One Week To Go!

We only have to wait another week until the return of the EFL Championship!

Next Friday’s opening game is televised, so here’s the list of games that will be shown on Sky Sports over the next couple of weeks:

Friday 3rd August

Reading v Derby (Sky Sports Football/Main Event, KO 8:00pm)

Saturday 4th August

Sheffield United v Swansea City (Sky Sports Football/Main Event, KO 5:30pm

Sunday 5th August

Leeds v Stoke (Sky Sports Football/Main Event, KO 4:30pm)

Monday 6th August

Hull v Aston Villa (Sky Sports Football/Main Event, KO 7:45pm)

Tuesday 7th August

Nottingham Forest v WBA (Sky Sports Football/Main Event, KO 7:45pm)

Saturday 11th August

Derby v Leeds (Sky Sports Football/Main Event, KO 5:30pm)

Remember, if you don’t have Sky, Quest TV is the EFL’s new TV partner and their 9pm highlights show on Saturday evening will be available on various different platforms.

I’m having a couple of issues with the new format I wanted to display the previews in, so they may not appear until some time next week. The next scheduled post is next Friday afternoon, in which I’ll be taking a look at what might happen in 2018/19.

Play Off Semi Finals Part Two

Both of the first legs ended in draws – which normally favours the hosts of the second legs. You never know though: Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday are both favourites to win promotion.

Reading v Fulham (this evening, Sky Sports 3, 7:45pm)

Although it might appear that Fulham blew their chances last Saturday, the fact that Reading are unbeaten in ten home league games at the Madejski Stadium is significant. That’s their best run in the Championship since the last time they were relegated from the Premier League, but it also indicates that the Royals will lose at home at some point in the near future: half of their eight wins in that run were against teams that finished in the bottom half of the final table and Reading’s last three home games were against the three teams that were relegated.

Since the start of February, Fulham have only lost at Birmingham and Derby, but they’ve also beaten Newcastle, Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday. This evening’s game would be the best time to replicate those performances but don’t be too surprised if The Cottagers concede at some point – they’ve only kept three away clean sheets in their last ten matches, although only Derby have scored more than two goals against Fulham in that period. To put it another way, only Newcastle had a better away record last season and no-one scored as many away goals as Fulham.

Head to head: Reading have only lost three of their last ten league games in Berkshire against Fulham, their last defeat was nine years ago in a Premier League game. The most recent encounter between the two teams ended in a 1-0 win for the hosts: Roy Beerens goal just after half time ensured all three points went to Reading. Fans of Championship nostalgia may enjoy this post from May 2011, the last time that Reading were involved in the playoffs.

Verdict: both of these teams have improved since bottom half finishes a year ago and I’ll put my hand up and say that I didn’t expect this from either of them. I’m still far from convinced by Reading, but having not lost at Craven Cottage last weekend I think their chances of reaching Wembley are very good, although they’ll have to be at their absolute best to beat Fulham, especially as they’re missing Paul McShane and possibly Jordan Obita this evening. It could be a long night.

Reading 1, Fulham 0. Yann Kermogant’s penalty put the Royals through to the final even though Fulham had most of the possession and more than half as many shots on goal again than Reading.

Sheffield Wednesday v Huddersfield Town (tomorrow evening, Sky Sports 3, 7:45pm)

Saturday’s draw at Huddersfield was never really in doubt after the opening exchanges and it wouldn’t really be much of a surprise if a similar result occurred tomorrow evening. Wednesday haven’t lost consecutive home games in the Championship since April 2014 and although this is a one off where potentially anything could happen, the Owls have won six of their last ten at Hillsborough.

Huddersfield were very inconsistent away from home over the latter half of the season: they only won two of their last six road trips and managed to conceded six goals in consecutive games at Bristol City and Nottingham Forest as well as winning at Brentford. They’ve not scored more than two goals in a game since Valentine’s Day (when they pulled off a last minute win at Rotherham) and only Chelsea loanee Izzy Brown has scored more than one away goal since mid February.

Head to head: meetings in the Championship since both teams were promoted in 2012 have been pretty even. Wednesday have won two of the last three and drew the other match, but Huddersfield won the two previous encounters and have recorded four victories in their last ten trips to the John Smiths Stadium since 1983.

Verdict: Looking back at last season’s playoff preview, I wondered if 2016/17 represented a better chance of Sheffield Wednesday winning promotion and having written that, I’m going to stick with it. After having finished 19th last season Huddersfield have surprised a lot of people, but although that represents a huge step forward – similar to that of Sheffield Wednesday in 2015/16 – there were signs towards the end of the season that the Terriers’ wheels had fallen off.

Sheffield Wednesday 0, Huddersfield 0. Huddersfield will play Reading in the final after winning 4-3 on penalties after extra time failed to produce a goal.

Updates will follow both games and although I’ve got to write the preview yet, the League One playoff final between Bradford City and Millwall will be posted on Buzzin’ League One Football on Friday evening.

Game Of The Week: Huddersfield v Fulham

Two games worth following this weekend: the first is between two rivals for playoff berths, the second features a team staring relegation in the face against a club who has one final – but slim – chance of winning automatic promotion but could guarantee home advantage in the playoffs with a victory.

Huddersfield v Fulham

With only two wins in their last six, it looks as if the wheels have come off the Terriers’ campaign to reach the Premier League, but they’ve only lost four home games this season. Half of those defeats have been against other teams in the mix for promotion, so this is a really good test for both teams.

Despite have the toughest run in, Fulham have been impressive recently with four wins in their last six. They’ve also got a good record against the teams above them, having only lost three of their eight contests against those sides.

Bonus fact: Huddersfield haven’t beaten Fulham in a home league game since September 1993 and have lost two of the last four meetings in Yorkshire.

Nottingham Forest v Reading

Two wins since the start of March – or to put it another way, one win since Mark Warburton took over – confirms my suspicions that the problems at the City Ground were inherent before he took over. Fortunately for Forest, this is a home game and they’ve not been too bad against the promotion contenders – something that Reading should remember considering their brittle away defensive record. Only Norwich and Rotherham have conceded more goals on their travels this season and Jaap Stam’s side have only kept two clean sheets in away games since the start of the year.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there are a few goals in this game – five of the last six meetings between the clubs at the City Ground have seen three or more goals but Reading have only won three of their last ten visits. This one os going to come down to desire: Forest’s to stay in the Championship and Reading’s to escape it.

That’s all for this week, if anything dramatic happens I’ll update this post tomorrow evening.

Huddersfield reduced their chances of automatic promotion to practically none after losing 4-1 at home to Fulham – despite taking an early lead. If Newcastle beat Preston on Monday, they’re up.

At the bottom, Wigan will have to win both of their remaining games to stand any chance of reaching safety but that will be irrelevant if Birmingham earn a point against Aston Villa tomorrow. Blackburn also need to win their remaining games, but will have to score at least nine clear goals in order to overturn a significant disadvantage regarding goal difference.

 

A Busy Weekend For Huddersfield

Back to the league after last week’s disastrous showing in the FA Cup.

As I’ve got another family commitment this weekend, I’ve only got time for a short post – but the main issue is that Huddersfield have got to play twice in four days and both of their games are against promotion rivals.

Huddersfield v Brighton (this evening, 7:45pm, Sky Sports 1)

Town have a couple of games in hand over most of the other promotion contenders – except Brighton, who have earned 11 points over the same number of matches as the Terriers. Although the hosts have only lost twice at home this season, their next three scheduled games at the John Smith’s Stadium are against teams above them, starting with this one. Brighton shouldn’t expect to have it their own way this evening: they’ve only recorded three wins at Huddersfield in the last sixteen years and lost 7-1 in August 2009.

Saturday’s games include two that will have an impact at both ends of the table:

Newcastle v Derby

It’ll be interesting to see how Newcastle do after Ciaran Clarke’s late own goal earned QPR a share of the points at St. James’ Park last night. The Toon are still firm favourites to go up, but have only won half of their last six home matches. Last weekend’s win at Ipswich was Derby’s first away victory since mid-December: the Rams have only won one of their last 13 games at Newcastle.

Bristol City v Rotherham

Having seemingly steadied the ship against Sheffield Wednesday earlier this week, the hosts go into this one look for their first home win since the start of December. Rotherham have lost all but one of their away games this season and haven’t scored on the road since Joe Newell gave the Millers the lead at Fulham in mid-December.

Then on Sunday, it’s time for Huddersfield to entertain Leeds. Pontus Jansson’s dramatic late winner at Blackburn last night gave United their first away win sin Boxing Day and this season they’ve won both of the Yorkshire derbies where they’ve been the visitors. Leeds have only three of their last ten visits to Huddersfield for league games, but Huddersfield have only won once in the last five meetings.

Other televised games:

Wigan v Sheffield Wednesday (tomorrow, 7:45pm, Sky Sports Mix), Nottingham Forest v Aston Villa (Saturday, 5:30pm, Sky Sports Mix)

I’ll be back next week with a longer post, enjoy the weekend. I’m going to be in Stevenage for my sister in law’s 40th…

FA Cup 4th Round Preview

This weekend sees the remaining clubs from the Championship take their chances in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup, but with six of the eleven teams that successfully navigated the last round taking on Premier League opposition, it’s possible that interest will be down to a minimum next month.

Before we go any further, there are two Championship clubs playing League One sides, so if you want to read about the games involving Newcastle and Huddersfield you’ll have to visit Buzzin League 1 Football to read the previews. Otherwise I’ll break down the games in the usual format.

Televised games: Derby v Leicester (7:55pm this evening, BBC1), Liverpool v Wolves (12:30 tomorrow, BBC1), Sutton United v Leeds (2:00pm Sunday BT Sport 2), Manchester United v Wigan (4:00pm Sunday BBC1).

Championship v Premier League

Derby and Leicester meet in the FA Cup for the first time in almost 108 years, but despite their poor form in the Premier League Leicester have won eight of the last nine meetings between the clubs. Liverpool last met Wolves in the cup more recently – only 65 years ago – but Wanderers have only recorded one victory in eight games against Liverpool since the turn of the century. Wigan have only beaten Manchester United once in seventeen meetings, although they’ve never been drawn against each other in the FA Cup.

Non-televised games: Burnley v Bristol City, Chelsea v Brentford (both 3pm Saturday)

The theme continues: Bristol City have never played at Turf Moor in a cup tie of any sort. However, Brentford have played at Chelsea comparatively recently: in March 2013 they forced a 2-2 draw at Griffin Park before losing the replay 4-0 at Stamford Bridge.

Which leaves us with one possible surprise in this category – if you could call it that.

Fulham v Hull (Sunday 12:30pm)

The Cottagers have been on a decent run of at home recently (one defeat in eight) but they’ve not won an FA Cup tie in front of their own fans for three years. Having written that, the last time these sides met in the competition was in 1975, when Fulham reached the final after beating Hull in a second replay at Leicester’s old ground, Filbert Street. Could history repeat itself? Both clubs lost this week, but Fulham have had an extra day to recover.

Championship v League Two

Blackburn v Blackpool (tomorrow 3pm)

There have been some signs of life at Ewood Park recently. Rovers haven’t lost at home since before Christmas and are currently only in the bottom three on goal difference. The FA Cup probably isn’t a priority, but putting one over their Lancashire rivals could well be and although Blackpool have already knocked Barnsley out of the competition this season, the Tangerines haven’t beaten Blackburn in any of their three previous meetings in the competition. Last league meeting was a 1-1 draw at Ewood Park two years ago.

Championship v National League

Lincoln v Brighton (tomorrow 3pm)

The Imps dumped a very lacklustre Ipswich side out in the last round to reach this stage of the competition for the first time in over 40 years, when the late Graham Taylor was in charge at Sincil Bank. Brighton will be a much tougher task than the Tractor Boys, although Lincoln won the most recent FA Cup tie between the sides – despite being one division below Brighton.

Sutton v Leeds (see televised matches)

Only previous meeting: a Fourth Round tie in January 1970, which Leeds won 6-0. They went on to reach the final, which they lost in a replay at Old Trafford after a thrilling 2-2 draw on a Wembley in the last FA Cup final to be held in April – supposedly to help the England team have enough time to prepare for the defence of the World Cup in Mexico.

There are five league games tomorrow and a full midweek programme next week, but I’ll update as we go along and I’ll be back next Friday.

UPDATE

A ridiculous weekend. Derby began badly but nearly beat Leicester, Wolves lead for the entire game against Liverpool and recorded a memorable victory and Blackburn, Fulham and Huddersfield won comfortably.

Otherwise it was absolutely dismal. Brentford and Bristol City did as well as was expected, but the rest of the Championship teams were a disgrace. You know who you are: if promotion to the Premier League is your priority, perhaps you should just not bother playing at all and just pay a fine or similar.

Fifth Round Draw:

Blackburn v Manchester United, Fulham v Spurs, Huddersfield v Manchester City, Millwall v Derby or Leicester and Wolves v Chelsea