CHAMPIONSHIP: MID-WEEK MATCH 31 PREVIEW
Match Previews16th February
With Sky Bet Championship fixture shuffled to accommodate those involved in the F.A. Cup fifth round, Cardiff City host one of just four fixtures as Blackburn Rovers visit Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday night.
MID WEEK MELEE
The Bluebirds enter their second consecutive home game on the back of a hard fought point against Brighton last week. Rovers maybe suffering from slight fatigue, but full of confidence as they required a quick turnaround following their shock 4-1 win against top flight Stoke City on Saturday. Gary Bowyer’s men currently lie ninth in the table, with a Bluebirds victory reducing the gap between the two sides to just three points. The Lancashire outfit have struggled away from Ewood Park and are ranked 15th in the away league table after winning just three games on the road so far. The Bluebirds defence will be kept on their toes against a formidable attack as both Rudy Gestede and Jordan Rhodes have hit double figures this season. There are promising signs for Cardiff with recent history on their side. The last four encounters have produced three wins and a draw for Russell Slade’s side, scoring 10 goals and conceding just two.
Reading will also be looking to rise closer to the elusive play off places as they travel north to face Wigan Athletic this midweek. Like Blackburn, the Royals enter the fixture after an impressive cup scalp, defeating highflying Derby County 2-1 at the iPro Stadium. Unlike fans of the Berkshire club, Wigan supporters have had a lot less to celebrate in recent weeks, picking up just two points from seven matches. The poor form has left them languishing in the relegation places just one point from bottom and nine from safety. This game is the first out of an important four fixtures against teams from the bottom nine in what could prove to be a pivotal period in the Latics’ survival bid. For Reading, three points could move them up five places to 11th and put a comfortable 10 point cushion between them and the bottom three.
BATTLE AT THE TOP
The race for the Premier League is really heating up and two teams featuring in this week’s fixtures are right in the heart of it. Middlesbrough have a game in hand on leaders Bournemouth and only lie behind the Cherries on goal difference. They can go to the summit if they get a positive result at Birmingham City at St Andrews. ‘Boro are the division’s in-form team with five consecutive wins and no defeat in eight. The Riverside side are facing Birmingham during a bit of a barren patch as they have a five game winless run but with four ending in draws. Welshman David Cotterill has set up 22% of the Blues’ 32 goals this season as well as scoring seven himself and could prove to be crucial for the Midlands team if they are to get anything against ‘Boro and move higher than their current 13th place.
Derby County could also rise to the top of the Championship this Tuesday but will also have to pick up points away from home. For them it’s a tie against league strugglers Rotherham United, a team with a mixed bag of recent results. The last five have seen them gain two wins, two losses and a draw as they lie perilously close to the bottom three, just one win above the drop zone with Millwall ready to pounce. The Rams form resembles that of a promotion candidate, six wins and two draws in the last nine has left them third in the table with a loss to local rivals Nottingham Forest preventing a blemish free run. The last six league meetings has seen no win for the Millers including a 1-0 defeat earlier this season against Steve McClaren’s squad thanks to an 82nd minute Jeff Hendricks strike.
Full Fixture List
Tuesday 17 February
Cardiff v Blackburn
Rotherham v Derby
Wigan v Reading
Wednesday 18 February
Birmingham v Middlesbrough