It is sure to be an entertaining weekend of Championship football, as both the race for promotion and the battle to beat the drop really hots up.
Friday night sees two fixtures – both including one of the teams in with a chance of promotion.
Brighton, fresh off the back of a 2-1 win away to Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night, host a Fulham side that have picked the right time to go on a three-game winning run. The Cottagers won 2-1 in west London over Cardiff last Saturday to put ten points between themselves and the relegation zone, but Chris Hughton’s Brighton will be an altogether tougher assignment.
The evening’s other game sees Hull City welcome Wolves to the KC Stadium, and a win is vital for the home side if they are to stay within touching distance of the top three. The Tigers go into the game eight points below third-placed Brighton, due to their 2-2 draw with Huddersfield last Saturday – where Adama Diomande’s 93rd-minute header earned them a share of the spoils.
Wolves drew a blank against Blackburn last weekend in a 0-0 draw – their third in five matches – meaning that it should be a solid mid-table finish for the Midlanders, who have not lost since March 4.
It is currently Middlesbrough who sit atop the Championship, and few would bet against them extending their lead at the summit when they travel to already-relegated Bolton on Saturday lunchtime. Boro are the form team in the league, and after beating Reading 2-1 at the Riverside on Tuesday night, have won their last five on the bounce.
For the hosts, there could not be a starker contrast. The Lancashire side have won only four league games all season, and their 4-1 defeat to Derby on Saturday consigned them to League One football next season. A total opposite to the team they are welcoming to the Macron Stadium, the Trotters have lost their last five and look a safe bet to finish bottom.
Two points behind the league leaders are Burnley, who have lost only three of their last ten games. Sean Dyche’s Claret and Blues beat Leeds 1-0 last Saturday to end a run of three straight draws, and travel to St Andrew’s to play Birmingham.
Gary Rowett’s men are nine points behind Sheffield Wednesday – who occupy the last of the play-off position – and after their 2-1 home defeat to Leeds on Tuesday night, they will know that anything less than a victory could end their slim hopes of finishing in the top six.
At the bottom of the table, Charlton’s survival hopes were dealt a severe blow last weekend – the Addicks lost 2-1 to QPR with virtually the last kick of the game. They welcome free-scoring Derby to the Valley – the Rams have eight goals from their last two games – and currently 10 points from safety, would know that defeat would send them ever closer to League One.
For the away side, Derby, a third straight win could see them cement their play-off credentials after their 4-1 win over Bolton last Saturday.
Elsewhere, the resurgent Rotherham – led by Neil Warnock – could go unbeaten in nine at home to Nottingham Forest, MK Dons will want to put an end to four losses in a row away when they make the trip to Preston, Bristol City make the short hop down the motorway to play Brentford, and Sheffield Wednesday will be aiming to destroy Ipswich’s play-off hopes at Hillsborough.
Blackburn play host to Huddersfield in a mid-table battle, Leeds welcome Reading to Elland Road desperate to elevate their status, and QPR travel to south Wales to take on Cardiff.
Brighton & Hove Albion vs Fulham (7:45pm)
Hull City vs Wolverhampton Wanderers (7:45pm)
Saturday (3pm, unless stated):
Bolton Wanderers vs Middlesbrough (12:30pm)
Birmingham City vs Burnley
Blackburn Rovers vs Huddersfield Town
Brentford vs Bristol City
Cardiff City vs Queens Park Rangers
Charlton Athletic vs Derby County
Leeds United vs Reading
Preston North End vs Milton Keynes Dons
Rotherham United vs Nottingham Forest
Sheffield Wednesday vs Ipswich Town