After a two week international break the Championship returns to full swing this weekend with an array of tasty looking fixtures.
The action begins on Friday night when Sky Sports plays host to a tantalising Yorkshire derby as Doncaster Rovers and Leeds United meet for the second time this season. Rovers were rock bottom of the league at the end of August with just one point to their name, however since the departure of manager Sean O’Driscoll and the arrival of Dean Saunders, they are currently three games unbeaten with two wins and a draw, and after signing an array of ex-premier League players they are definitely a team full of confidence.
Leeds will make the short journey as one of three teams still not to have won on the road in the league this season; however when the teams met at the Keepmoat Stadium back in August the West Yorkshire outfit returned with a 2-1 success.
On Saturday a total of ten matches take place. Having last week parted company with boss Keith Millen following a poor start to the 2011/12 campaign, current basement club Bristol City entertain newly promoted Peterborough United, who have produced some stunning results, including a 7-1 thrashing of Ipswich Town, since winning the League One play-offs last season.
Burnley and Reading, two sides who have played at the highest level in recent years, meet at Turf Moor. Both teams are currently on 12 points in the Championship table having won and drawn three times each. The Royals are still reeling from their Play-off final defeat to Swansea City in May and will be looking to improve on their disappointing start this term.
Two other teams who are neck and neck at the moment also face each other in a 3pm kick-off as Ipswich Town travel to the Cardiff City Stadium. Having scored over 50 goals for the Bluebirds in four separate spells, striker Michael Chopra will be keen to prove a point to his ex-employers as he looks for his fifth goal in an Ipswich shirt.
Although it is still early in the season there is a crucial match at the wrong end of the table with fellow strugglers Coventry City and Nottingham Forest both looking for match winning performances which will take their points tally in to double figures. After reaching the play-offs last season and the installation of Steve McLaren as manager during the summer, big things were again expected from Forest; however, following problems on and off the pitch meaning the resignation of McClaren after just 4 months in charge, they are in desperate need of some good fortune.
In contrast, Derby County and Southampton have set the tone in the Championship and they come face to face at Pride Park. The Saints have turned a few heads since being promoted from League One last season and currently own top spot thanks to seven wins from ten matches. The hosts have also made an impressive start to the 2011-12 campaign after struggling in the last few years following relegation from the Premier League.
Although having only won once from their five home games in the league, four draws have made second placed Middlesbrough hard to beat on own soil and for a Millwall team with just one point on the road, the prospect of travelling to the Riverside will not look appealing. The Lions must face a free-scoring Boro side having scored only three times away from the New Den.
In an all London affair, Watford and Crystal Palace meet at Vicarage Road. This fixture ended in a 1-1 draw last term, and after a mediocre start they will both be looking for three valuable points required to kick start their seasons.
Last season West Ham United against Blackpool was a Premier League fixture, this weekend however the two lock horns in the Championship having both had reasonable results in their opening encounters. The Hammers who currently lay in fourth have been beaten twice at Upton Park and won on only two occasions, however, in comparison the Tangerines have struggled for maximum points away from home having claimed just one victory on the road.
The second Sky Sports televised match of the weekend sees Barnsley travel to Fratton Park to take on Portsmouth in a 5.20pm kick-off. Pompey are yet to break the ten point barrier in the league but hope to rectify that as they welcome the divisions draw specialists. Barnsley – who have spent more time and won more games in the second tier of English football than any other club in history -have shared the spoils in six out of their ten games so far and arrive on the South Coast unbeaten in their last seven.
Two more teams who are enjoying a good run of form of late meet in the day’s latest kick-off. Championship new boys Brighton and Hove Albion have slipped away from the leading pack of late having started the season in blistering fashion, however they are still fifth in the table and this should prove a tasty affair with their visitor’s one place below them on goal difference alone on the back of a six game unbeaten run.
The final fixture of the weekend will see the battle of the Blues as Birmingham City try to discover some league form against one of the pre-season favourites Leicester City. Sven Goran Eriksson’s Foxes occupy eighth spot in the table with 16 points from a possible 30. They arrive at St Andrews though without having tasted defeat on the road, however, despite lingering in the lower echelons having played only eight league matches due to European demands, Birmingham are yet to lose on home turf.