men were in the top-ten following a previous good run of results, but they are looking to fire themselves backup towards that area of the table again.

Steve Bruce is on the hunt for a second victory as Sheffield Wednesday boss, following their 1-0 away win at Ipswich last time out.

This week sees them take on a Reading side who have drawn their last two following good recruitment in the January window. 

The Royals have won just won away league game this season though, but they have picked up points in three of their last five on the road.

Swansea and Millwall have both picked up eight points from their last five games, and they come up against each other at the Liberty Stadium.

Graham Potter’s side are unbeaten in their last four in all competitions in front of their own fans, while Millwall have lost just two of their last five on the road.