It’s Easter and that can only mean one thing. No, we’re not talking about chocolate eggs or awkward family get togethers, we’re talking about a three-day double header in England’s second tier! Traditionally Championship sides have to put the celebrations on hold as they face fixtures on Good Friday and Easter Monday in a quick turnaround that can have a big impact on the table.
It’s a crucial time of the season too, with just five rounds of fixtures left before promotion, play off and relegation places are confirmed. Newcastle and Brighton have stolen a march on the rest of the league and are close to confirming their places in next year’s Premier League. The play off positions also look almost sewn-up at first glance, but there is a lot of football to be played and the likes of Fulham, Derby, Preston, Norwich and Villa could force their way into the picture if results go their way.
Good Friday’s games include a meeting between two of the chasing pack as Fulham travel to Norwich, and the Canaries are suddenly in great heart after an incredible 7-1 thrashing of Reading at Carrow Road last week. Meanwhile, Brighton visit Wolves in search of another three points on their quest for automatic promotion, and Derby travel to Brentford looking to make a late charge for the play offs. The desire for points in these games ought to lead to attacking football, and we could be in for a very good Good Friday!
Norwich v Fulham
The Canaries smashed Reading 7-1 last week, but it would be unfair to say that wasn’t reflective of their home form – even if the scoreline was unexpected. Norwich have won 13 of their 20 home Championship games, losing just three times on home soil. That would put them comfortably in a play off position, were it not for the poor away form which has let them down all season. As it is they sit tenth and are nine points outside the top six. However, they are unbeaten in Norfolk since Huddersfield won 2-1 at Carrow Road back in mid-December, and can take the game to the Cottagers.
Fulham are 7th and only two points behind Sheffield Wednesday who currently occupy the last play off place. There is big motivation for the West London side to push for victory, but this is a tough place to snatch all three points. The Cottagers were beaten 4-2 last week away at Derby, and although they have a good away record in general, they may struggle to contain a Norwich team that has nothing to lose.
Wolves v Brighton
That points total might even be less by the time they kick off if Huddersfield fail to beat Preston earlier in the afternoon, but nonetheless, Brighton are fancied to go in search of the three points. The Seagulls have won the last three on the spin, including a 2-1 away win at QPR last time.
They come up against a Wolves side that had been on a run of five straight victories prior to last week’s 3-1 defeat at Bristol City. They’ve also won their last three at home, and while there is little to play for but pride, Wanderers are in good goal-scoring form. Brighton’s desire to go and win the game ought to lead to an open match and both teams are more than capable of finding the net.
Brentford v Derby
The same case can be made for Derby when they visit Brentford, and both teams to score is a best price of -161 .
The Rams have been re-ignited by new manager Gary Rowett, and while the play offs might be a step too far, they are still in with a shot. Derby are seven points behind Sheffield Wednesday in 6th, but with 15 points to play for, it’s by no means all over yet. A draw in Rowett’s opening game has been followed by three consecutive victories, and last time out it was a 2-1 win away at Birmingham.
Brentford had been on a run of three straight wins before losing 2-1 at Cardiff last week, and fans might be wondering what might have been if they’d showed a bit more of this sort of form earlier in the season. At present they are in 12th place, and while the play offs are out of the question, a top half finish is well within reach.
Derby have no option but to attack for three points, but Brentford have shown they can be a match for anyone in front of their own fans this season. An open game with both teams hitting the back of the net at least once is the call.
Norwich to beat Fulham
Friday 14th April, 15:00 BST
Wolves v Brighton – Both teams to score
Friday 14th April, 17:00 BST
Brentford v Derby – Both teams to score
Friday 14th April, 15:00 BST