Welcome to the second blog post in as many days – don’t get too used to it, we’ve got an International Break coming up 🙂
Anyway, half of the bottom six are playing teams in the top six and two of the strugglers are playing each other so that’s what I’m looking at today.
Fulham v Bristol City
I suspect that when Fulham hammered the Robins at Ashton Gate in October, most people would have considered the Cottagers as promotion contenders. They were tenth in the table – just four points off the playoff spots – and had only lost four games at that point.
Four months and just three wins later, Fulham are only above City on goal difference and are only two points from safety. Only Charlton have conceded more goals and only Charlton and Bolton have won fewer games: since taking over in December, Slavisa Jokanovic has failed to win ten of his 13 games in charge. At this point last season, Fulham were only three points better off after 36 games: at the moment they’re probably lucky to have such a good goal difference and that three teams are worse than them, but Fulham could easily be dragged into the bottom three. On Tuesday they blew a half team lead against Burnley, which makes you question their collective state of mind at the moment.
Bristol City performed their party trick at Wolves on Tuesday, conceding a ridiculously late winner after having looked to have earned a vital point at Molineux. After apparently having turned the corner when Lee Johnson was appointed at the start of last month, the Robins have now lost three of their last four and are now only two points away from dropping back into the bottom three. Their next two games – at Fulham this afternoon and at home to Bolton next Saturday – are crucial to their chances of staying in the Championship, but City have a particularly tough looking set of games in April. To be fair to them, they’ve only lost one of their previous four away games against the other teams in the bottom six.
Head to head: since 1972, Fulham have only won half of their ten home league games against Bristol City, although it’s worth taking into account that this is the first league meeting between the clubs since December 1997. That being said, the hosts have been reasonably good at Craven Cottage against the bottom half of the Championship and City’s away defeat at Wolves was their first since the end of January; this game may come down to how well City’s defence copes with Fulham’s attack.
Hull v MK Dons
Second meeting on Humberside, Hull won the other 3-2 way back in October 2004. The hosts were thrashed in the FA Cup by Arsenal earlier this week, which left Reading as the sole Championship club in the competition until they lost at home to Crystal Palace last night. The Tigers have two games in hand but are now seven points behind Burnley and although they have only lost one other game at the KC this season (Derby in November), they’ve failed to score in front of their own fans since hitting Charlton for six in January.
I’d love to try to say something positive about MK Dons’ away record this season, but it’s been very poor. The recent win at Derby broke a fourteen game streak without a win on the road, but they’ve failed to score in half of their road trips so far. Even though they drew 0-0 at Charlton on Tuesday – yes, that’s right, the Dons couldn’t score against the worst defence in the Championship – they are averaging less than half a point per game on their travels and the bookies think it’s between them and Rotherham for the last relegation place. Yes, I know that’s assuming that Bolton and Charlton are already down.
Rotherham v Derby
Three straight wins have given the Millers a chance at salvation but considering that it’s been almost exactly 34 years since they won more than three in a row at this level – and that was with a playoff calibre team that finished above Chelsea – this might be a game too far. That being said, it’s not inconceivable that Rotherham could spring another surprise at the New York Stadium: they’ve not lost at home since the end of January and have won three of their five home games against the current top six.
As for Derby, four away defeats in six games since New Year’s Day have left them looking unlikely candidates for automatic promotion even though they could still finish second. This is the first of three away games against the strugglers, so it looks as if the Rams might have a big impact on both ends of the table: half of their last ten visits to Rotherham have finished all square and although Derby failed to score at QPR earlier this week, they’ve not been shut out in consecutive away games at this level for over a year.
Charlton v Middlesbrough (Sky Sports 1, Sunday 3:30)
A nice TV windfall for Charlton: with the FA Cup taking priority for armchair fans over everything else this weekend, this is actually an intriguing – but potentially awful – game between two clubs who are both out of form at the moment. The Addicks haven’t won at home since the start of November, a couple of weeks ago they scored three goals in a home game for the first time since they beat Sheffield Wednesday and still lost and the relationship between the fans and the owners couldn’t really be any more toxic.
Boro have only won once in their last six away games and have been shocking in their away games against the current bottom six this season. They’ve already lost at Bristol City and Rotherham in 2016 and have to travel to Bolton in the middle of April. That being said, Boro have won four of their last six league games at Charlton and have one of the best away defences in the Championship, so I’d be surprised if the Teesiders lose again.
I’ll be back next Friday, when it’s Middlesbrough v Hull. I wouldn’t expect too many goals in that one though…
Update: Nottingham Forest have sacked Dougie Freedman and all kinds of rumours are swirling around the internet that Aitor Karanka might walk away from Middlesbrough – and those were circulating BEFORE before lost 2-0 at Charlton on Sunday afternoon.