Where were we?
Oh yes – one club playing in the Europa League, two clubs without managers (although an official announcement from Nottingham Forest is expected over the weekend), three clubs in the top six that weren’t in the Championship this time last year and four clubs left in the Carling Cup with two guaranteed quarter final places.
There are some great looking games this weekend – starting with a game between two of the three teams from Yorkshire left in the top half of the football league when Leeds travel to Doncaster (SS1 19:45). Leeds won at the Keepmoat in the Carling Cup earlier this season but it’s not exactly been a happy hunting ground for United in the league over the years: they’ve managed only two wins at Doncaster (the last in April 1956) and their more recent away form is less than convincing – Leeds have won two of their last ten road trips.
There’s only been one game between any of the sides that have been in the top six this season, but that’s going to change on Saturday when there are a pair of them. There are some interesting comparisons between the two contenders for game of the week: Hull’s trip to Brighton (kick off at 5:30pm) should be interesting – the Tigers haven’t won at Brighton since August 1965 and have failed to score in eight of their last ten trips to Sussex.
Southampton’s record at Derby County is almost as bad. The Saints have only won twice in their last 20 league outings at either the Baseball Ground or Pride Park and although Nigel Adkins’ side got off to a great start, there are signs their away form is beginning to fall away. Since winning 5-2 in Ipswich in mid August they’ve only picked up one point from the nine available on their travels.
Middlesbrough are ideally placed to take advantage of any slip up by the current leaders, but although Boro are the only undefeated team left in the Championship their recent record at the Riverside is puzzling. They’ve drawn four of their five games in front of their own fans this season and failed to score at all at home in the league in September – Marvin Emnes’ goal against Coventry on August Bank Holiday Weekend was the last time Boro hit the net at the Riverside! The hosts could exploit Millwall’s inability to score away from home – the Lions have scored one goal in their last four away trips – and although the visitors won the corresponding game last season, they’ve never had consecutive successes on Teeside.Co
There’s a six pointer at the other end of the table when Nottingham Forest travel to the Ricoh Arena but unlike the games at Brighton, Derby and Middlesbrough, this is a fixture that the away team has dominated over the years. If the rumours flying around on Friday lunchtime are to be believed – Steve Cotterill leaving Portsmouth to take over at the City Ground – then it may be a good time for Forest’s currentt squad to extend that run.
There are two other televised games this weekend: Barnsley’s trip to Portsmouth is live on Sky Sports 2 at 5:20pm on Saturday evening and Birmingham entertain Leicester City on BBC1 on Sunday lunchtime – then there’s a full midweek programme, the highlight of which is probably Southampton v West Ham on Tuesday night.