Well so much for wondering if there’d be new leaders last weekend: Brighton now have a two point lead after beating Birmingham and Hull lost at home to Derby and are the only team in the top five playing at home tomorrow. At the risk of repeating myself, any of the top four could be leaders but it’s the six point gap between Burnley in fifth and Birmingham in sixth that’s the real interesting bit as we head towards Christmas. I’ve discussed the correlation between the leaders at Christmas and the clubs that are eventually promoted more than once before now, but I’m currently working on the assumption that if this pace continues the top five now could very well be the top five in April.
The situation at the bottom remains more or less the same, but the rumours that have surround Bolton Wanderers this week are worrying and there seems to be a consensus forming around the idea that the Trotters may face a points deduction for financial irregularities at some point in the near future. Bolton won’t be able to escape the bottom three regardless of the result in their game against Cardiff tomorrow but some of the tweets I’ve seen this week have been almost desperate attempts to muster the fans to attend the Macron Stadium.
Two games of interest this weekend, both of which feature the top six against the bottom three.
Brighton v Charlton
The Seagulls will lose at some point, but probably not tomorrow as Charlton have only won three of their last ten league games at Brighton. The hosts haven’t lost at home since April but things tend to go awry after ten games without defeat and the forthcoming visit by Middlesbrough (which for some reason is a Saturday lunchtime kickoff even though the distance between Amsterdam and Hamburg is shorter) could be tricky. After six consecutive away defeats Charlton finally won on the road (at Birmingham last month) but were woeful when losing 3-0 at home to Ipswich last weekend: however, the Addicks don’t have a bad record when it comes to playing the top six – one defeat in four games. Karel Fraeye remains interim coach but no-one seems to have any idea how much longer that will be the case, probably because no-one in their right mind wants the job.
Birmingham v Huddersfield
Despite losing four of their last six, Birmingham are doggedly holding on to sixth place and could improve their position with a win over a Huddersfield side that hasn’t won an away game since September and has lost five of their last six matches. The Blues’ big problem is a lack of goals: just two in six games at St Andrews since mid September (and both of those came in the win over QPR), which means they’ve gone almost five hours without scoring at home. Huddersfield’s inability to keep an away clean sheet – just the one so far – should be music to the ears of Clayton Donaldson, but Town’s horrible record against the top half of the table might be deceptive, as they seem to enjoy playing at St. Andrews: they haven’t lost there since November 2000.
The Capital One Cup came to the almost inevitable conclusion this week, when Hull, Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday were all beaten by Premier League opposition. All teams can concentrate on the league for a few weeks, although the draw for the Third Round of the FA Cup will be taking place on Monday evening. I’ll be back then, by which time Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink will be QPR manager and Reading will have replaced Steve Clarke, who was sacked after the Royals lost 1-0 at home to Hasselbaink’s new club…and I’ll also be able to welcome Dean Smith to Brentford.