Some weekends it’s hard to find option for Game of the Week.
Not this time!
There are no less than five games that could decide the remaining issues at both ends of the table – all are simultaneous kick offs at 12:30 on Sunday afternoon. In alphabetical order:
Birmingham v Fulham
What’s at stake: Birmingham can still be relegated, Fulham can still win automatic promotion.
Form: There’s no doubt Garry Monk has made an immediate improvement at St Andrew’s since being appointed, but Fulham are on an eleven game unbeaten away streak. That being said, Birmingham have beaten Cardiff and drawn with Villa this season whilst Fulham have lost at both Burton and Sunderland.
Head to head, Last ten at St Andrew’s in the league: 3-4-3. Fulham’s last win was in September 2014
Verdict: Fulham win – although it may not be enough for automatic promotion. Even if Birmingham lose, they may not be relegated.
Cardiff v Reading (Sky Sports Football/Main Event)
What’s at stake: automatic promotion for Cardiff. Reading have some breathing space due to a better goal difference than Birmingham, but things might get tricky if results elsewhere start getting weird.
Form: Cardiff have only lost twice in their last ten home games and have only dropped one point at the City of Cardiff stadium against teams in the bottom half of the table. Apart from a win at Derby in November, Reading have lost all of their away games at the other clubs in the top six.
Head to head, last ten at Cardiff (Ninian Park/City of Cardiff) in regular season league games: 4-3-3. Reading’s last win in the Welsh capital was at the beginning of last season.
Verdict: an easy win for Cardiff; Reading haven’t won on the road since the end of January and that was at Burton.
Derby v Barnsley
What’s at stake: Derby need to avoid defeat to clinch the last playoff place. Barnsley could still be relegated even if they don’t lose.
Form: Derby have been all over the place at the iPro recently, so this is potentially where the unexpected result might happen. Don’t get too carried away with that thought though -Barnsley have only won two road trips in 2018 and have lost all their away games against the sides that are currently above Derby.
Head to head, last ten at Derby in the league: 6-3-1. Barnsley’s last win at Derby was in September 2009 – before then you’d have to go back to October 1983 for the Tykes’ last win at Derby.
Verdict: Derby win and claim the last playoff spot and Barnsley go back to League One after two seasons.
Millwall v Aston Villa
What’s at stake: theoretically Millwall could still reach the playoffs but they’d need to absolutely batter Aston Villa to do so and hope Derby and Preston both lose. Villa have nothing to play for.
Form: two very evenly matched teams. Millwall have only lost one of their five games at the New Den against the top six clubs but have only won one of those encounters (a 2-1 win over Middlesbrough in December). In contrast, Villa have only won two of their nine away games against the current top ten.
Head to head, last nine at Millwall in the league: 4-2-3. This will be the tenth meeting in the league at Millwall and the first time Villa have played at the New Den since losing 2-1 in the FA Cup five years ago. Villa’s last win at Millwall was on April Fool’s Day 1975!
Verdict: there’s always next season – for both clubs.
Preston v Burton
What’s at stake: Preston could still qualify for the playoffs but Derby would have to lose to Barnsley or The Lillywhites would have to win by at least ten goals. Even if Burton win they may still be relegated.
Form: Preston’s recent form at Deepdale has been inconsistent and their inability to beat the strugglers at home (one win from five) is one of the reasons they’ve not already qualified for the playoffs. Burton have lost six of their nine aways against teams in the top ten – all six of those defeats were at the clubs currently above Preston.
Head to head: only one previous meeting at Deepdale, which was in November 2016 and finished 1-1. Burton have never beaten Preston.
Verdict: I can’t see Preston losing, but The Brewers are fighting for survival and anything could happen.
There will be an update, but depending on what happens at Twickenham on Sunday lunchtime you might have to wait until Monday for that.
Update: my predictions were up to their usual standard yesterday. Cardiff were promoted despite a goalless draw with Reading while Birmingham thrashed Fulham. At Pride Park, Derby sealed their playoff place with a 4-1 win over Barnsley, who were relegated. Joining them in League One next season will be Burton, who lost at Preston.
We also know the first team relegated from the Premier League: Stoke City.