TOP SIX IN FOCUS PRE BRISTOL
Club News16th February
Cardiff and Bristol kick-off this weekend’s Championship schedule with Saturday afternoon’s 1.00pm kick-off.
Having not had a fixture midweek due to Leicester’s FA Cup commitments, promotion rivals had the chance to close the gap at the top on Tuesday night. Indeed, they took their opportunity – albeit now having played a game more than the League leaders. Here’s a quick glance at how things stand ahead of today’s games.
Hull City – (2nd), 56 POINTS, 31 GAMES
With Leicester on FA Cup duty, The Tigers had the opportunity to leap into second place. A 2-1 victory against Derby County allowed them to do exactly that, with Ahmed Elmohamady nodding home in the dying moments to secure the three points. Hull now lie eight points adrift of high flying Cardiff and will look to close the gap further with their up and coming double header. First they face Charlton before travelling to play-off contenders Blackburn. The Hull City supporters this season have seen their side grind out points on several occasions allowing them to sit five places higher than their league position this time last year.
Leicester City - (3rd), 53 POINTS, 30 GAMES
When the fixtures for the season were announced, Leicester were due to visit Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday but a draw against Huddersfield in the FA Cup meant Nigel Pearson’s men were forced to take on The Terriers at home in a replay. The visitors provided a shock and defeated Leicester 2-1 with a 75th minute strike proving to be the difference. The Cup exit now allows Cardiff’s chasers to focus on league duty and they will look to take advantage of their weekend off by defeating Charlton Athletic on Tuesday night. The Foxes lost to Charlton 2-1 in their second match of the season and will be focussed on exacting revenge.
Watford – (4th), 53 POINTS, 31 GAMES
Lying on the same points tally as Leicester, Malky MacKay’s former club have the chance to sneak into the third on Saturday with the Foxes not having a weekend match scheduled. Having drawn with Crystal Palace last Friday, they will take on Birmingham away from home in the hope of continuing their impressive record on the road. The Hornets have the third best away record in the Championship and will need to continue that form with another away tie looming against Ipswich Town on Tuesday. Zola’s men will be buoyant ahead of the two matches with 20 year old on loan Udinese star, Matej Vydra impressing this season, notching 19 goals in 27 games. Gianfranco Zola has made several shrewd decisions this season, allowing his side to transform their fortunes from this time year where they sat 15th in the table.
Crystal Palace - (5th), 52 POINTS, 31 GAMES
After completing a spectacular comeback against Watford, Ian Holloway’s men will be full of confidence going into Saturday’s home tie against Middlesbrough. The fifth placed side in the Championship possess the league’s hot shot striker Glenn Murray who has scored a staggering 24 goals in just 27 games and will be key to their promotion aspirations. With two home games on the horizon, Palace will be upbeat about their chances of picking up maximum points having vastly improved their record at home this season. This time last term, they had the fifth worst record in the league, but this season they have won nine games out of 15 at home.
Middlesbrough, (6th), 50 POINTS, 31 GAMES
Having lost 9 of their 15 away games this season, Tony Mowbray will be hoping his side can improve that record starting with a tough away trip to Palace who defeated them 2-1 earlier in the season. A Curtis Main goal in the last 10 minutes gave Boro all three points against Leeds in midweek and proved a welcome relief to the Riverside supporters having watched their side lose 5 games in a row, conceding 13 goals. Despite the poor run of form, Mowbray has asked for patience and is positive he can distance the existing 4 point gap between themselves and 7th placed Brighton, starting with another victory on Saturday.