It’s one of those weekends where everyone will be pleased that the international breaks are over for 2017, but not much will change regardless of what happens on the pitch.
There might be some change in order of the top and bottom four, but that’s about it. With five of the top six playing away from home this weekend, Cardiff have a opportunity to move back into second place following their defeat at Bristol City in the most recent Game of The Week:
This week’s game of the week is from the bottom of the table, which doesn’t bode well but is an opportunity for the clubs involved to earn some much needed points.
Sunderland v Millwall
It’s fair to say that more was expected from Sunderland that Millwall before the season started, but now the overall shape of the table has formed it’s clear that both clubs have not had the easiest run of games so far.
By now everyone should know that Sunderland haven’t won at home in a League game for almost a calendar year and with Aitor Karanka and Paul Heckingbottom apparently the favourites for the job without any apparent progress being made in appointing an successor to Simon Grayson, the Black Cats limp into this one. There are some mitigating circumstances though:x eight of their games so far have been against teams in the top ten, so I think it’s a good idea to factor a tough schedule into their poor start.
Millwall are currently 21st in the away games only table but they’ve only lost half of their aways so far this season: the big problem is goals – they’ve been shut out in six of their eight road trips in 17/18 – but once again, context is important. The Lions have had a tough schedule to contend with and the game at Sunderland is the first of a pair of away games against teams in the bottom half of the table before the end of the November. I suspect we may find out more about Millwall’s chances of avoiding the drop before Christmas.
Head to head: this is the first meeting between the clubs in the North East since October 2004 – since October 1978, Millwall have only won twice at Sunderland, their last victory there was when I was on my honeymoon fourteen years ago, but I’m pretty sure those facts are unrelated.
One of this evening’s games is worth monitoring, unfortunately it’s not the one that’s being televised:
Burton Albion v Sheffield United
One more home defeat and The Brewers will have equalled the unenviable record that they set last winter and having conceded the most goals at home in the division this season, I can’t imagine there’ll be much optimism at the Pirelli Stadium later. Burton have earned one point and haven’t scored in their five games against the current top six
The Blades have lost just two of their last six road trips so far, but they’ve not drawn an away game yet and have a 100% record in games against sides in the current bottom six
This is only the second meeting at Burton in the league: Albion have never beaten Sheffield United at home – and have only scored once against the Blades, a single goal in the old JPT six years ago.
Televised games: Preston v Bolton (this evening, kick off 7:45pm), Fulham v Derby (Saturday, 5:30pm) and Leeds v Middlesbrough (Sunday 1:15pm). The Lancashire Derby is only the third meeting between the clubs at Deepdale this century, the game at Craven Cottage is yet another match that’s less than 45 minutes away from the Sky Sports HQ. By default, the pick of the week is the game at Elland Road: Leeds haven’t won at home since the end of September and have lost seven of their last ten outings, Boro are on a six game undefeated streak away from the Riverside.
Don’t forget there’s a full midweek programme next week, but I’ll be back next Friday.