5 games are postponed but 14 hardy sides will be getting on with it despite “The Big Freeze”. The chill will be particularly icy for Roy Keane and Darren Ferguson; both need a win but both are up against high-flying Welsh sides. Is it too early to declare “the vital Christmas period” underway?
Ipswich v Swansea
This might be 3rd against 17th but both sides are equally desperate for a win.
It’s been an odd week for Ipswich. Humiliation at Norwich was followed by reaching the League Cup Semi-Finals. 4 straight Championship defeats leave them nearer the relegation zone than the play-off spots.
In what has been a superb season so far, the Swans are having a tricky patch, picking up only 1 win from their last 4. Frustrating, because a slightly better run of form might well have taken them past their hated rivals Cardiff.
Check out . . . a striker coming up against the club where he made his name
51 goals in 95 starts, Jason Scotland was a force during his 2 years at Swansea. His lack of goals at Wigan then saw him turn from star signing to joke. He is kickstarting his career with some success at Ipswich and will be keen to prove a point.
Expect lots of endeavour from both sides in what should be an entertaining affair. Ultimately I think the spoils will be shared, leaving both camps unsatisfied.
Cardiff v Preston
This looks like a mismatch.
The title contenders are out of sorts, with just 1 win in their last 5. The last couple of results, a loss against Forest at home and defeat in the topof the table clash with QPR, will have hurt. Preston should expect a backlash.
Preston, winless in 6 and 5 points adrift from safety, are wearing the division’s dunce cap. Darren Ferguson has played all his cards with a host of loan signings and now must hope for some reward. This is not a game he will be looking forward to.
Check out . . . the experienced centre-back on a rescue mission
Leon Cort may not be a star but with experience at the highest level, he is a key arrival at Deepdale. On debut he helped Preston to a clean sheet. He will be expected to shoulder an even bigger burden against Cardiff’s notorious front-line.
Cardiff have been struggling for results but their performances have not been terrible (they dominated for 45 minutes at Loftus Road.) Preston are in danger of a hammering.
Coventry v Middlesbrough
Play-off contenders host surprise drop-zone residents.
Coventry are looking like serious play-off contenders. They’ve emerged from a difficult run with 2 straight wins. For the first time in a few years, there is a sense of confidence about the place and a feeling that Aidy Boothroyd has the squad very strongly behind him.
Tony Mowbray might have arrived as the messiah but there’s been no resurrection yet at the Riverside. 11 points from 13 games before he arrived, 7 from 6 since; an upturn but not a huge one. It is though early days and his status at the club means he is likely to be cut some slack.
Check out . . . the supposed Arsenal target
England under-21 keeper, Jason Steele has, if the rumour mill is to be believed, been attracting the beady eyes of Arsene Wenger. Though having a good season, he had a shocker against Hull and it’ll be interesting to see how he responds to both the gossip and the performance.
Home advantage might well be the key to this one; Boro have won just once in 9 away trips, while the Sky Blues have been robust at the Ricoh.
Derby v Norwich
4th host 5th in a clash of two of the season’s real success stories.
Derby’s fantastic form has slipped, with 2 defeats in their last 3. Last week’s late defeat against Burnley cost them the chance to go third.
Norwich broke a 5 game winless run in the best way possible, with a thumping win over their local rivals in front of the TV cameras.
Check out . . . the talented loanee
Championship viewers know what Henri Lansbury is about after his efforts at Watford. He is, put simply, a class act with wonderful passing ability.
This has all the makings of being the game of the weekend. Norwich looked great going forward last weekend but I think we’ll see Derby put on an impressive display at home.
Leeds United v Crystal Palace
The impressive new boys up against the improving South Londoners.
Leeds return to the Championship continues to go well if not brilliantly. While unbeaten in 6, they will be disappointed to have only won 3 of those games.
Palace, with 3 wins in their last 4, look the most likely side to pull away from the bottom. There are a couple of great players in this squad and they have started to come to the fore.
Look out for . . . the midfield machine
Neil Danns has the sort of workrate that all fans love in a player. I’m not sure Palace will be able to hold onto him in January; wouldn’t be a surprise to see him sign off with a couple of big performances.
Leeds will have more of the ball and the chanes but, as in recent weeks, they might not kill the game off. Palace have been poor on the road but the belief seems to be back.
Watford v Leicester
Mid-table sides heading in different directions.
Watford’s early season form appears to have been a bubble. No shame in that; Malky Mackayis working with a small young squad and limited resources. The Hornets are winless in 7.
For all the cynicism, Sven is doing a good job. They have 5 wins from their last 8 and seem to again be the force of last year.
Look out for . . . A striker looking for form
Danny Graham‘s rampant start to the season couldn’t last but he will be disappointed with just 1 strike in his last 11 Championship games. Watford will be desperate for their main man to rediscover his form.
This one will follow the form book. Leicester are better organized at the back and should be able to find a winner.
Millwall v Scunthorpe
2 sides in poor form, looking wearily over their shoulders.
After a good start, Millwall haven’t been able to sustain their form like the division’s other new boys. They have just 1 win in 6. They have also managed ust 3 goals in their last 6 games.
Scunthrope have lost 4 straight, although this does include games against Cardiff and Derby.
Check out . . . A Nigerian Powerhouse
I have fond memories of Dan Shittu from his time at QPR. While his struggles at Bolton suggest that he lacks the technical ability to make the step-up, his sheer physical presence makes him an effective operator at this level.
The TV viewers will not be treated to a pretty spectacle. This is a scrap between two sides who will both be in need of these points come the end of the season. Neither are particularly potent going forward and they might just cancel each other out.