Football League action continues this weekend, with the fifth round of fixtures. Here’s our bumper preview to the weekend’s action across the Championship.
Blackburn vs Bolton
This week’s Friday night fixture sees Blackburn host Bolton in what is sure to be a heated Lancashire derby. Both sides have started the season very slowly and both sit in the relegation zone. Both Blackburn and Bolton are looking for their first victories of the season after earning two draws each.
Adam Henley is tipped to return for Blackburn however it is yet to be seen whether star striker Jordan Rhodes will play on Friday. He has missed the Rovers last two games through injury. Darren Pratley and David Wheater won’t feature for Bolton with Derik Osede and Liam Trotter also being strong doubts.
Bolton have struggled on their travels in recent times failing to score in their last three away games. In addition the home side has won this fixture on the last five occasions however I think Bolton could come away from Ewood Park with a draw on Friday night.
Prediction – Blackburn 2-2 Bolton
Derby vs Leeds
An underwhelming start from Derby has led people to begin doubting their promotion potential. They wull be aiming to quell this talk in Sky’s early kick-off against Leeds this weekend. Leeds haven’t started badly under Rosler’s regime having drawn every game. Similarly Derby have drawn every game under their new manager Clement. The sides sit in 15th and 16th in the league respectively.
Derby do continue to have problems in midfield with Craig Bryson, Jamie Hanson and Jeff Hendrick all set to miss out. Clement could make some changes with a lot of options going forward with Andreas Weimann vying for a starting place in the side. Lewis Cook returns for Leeds after his recent three-game ban.
Leeds tend to struggle against Derby having only won on of their last 13 league games against the Rams. Derby have also won their last six home meetings with United. I do think this form against Leeds will continue as Derby start finding their feet for the season.
Prediction – Derby 2-1 Leeds
Brentford vs Reading
Last season’s play-off semi-finalists hosting last season’s FA Cup semi-finalists. However with this said neither Brentford nor Reading have set the world alight in the early stages of this season. Brentford come into the game with one win, one draw and a loss but they have conceded nine goals so far if you include their cup demolition by Oxford. As for Reading they’ve drawn their last three Championship outings but are yet to score at the Madejski this season.
Expect new signing Orlando Sa to continue leading the Reading front line after Pavel Pogrebnyak’s departure on Thursday. Fellow newcomer Paolo Hurtado is unlikely to make the squad. As for Brentford their only injury concern is Jota who will likely remain out for this weekend’s game.
The Royals have actually failed to beat Brentford in their last four fixtures against the London side. Brentford did the double over Reading last season scoring 5 goals in the process. I think Brentford will start finding their form of last season this weekend and run out easy winners against Reading.
Prediction – Brentford 3-0 Reading
Bristol City vs Burnley
A buoyant Bristol side will really fancy their chances after causing an upset at the Riverside last weekend. However this will be one of their tougher tests as they host Sean Dyche’s recently relegated Burnley side. Burnley have had a mixed start to the season and are still looking to find their form since their relegation.
Again Ben Hamer will keep goal for City as Frank Fielding continues to recover from his injury. Luke Freeman is still suspended for the home side. Andre Gray will probably start for Burnley against the side he snubbed to join them. Burnley are without Dean Marney, Matt Lowton, Fredrik Ulvestad and Kevin Long.
Burnley have only lost two of their last eight games against the Robins. The Clarets also won both meetings when they last met in the league back in 2012-13 winning 3-1 and 4-3. However I do think Bristol City will buck the trend this weekend and earn a hard fought home draw.
Prediction – Bristol City 1-1 Burnley
Huddersfield vs QPR
QPR are looking to make it three league wins on the run when they visit Huddersfield this weekend. However Ramsey’s side have been less than convincing so far. They have scored nine goals in their last three league games but have also conceded six. There has been a lot of pressure around Powell’s Huddersfield but they have garnered three draws so far all finishing 1-1.
Huddersfield again come into this weekend with no injury concerns and are likely to name the same side that has drew their last two league fixtures. QPR’s new signing Alex Smithies may start in the net against his former club on Saturday. Expect the visitors to make a host of changes from their midweek cup side however Armand Traore won’t be coming in as he is still injured.
The sides last met two seasons ago with QPR managing to earn a draw on their visit to Huddersfield. Huddersfield’s poor start does suggest that QPR will manage to come away from the Galpharm Stadium with a victory this time around.
Prediction – Huddersfield 0-2 QPR
Hull vs Preston
This is the second game of the weekend which sees a recently relegated side face a newly promoted one. Hull have adjusted back to Championship life well sitting inside the top six. However they took a huge knock last week as they fell 2-1 losers to a 98th minute winner at The Valley. Preston have also made a solid start on their return to the Championship. Also they will be brimming with confidence after they knocked Premier League side Watford out of the cup midweek.
Mohamed Diame returned midweek for Hull and could start his first Championship game this weekend. In terms of Preston Jermaine Beckford has recovered from his injury and could lead the line at the KC. Jordan Hugill also returns from a suspension.
Hull have an impressive home record against Preston having not lost in their last five games against them. The Tigers also beat Preston on both occasions when they last played in the same league back in 2010-11. However I expect a valiant Preston to scrape a draw at the KC Stadium.
Prediction – Hull 1-1 Preston
Ipswich vs Brighton
1st vs 2nd meet at Portman Road on Saturday as Ipswich host Brighton. Both sides are currently unbeaten this season with three wins and a draw each. So far Ipswich have seen off Burnley, Preston and Wednesday. Brighton have defeated Forest, Blackburn and Fulham. A win for either side could see them go three points clear at this early stage of the season if results also go in their favour.
Ipswich’s Daryl Murphy is a major doubt for the game with a calf injury. Both Teddy Bishop and Kevin Bru are also likely to miss the game. As for Brighton they have a full strength side to choose from and will possibly name and unchanged side from last weekend.
Head to head Ipswich have had the advantage in recent times winning three of the last four meetings, incidentally all these victories finished 2-0. However Brighton did edge their last meeting 3-2 back in January. However I think Ipswich will take their place as the sole league leaders this weekend after a close victory at home.
Prediction – Ipswich 2-1 Brighton
MK Dons vs Birmingham
Both MK Dons and Birmingham have had strong starts to the season with the newly promoted club currently holding a spot in the play-off places. Rowett’s Birmingham side are unbeaten but have played one less game than the rest of the Championship due to Brentford’s pitch problems. The Dons will be looking to push away the chasing pack and keep their play-off spot whilst Birmingham will want to maintain their unbeaten start and climb into the top six.
Birmingham are expected to name the side as last weekend as they have no injury concerns. However Demarai Gray may not feature due to ongoing transfer rumours and possible offers. MK Dons will bring in a few players who were rested midweek in their cup tie against Cardiff such as Simon Church.
This is the first time MK Dons have faced off against Birmingham in the league. However the clubs did meet in the League Cup back in 2010 with Birmingham running out 3-1 winners. I maintain that many people are underestimating Birmingham this season and they will prove that with a tough 1-0 victory away at MK Dons.
Prediction – MK Dons 0-1 Birmingham
Nottingham Forest vs Cardiff
Dougie Freedman’s Forest side are one of six clubs sitting on five points and hovering in mid-table at this early point of the season. Meanwhile Cardiff sit just above but still don’t have a play-off position to their name just yet. Both sides will realise this is a big game early on if they want to build some momentum and move up the table.
Of course Forest will be without Britt Assombalonga who is continuing to recover from a serious injury. Fellow striker Dexter Blackstock may also miss out this weekend. There is speculation over whether winger Michail Antonio will play with increasing rumours of his departure. Lee Peltier is a doubt for Cardiff whilst Craig Noone may miss out due to illness.
The Bluebirds have only won one of their last six fixtures against Forest. Forest won both meetings last season 2-1 however I just have a feeling this game could be a high scoring free-for-all this weekend.
Prediction – Forest 3-3 Cardiff
Rotherham vs Fulham
Two of last season’s strugglers Rotherham and Fulham will meet this weekend. In similar fashion to last season both clubs have started very slowly with the Millers currently at the bottom of the league whilst Fulham are narrowly above the relegation zone on goal difference. This could prove to be a big game in the relegation fight already especially with Blackburn and Bolton meeting on Friday.
Rotherham could be without trio Lee Frecklington, Joe Mattock and Richard Smallwood who all have injury worries. Fulham’s new arrival Tim Ream should make his debut however midfielder Jamie O’Hara is a doubt through illness.
Both times the sides met last season the game ended in a draw including a 3-3 thriller back in October. However with Rotherham’s poor start and Fulham’s stronger squad I fancy the visitors to win.
Prediction – Rotherham 1-2 Fulham
Sheffield Wednesday vs Middlesbrough
Middlesbrough suffered a shock defeat at home to Bristol City at the weekend and will be coming into their game at Hillsborough looking to avenge that defeat. As for Wednesday a solid start to the season sees them in 10th place with only one loss. The home side drew in their Yorkshire derby against Leeds last Saturday but an unbelievable strike from Marco Matias will surely have injected a huge amount of confidence into the side.
Star Spaniard Kike is set to return to the Middlesbrough side this weekend after missing out in their defeat to Bristol City last week. New signing David Nugent is likely to feature as well as Ben Gibson who is now fully fit. Wednesday are heading into the fixture with no major injury concerns and will be looking to name the same side that drew with Leeds.
Whilst Boro had an impressive season last year Sheffield Wednesday actually did the double over Karanka’s side. In addition Wednesday have won four of the last five meetings between the two sides. I feel that Boro may have suffered a confidence knock last weekend and Hillsborough is not an easy place to go which is why Wednesday will nick a victory come Saturday.
Prediction – Wednesday 2-1 Middlesbrough
Wolves vs Charlton
Many fancied Wolves for a promotion push this season however they have had a very mixed bag of results to start their season. On the other hand Charlton have started well and remain unbeaten with two wins and two draws. Charlton currently sit in 3rd place and will be looking to continue applying pressure on the top two. A win for Wolves could ignite their season.
The home side only have one absentee which is Jack Saville after he picked up a knock midweek. Nouha Dicko is expected to return to leading the line. Charlton will be without Tony Watt who is still recovering with Chris Solly in contention to take his place in the squad.
These sides have drawn on three of the last four meetings with each other. The last time was a 0-0 draw in January however before this both sides had scored in the last six times they met. The game is likely to be high scoring with Wolves narrowly edging it possibly with a late winner.