Having said a couple of weeks ago that QPR’s form was unsustainable, it shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise that following four draws that they would be overtaken by Cardiff. It looks as if Queens Park Rangers may have reverted back to the form they showed at the end of last season: a six game unbeaten streak at Loftus Road at the beginning of 2010 came to a halt when Cardiff won 1-0 in April. It may be a little early to suggest that the same thing could happen again, but as the Bluebirds visit West London at the end of the month it shouldn’t be ruled out.
It’s not entirely clear if QPR’s current form is a blip or a sign of things to come. Reading travel to West London this weekend: the Royals have only lost twice in their last ten visits to W12 and Neil Warnock’s side really cannot afford to underestimate their opponents. Inconsistency has plagued the Berkshire club on their travels this season but any team that can win 4-0 at Burnley will provide a genuine threat to QPR’s unbeaten home record.
New leaders Cardiff City are on a seven game unbeaten streak and haven’t lost at home since last February, but face arguably their biggest game of the season – and definitely the game of the weekend – when they take on Swansea in the South Wales derby on Sunday lunchtime (BBC1, KO 1:10pm). Cardiff haven’t lost at home in the Championship since February but their visitors are unbeaten in seven of their last ten games in the Welsh capital. This game is usually pretty tight – thirteen of the last 20 meetings in Cardiff have been settled by one goal either way – but Jay Bothroyd’s suspension may be the difference between the two sides. The leading scorer in the Championship was suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season in Cardiff’s victory over Norwich City last weekend: Bothroyd has scored an amazing 35% of Cardiff’s goals in the league this season.
The fluidity of the situation at the top of the table is repeated in the relegation zone. In another one of those quirks of fixture scheduling, the bottom four sides play each other.
Bristol City and Middlesbrough were amongst the preseason favourites for promotion back in August, but although the Robins seem to put their dreadful start behind them, Middlesbrough’s appalling away form has lead to their current position. City ruined Tony Mowbray’s return to the North East with a 2-1 come from behind win at the Riverside last Saturday but both clubs have winnable looking games this weekend. Preston have only won once in their last 20 visits to Ashton Gate, have the worst defence in the Championship and have lost three of their last four games: 0-0 is probably the least likely result in this game.
Middlesbrough v Crystal Palace is Saturday’s game of the day but this game could be a lot closer than most people might think. Statistically speaking, Boro’s record at home in the Championship isn’t that bad – over the last 20 games they have the same record as QPR – but six consecutive defeats away from home isn’t exactly promotion form and given the comparative success of Newcastle and Sunderland, fan expectations may be too high. We’ve commented on Palace’s away form before (the only reason they stayed up last season was because their away form was as good as Cardiff’s) but they haven’t lost in six of their last ten visits to Middlesbrough and after having failed to score in their first five road trips George Burley’s side have at least managed to start finding the net away from Selhurst Park.
If you’re not attending any firework displays on Saturday evening, Derby v Portsmouth (Sky Sports 2, KO 5.20pm) looks like a really good game. Only a few weeks ago, Portsmouth were facing extinction but have won six of their last seven games: Steve Cotterill should be in with a serious shout for October’s manager of the month award. Derby have also put a good run together since losing at Hull in mid September: a six game unbeaten run was ended at Millwall a fortnight ago, but the Rams bounced back with a 4-1 win over Watford last weekend.
As predicted, Ipswich didn’t have too much trouble with Northampton Town in the Carling Cup but the other Championship sides were all knocked out by Premiership opposition; the Tractor Boys will play WBA in the quarter final at Portman Road on the 1st December, but the bookies have them as outsiders to win the competition, which looks about right.