After another hectic week of cup action it’s back to league football this weekend, and there are plenty of tasty fixtures in the Championship. It’s usually around this sort of time that one or two teams pull away from the pack in this division, and although Middlesbrough and Hull are doing their best, it’s a more congested league than many a year this time around.
Boro went down to a shock 1-0 away defeat at Bristol City last weekend while fellow promotion hopefuls Derby were suffering their own surprise 3-0 home defeat to Birmingham. Two other contenders, Burnley and Hull took full advantage recording victories over Brentford and Charlton respectively to close the gap. It’s the latter who grab our attention this week as they travel to under-performing Fulham, and having positioned themselves in the top two they will want to consolidate the automatic promotion place. Burnley and Derby wait until Monday to play each other, and that gives all the other sides in the top six an opportunity to gain points on one or both of them.
One of those teams, Brighton, led the table for much of the season breaking club records in the process, but they suffered a real dip in form recently by going seven games without a win. They got their noses in front again at last away at Blackburn last weekend, and now they’ve regained the winning trail they are worth backing to follow up at home to Huddersfield this weekend. The same applies to QPR who found their first win under Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink in a 3-0 triumph at Rotherham, just hours after selling top striker Charlie Austin. With a win under the belt they’ll be keen to push for a play-off spot with another three points at home to Wolves this weekend.
Brighton v Huddersfield
Chris Hughton and his men went unbeaten for a huge chunk of the season, before going down 3-0 to Middlesbrough on the 19th of December, and it has been rather disappointing since then. They’d lost three out of four in the league before last weekend’s 1-0 win at Blackburn and that result couldn’t have come soon enough. Bobby Zamora snatched a 3rd minute goal and it proved to be enough as Brighton defended resolutely to secure the clean sheet. That will have inspired confidence and stands them in good stead for a game against a Huddersfield side that played for over an hour with ten men away at Reading in an FA cup replay during the week.
Before Brighton’s recent run of three defeats at home they’d won 9 and drawn 2 of the previous 11, and are worth backing to get back on track. They still occupy 5th in the table, just 8 points off top spot, and a good run of results could see them right back in the hunt.
Huddersfield lost 5-2 to Reading on Tuesday night in the FA cup replay, despite taking a two-goal early lead. The sending off of Jon Hogg on 27 minutes will not have helped the cause, and their players could well be suffering from fatigue after another even longer trip south this weekend. They’re 16th in the table and although not in immediate danger of relegation, are still looking over their shoulders. It will be a big ask to come here and get a result when Brighton have had an extra three days rest and look to be over the bad patch.
Fulham v Hull
The Tigers have also suffered small blips throughout the season, but last weekend’s 6-0 demolition of Charlton was their fourth win in a row, and their third clean sheet in a row. Abel Hernandez bagged a hat-trick, while the likes of Snodgrass and Diame were also on the scoresheet, and there is real quality in Steve Bruce’s squad. They have had a run of three away defeats in a row recently, but they beat QPR 2-1 on their last road trip, and are still 8th in the ‘away’ league table for the season overall.
In contrast Fulham are 20th in the ‘home’ league table, and are currently in shocking form. They have just one win in fourteen to their name, and although they always look capable of scoring goals, they haven’t kept a clean sheet in 18 games since last October. They’re 19th in the table, a perilous 4 points above the drop zone, and a visit from in-form Hull is the last fixture they need right now.
QPR v Wolves
The sale of Charlie Austin to Southampton seemed to galvanize the players last week as they recorded a 3-0 win at Rotherham – their first since Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink took over. They are 15th in the table and 11 points outside of the play-offs, but a club of their stature can only think about making up that gap with a good second half of the season. With the confidence of that win under their belts, it could be time for Rangers to go on a winning run in an attempt to charge up the table.
Wolves have shown they are a decent side at this level, but the sale of Benik Afobe to Bournemouth and the news that winger Jordan Graham is out with a long-term injury will hit them hard. To his credit Michal Zyro has come in and hit the ground running since signing from Legia Warsaw, but their recent four-game winning run was ended by a tepid 3-1 home defeat to Cardiff last time out. They’re in 10th position, but just three points above QPR in the table, and the hosts could leapfrog their visitors with a win on Saturday in front of the TV cameras.
Brighton to beat Huddersfield
Saturday 23rd January, 15:00 GMT
Hull to beat Fulham
Saturday 23rd January, 15:00 GMT
QPR to beat Wolves
Saturday 23rd January, 12:30 GMT
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