Here we are again: a week before Easter, I’m off to France on Monday an so here’s the annual post about how the rest of the season is going to pan out. But before we go any further, here’s the frankly ridiculous refereeing brain fart by Keith Stroud during the Newcastle/Burton game on Wednesday:
Newcastle won regardless of Stroud’s mistake and with Brighton beating Birmingham the top two are as good as up with the only remaining issue being who wins the title. As usual the playoffs are a little bit more complicated – it’s still mathematically possible that Preston could still reach the post season.
It’s a little clearer at the bottom: Rotherham are already down and with Wigan seven points adrift of Blackburn, it still looks likely that the last relegation spot will be between Blackburn, Bristol City and Nottingham Forest.
Nottingham Forest v Huddersfield Town
Forest haven’t been any lower than 20th this season, but their recent form has been awful and they could drop into the bottom three if they lose this one and results elsewhere go against them. That being said, they’re far better at the City Ground – two defeats in the last six – than on their travels and they’ve only lost once at home against any of the other clubs in the top six. Fun fact: the last drawn league game between these two in Nottingham was in October 1972.
Wigan Athletic v Rotherham United
An absolute must win for the hosts, but even a victory might not save them from the drop.
Sheffield Wednesday v Newcastle United (Sky Sports 1, 5:30)
Newcastle haven’t lost at any of the top six teams this season, but Sheffield Wednesday’s victory against Huddersfield in January is the only time the hosts have beaten any of their immediate rivals for promotion at Hillsborough. On paper this is more important for Wednesday than Newcastle, but I’m sure Rafa Benitez has exhorted his team to finish as Champions and to some extent the pressure is off Newcastle.
Nottingham Forest v Blackburn Rovers
As I mentioned above, Forest are much better at home than they are on the road and with Rovers having not won an away game since the end of November, a defeat for either side at the City Ground could leave them with a mountain to climb before Easter Monday’s matches. However…Blackburn have only lost two league games in ten at the City Ground since 1994.
Newcastle United v Leeds United (Sky Sports 1, kick off 7:45pm)
First meeting between the sides at St. James’ Park since January 2004, which seems almost inconceivable to me. They’ve met in the League Cup since then, but Leeds do not have a good record on Tyneside. Good choice for a televised game though.
Blackburn Rovers v Bristol City
This looks like the game that could settle the last relegation spot. Rovers have been halfway decent at Ewood Park against teams in the bottom half of the table and haven’t lost at home to City since December 1990. The Robins have only recorded three away wins all season and may have to rely on their home performances to give themselves a fighting chance of staying up.
Brighton v Wigan Athletic
Reading v Rotherham United
From this point onwards I’ll be providing the usual service, but as it stands these are the games that will matter at both ends of the table:
Saturday 22nd April
Burton Albion v Leeds
Huddersfield Town v Fulham
Nottingham Forest v Reading
Saturday 29th April
Reading v Wigan
Brighton v Bristol City (Sky Sports 1, kick off 5:30pm)
Looks as if it was deliberately chosen to showcase Brighton’s promotion and/or City’s relegation: if that’s the case, it should be compelling viewing, especially if both issues can be decided simultaneously.
Sunday 7th May – last day of the season, all games kick off at noon.
Burton Albion v Reading
Sheffield Wednesday v Fulham
Wigan Athletic v Leeds United
There’s a chance that we could see a familiar name return to the Championship from League One tomorrow, so I’ll update this post sometime tomorrow evening.