As Jimmy Greaves used to say ‘football’s a funny old game.’
On Saturday evening, Villa did this:
On Tuesday, Steve Bruce’s side lost 3-1 at home to QPR. That was Rangers’ third away win in the Championship since this time last year and may have irreperably damaged the Villans chance of automatic promotion.
In a theme I’ll return to next week, time is running out for those clubs other than the current top four who want to win promotion automatically. Millwall have been in superb form recently, but have they left it too late to pull off a major surprise?
The bottom of the table is far less clearer. Despite being five points from safety with nine games left, Sunderland could still finish in mid table but they’d have to win all of their remaining matches. Any of the five clubs immediately above the Black Cats could still find themselves in League One next August.
As the game of the week is the last before the international break, I’ll come to that after mentioning a couple of Saturday’s games that will have an impact at both ends of the table. Wolves entertain Burton at 3pm and Aston Villa travel to Bolton (5:30pm, Sky Sports Football and Main Event): I can’t see Wolves having any problems with Burton, but be advised that Bolton have only lost two games at home since mid October.
Derby v Cardiff
(Noon on Sunday, Sky Sports Football/Main Event)
This is the Rams’ last home game against any of the teams currently above them and it’s one they need to win. That’s easier said than done: one win in their last six home games since Christmas tells me that Derby are more likely to slip out of playoff contention completely than win promotion. Looking back to my pre-season preview, the Rams are about where I’d expected them to be: one of the better sides in the competition, but not one of the best and although they’ve improved, it’s been incremental rather than spectacular as it has been with Cardiff.
The Bluebirds haven’t lost away from home since New Year’s Day and have lost only one of their seven games against the other teams currently in the top six. They’ve got to face Wolves and Villa in a four day period next month, but those games may be as relevant then as they appear now. I can’t remember if I’ve done this yet, so I’m going to put my hands up and say that I genuinely did not believe that the Bluebirds would be doing this well in 2017/18.
Head to head in the league at Derby: the hosts have won four of the last ten meetings, with their last win was in November 2015 which is about the same time David Wagner was appointed Huddersfield manager and the Football League was rebranded as the EFL. The remaining six matches have been split between draws and Cardiff wins but the Bluebirds have only lost one of the six encounters – worth remembering on Sunday morning.
Verdict: I can’t see Cardiff losing this one. They’re unbeaten in eleven – which means they’re due a defeat soon – but I don’t think Derby are the team to end that run. The Rams have only kept two clean sheets in their six home games since Christmas and have blown leads against Sheffield United and Norwich in that period.
Update: the game was called off due to the unseasonable snow. Needless to say, Neil Warnock wasn’t happy – he can’t control the weather.
Back next week with the Easter Preview, which will have to tide you over until the first weekend of April…