Unusually for the Championship, this weekend’s games are spread over four days and culminate with the draw for the third round of the FA Cup on Sunday afternoon.
QPR took advantage of an increasingly embattled looking Preston side and another Cardiff home defeat to reclaim top spot. Fortunately for Rangers, Cardiff’s loss of form seems to have come at completely the wrong time – on Friday Swansea would have to beat Portsmouth by six clear goals to take over second spot, but greater (and possibly longer term) damage might occur if the Bluebirds lose this week’s game of the week: their trip to QPR.
There hasn’t been a draw between QPR and Cardiff in West London since April 1952; Cardiff away draws in the Championship have been rare over the last year (only four in 26 games) but Rangers seem to have put their recent drawing streak behind them and their stingy defensive record at Loftus Road plus victories in six of the last ten games against Cardiff in London means the Hoops are the bookies favourites for the win.
Cardiff’s 0-2 reverse at home to Nottingham Forest may herald the start of Forest’s promotion push. Although Billy Davies’ side are still unbeaten at home, they need to start turning draws into wins and with a decent run could be in the reckoning for the automatic promotion spots after Christmas. The win over Cardiff featured another good performance from a player who is receiving some recognition from the mainstream media as a possible England candidate: despite his name, Lewis McGugan is an English midfielder who scores goals (nine this season, currently joint third in the list with Burnley’s Chris Iwelumo).
There are three televised games in the Championship this weekend: two of them are derbies and one of them features Derby. The Rams trip to Burnley is the first (Sky Sports 2, 5:20pm); the hosts seem to have gone off the boil a little recently and Nigel Clough’s side have only lost four of their last ten games at Turf Moor. Having said that, The Clarets have only lost once at home this season and Derby’s away record is average to say the least: this looks like it could be an entertaining game.
The East Anglian derby takes place on Sunday lunchtime when Ipswich travel the comparatively short distance to their Norfolk rivals (BBC1, 1:15pm). As you might expect, Norwich have had the better of the recent encounters between the two sides (only two defeats in the last ten) but both sides have been inconsistent recently. Norwich have drawn four consecutive games and haven’t won at home for a month, while Ipswich have lost four of their last five away games.
At the bottom of the table, Preston’s 3-1 defeat at QPR last week meant that they are now three points adrift: they won’t be looking forward to a visit from Millwall, who had gone four games without a win until their 1-0 win at Middlesbrough last week. That defeat – combined with Leicester’s loss at Bristol City – meant that Boro remain in the bottom three with Crystal Palace, who went down to the odd goal in five in an action packed game at Sheffield United, which featured three penalties and two red cards. Game of the week at the bottom of the table is Hull’s visit to the Riverside and there are some grounds for cautious optimism for Boro fans as Hull’s record on Teeside is appalling – the Tigers have lost twelve of their last thirteen visits and the last time they earned a point was 82 years ago!
The last televised game of the weekend – or perhaps it’s the first of next week’s games – is Forest’s trip to Leicester, but as the draw for the 3rd round of the FA Cup takes place at 6pm on Sunday evening, there’ll be a separate post reacting to the draw and previewing both the Monday night game and assessing Ipswich’s chances in the Carling Cup quarter finals. The FA has asked Oasis’ Noel Gallagher and Serge Pizzorno from Kasabian to remove the balls from the bingo machine: an early night tucked up with a good book and a mug of cocoa might be advisable for the rock legends.