Due to -or perhaps because of – the Bank Holiday we’ve got games spread over four days.
I’ve decided I’m going to write a quick preview of Brighton v Derby in time for Monday’s game and concentrate on Saturday’s match that should confirm the identity of the last play off team.
There’s been a lot of hype about Cardiff visiting Sheffield Wednesday this weekend, but I’m not convinced that it’s as competitive as some of the experts seem to think. The visitors are in the classic ‘if…then…else’ scenario and need to overcome a six point difference with six points to play for. Wednesday have the advantage of knowing that if they don’t lose then they’ll be in the play offs, albeit as the weakest seed.
After a poor start that saw them win only one of their first seven games, Wednesday have been in the play off places since their 2-0 victory over Leeds United in January.
It’s fair to say that Carlos Carvalhal’s side have earned themselves a reputation as draw specialists. Only Hull have lost fewer home games and scored more home goals this season, but only QPR have drawn more games overall. They’re probably fortunate that this game is at Hillsborough, where they’ve only lost one of their last ten outings – but Owls have only won two of their last six since February. They’ve also only won two of their eight home games against the other sides in the top half of the table.
Cardiff have been in the top ten since the end of December, but have never really looked like a play off side despite having had a number of chances to make a move on the top six. It’s not hard to see why: at home they’re as good as Wednesday, but the Bluebirds’ away record against the top half of the table is worse than those of Charlton and MK Dons. City are also currently on a four game streak without a win on their travels and haven’t scored more than two goals on their travels since the end of January.
Furthermore, Cardiff have a poor record in the league at Hillsborough. They’ve only recorded two wins in their last ten visits (last victory was in March 2013) and they’ve lost half of the last six games at Sheffield Wednesday. Not looking particularly good for the Bluebirds is it?
Verdict: in order to overtake Wednesday, Cardiff would have to win at Hillsborough and at home against Birmingham on the last day of the season and hope Sheffield Wednesday don’t earn a point either tomorrow or at Wolves next weekend. Taking everything into account, I don’t think much of Cardiff’s chances and to be honest I don’t think either of them will be playing in the Premier League next season.
Televised games: Birmingham v Middlesbrough (Sky Sports 1, 7:45pm tonight) – Boro can take temporary charge at the top if they can win at St. Andrews. The hosts have been very wobbly at St Andrew’s since the start of last month, but that’s not to say Boro have been any better. Might not be the most inspiring start to the weekend’s football.
Bolton v Hull (Sky Sports 1, 12:30pm Saturday) – a dead rubber if ever there was one. The only thing Hull have to play for is home advantage in a likely play off game against Derby.
One last thing: Paul Lambert won’t be returning as Blackburn manager next season. Rovers are on course to finish in their lowest league position since Jack Walker took over in 1991 and although that’s not necessarily Lambert’s fault, there was clearly a difference of philosophies between the Scotsman and Venky’s.
I’ll be back on Sunday evening or Monday morning with a look at Monday afternoon’s games, although I suspect we’re going down to the wire in the race for automatic promotion.