It’s a couple of weeks before I my annual post about how the Boxing Day table has a correlation to the final one, but the ten point gap between Wolves and Bristol City looks highly significant.
At the bottom, Bolton finally seem to have woken up and their recent form – eight points from 15 – has given the relegation zone a very competitive look for the first time in 2017/18.
One new appointment: Nigel Adkins was appointed Hull City manager this morning. I’m willing to give him a ‘wait and see’ period, but his spells at Reading – the last time he managed at this level – and Sheffield United weren’t exactly successful and he’s got a lot to prove.
The game of the week is televised, so without any further ado…
Sheffield United v Bristol City (tomorrow, 7:45pm, Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event)
Suddenly there’s a vulnerability about The Blades that hasn’t been seen since the start of the season: three defeats in their last six, without a home win since the start of last month and no clean sheets at Bramall Lane since mid October.
City are on a nine game unbeaten away run that will have to end at some point but they’ve scored as many goals on their travels this season as Wolves and have actually earned one more point on the road than they have at Ashton Gate.
Head to head: Sheffield United have won eight of the last ten league games between the clubs in South Yorkshire; City’s only other win since the start of the 1957/58 season was in August 2014, when they went on to win League One
Top Six Comparison: in the dozen games between the current top six so far this season there’ve only been two away wins, but only Bristol City haven’t lost any of their four matches against their immediate competitors. Sheffield United have already beaten Derby and Wolves at home but this is their first game against another club currently in the top six since the end of September. Interestingly, neither Aston Villa or Derby have beaten any of the teams currently above them in seven attempts this season
Additionally, there are two games featuring teams at both ends of the table:
Barnsley v Derby
It’s now pretty obvious that The Tykes over achieved last season and have now reverted back to the team that finished between 17th and 21st for seven consecutive seasons before being relegated to League One in 2014. As I mentioned above, although Derby are in the top six, they’ve yet to prove they can compete directly with the other teams for whom promotion is the aim this season.
Wolves v Sunderland
Wolves have won seven of their last eight at Molineux; Sunderland finally ended their miserable away form at Burton at the end of November, but in the grand scheme of things that’s hardly an achievement.
Televised games: Norwich v Sheffield Wednesday (Saturday, 5:30pm, Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event) is another one of those games that looked good on paper at the end of last season. Reading v Cardiff (Monday, 8:00pm, Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event) is far more interesting than it would have been a few weeks ago: the Royals have improved at home and Cardiff have only won twice at the Mad House since they were promoted back to the Championship.
Finally this week, the last post of 2017 will appear on either 22nd or 23rd of December and I’m currently trying to think of a creative angle for it. The first post of 2018 will be the FA Cup Third Round Preview, which will appear at the earliest on Thursday 4th January.