Three Championship fixtures to watch this weekend

With the race for promotion and the battle to avoid relegation hotting up, we preview this weekend’s three biggest Championship fixtures.

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Huddersfield Town v Newcastle United

Newcastle United could go 11 points clear of the play-off places with victory over third place Huddersfield at the John Smith’s Stadium on Saturday.

A win for Huddersfield though could see United’s advantage over them fall to five points, with the West Yorkshire club still having a game-in-hand over their rivals.

It was the Terriers who won the reverse tie earlier in the season when goals from Nakhi Wells and Jack Payne cancelled out a Dwight Gayle strike to give Huddersfield the win.

Huddersfield manager David Wagner is likely to rotate his squad following his side’s midweek FA Cup replay defeat to Man City but will still be without Christopher Schindler (leg) and Kasey Palmer (hamstring).

Newcastle could be handed a massive boost with Gayle potentially returning from his hamstring injury in time to face the Terriers. Rafa Benitez will still be without Rolando Aarons (knee) and Isaac Hayden (ankle).

Both sides have lost just one of their last ten matches Championship matches, with Huddersfield taking 19 points from the last 21 available.

Newcastle will be buoyed by their midweek victory against Brighton at the Amex Stadium and know that two victories in a week over their two closest promotion rivals would be a huge step towards an immediate return to the top flight.

Blackburn Rovers v Wigan Athletic

Blackburn Rovers have spent just three weeks outside the relegation zone this season but a victory over Wigan on Saturday could see them move to safety.

Wigan themselves could temporarily break free from the shackles of the bottom three with a victory, providing Bristol City fail to take at least a point against Burton Albion.

Wigan put three past Rovers when the sides met earlier in the season, thanks to goals from Will Grigg, Nick Powell and an own goal from Shane Duffy.

Mowbray’s injury list is still extensive, with Corry Evans (groin), Elliott Ward (ankle), Tommie Hoban (shoulder) and Adam Henley (hamstring) all set to miss the encounter, with Hope Akpan serving the last game of his four match suspension.

Wigan boss Warren Joyce, who is expected to attend the encounter despite recovering from minor surgery, may have winger Michael Jacobs at his disposal after he returned to training after a calf injury.

Both sides have interestingly suffered fewer defeats in their last ten games than the four teams above them, with Nottingham Forest and Burton losing five and Wolves and Bristol City losing six.

Rovers, who beat Derby County on Tuesday night, have taken four points from six under Tony Mowbray and have a game-in –hand on the majority of their relegation rivals. A win would give them back-to-back Championship victories for the first time since November and could be the start of a march to safety.

Bristol City v Burton Albion

Bristol City and Burton Albion meet at the Ashton Gate with both teams hoping to keep themselves clear of the relegation zone.

Bristol find themselves on a poor run of form and a loss could see them left three points adrift of safety.

A win for Burton could see them go five points clear whilst a loss could see them end the afternoon in the relegation zone both scenarios depend heavily on whether Blackburn beat Wigan.

Lee Johnson’s side won the reverse fixture earlier in the season, with an injury time winner from Tammy Abraham sending City home with all three points.

The Chelsea loanee is unlikely to feature on Saturday though, with a thigh injury keeping him sidelined. He could be replaced in the squad by Milan Djuric, who has missed the past two fixtures with a groin injury.

Burton’s injury saga continues, with January loan signing Michael Kightly now a doubt due to a tight hamstring. The Brewers’ top scorer Jackson Irvine is also likely to miss out with a groin injury and is joined on the sidelines by John Brayford (knee), Lucas Akins (calf) and Damien McCrory (hamstring).

A loss on Tuesday to Aston Villa now means that Bristol City stay above the dotted line on goal difference alone, having won just one of their last ten, form matched only by basement side Rotherham who are almost certain to playing League One football next season.

Burton meanwhile are unbeaten in three games but have shown mixed form against their relegation rivals, with a loss to Wigan, victory over Wolves and  a draw against Blackburn amongst their last ten Championship outtings.

By Alex Knight 

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