The Championship launched back into action last weekend with the abundance of goals, drama and controversy, as we come to associate with the division. The relegated sides had mixed returns from their opening fixtures with Newcastle and Aston Villa suffering narrow defeats while Norwich ran riot away at Blackburn to go top.
It was also a tough start for the promoted sides with Wigan and Barnsley as both suffered defeats on the road, with Burton on the wrong end of a seven goal thriller on their second tier debut at Nottingham Forest.
This weeks fixtures promise more of the same and with the Premier League returning as well, it will be a footballing feast for fans everywhere.
Friday 12th August, 7:45pm
Brighton(13th) vs Nottingham Forest(4th)
These two sides were involved in very contrasting games last weekend with Brighton sharing a dour goalless draw at Derby while Forest edged past Burton 4-3.
Philippe Montanier will be pleased that his side eventually got over the line but his side will face a much tougher test against Chris Hughton’s Brighton. The Seagulls showed how difficult to beat they can be as they kept Derby at bay but will want a win this time out. Brighton were comfortable winners in the EFL Cup on Tuesday, however Forest were pushed hard by League 2 Doncaster, needing a injury time Jamie Ward goal to send them through. How each side can adapt to the quick turnover of games could be crucial not just in this game, but throughout the whole season. It should be a tight contest at the AmEx stadium and may come down to which side is fitter.
Saturday 13th August, 3pm unless stated
Aston Villa(19th) vs Rotherham United(10th)
If Roberto Di Matteo didn’t know what he was getting himself into when he took over at Villa, he certainly knows it now. A late defeat at Sheffield Wednesday in his opening league fixture was followed by an embarrassing exit of the Cup at League Two Luton has made for a disastrous start for the former Chelsea boss.
On paper, a home game against a side expecting to be struggling near the bottom of the league seems like a perfect opportunity to get a win on the board. However Alan Stubbs’ Rotherham will be no pushovers. A creditable draw against Wolves was a solid start to their campaign and will hope that the extraordinary 5-4 defeat to Morecambe was just a blip as they look to inflict more pain on Aston Villa.
Barnsley(22nd) vs Derby County(15th)
While Derby struggled going forward last Saturday, Barnsley’s defensive issues meant they got off to a disappointing start last Saturday. The Tykes conceded four in the second half at Ipswich which will be a real concern for Paul Heckingbottom, as will a midweek defeat at home to lower league Northampton in the Cup.
Derby were also less than impressive in midweek but did struggle past Grimsby. A lack of a finishing touch will worry Nigel Pearson and may dip into the transfer market to find the spark the Rams need. Derby will expect to win but Barnsley will make it very difficult for them.
Brentford(17th) vs Ipswich Town(3rd)
Grant Ward’s second half hat trick on debut was one of the stories of last Saturday as Ipswich got off to a flyer with victory over Barnsley. Brentford on the other hand were beaten by Huddersfield in a game they were very much second best.
They may have mixed fortunes in the league, but in the Cup they were both on the end of exits to League 2 sides. Dean Smith has a job on his hands to restore confidence in his Brentford side to which he has added former Middlesbrough Emanuel Ledesma. Mick McCarthy will be hoping that a home defeat to Stevenage won’t undo all the hard work done against Barnsley.
Burton Albion (16th) vs Bristol City(5th)
Burton can be proud of their first outing in the Championship despite eventually suffering defeat and Nigel Clough can take plenty of positives from an enterprising performance. They also earned their first win of the season on Wednesday with an extra time win over Bury to progress in the cup and the squad will surely be on a high following being drawn with giants Liverpool in the next round.
Despite two wins from two so far in all competitions for Bristol City, they will not relish a trip to the Pirelli Stadium which will surely be bouncing for Burton’s first ever home game at this level. The Brewers will see this game as a real chance to get off the mark in the Championship.
Leeds United(24th) vs Birmingham City(12th)
Leeds put in a limp performance at QPR in Garry Monk’s first game in charge and followed that up by needing penalties to overcome minnows Fleetwood on Wednesday. The fans at Elland Road may already be starting to lose the early season optimism and fearing a repeat of the previous campaigns. However a win over Birmingham would change all that.
Gary Rowett’s Blues may count themselves unlucky to not have won their opener with Cardiff but were outplayed in their home defeat to Oxford in the cup. Birmingham are yet to score in any competition and could find it very difficult at what should be a fierce atmosphere inside Elland Road.
Newcastle United(20th) vs Huddersfield Town(6th)
After being shocked by Fulham last Friday, Rafa Benitez will be demanding that his Newcastle players put that right at St James Park against Huddersfield.
The Magpies have the advantage of not playing in midweek whereas Huddersfield went down to League One Shrewsbury. David Wagner won’t be too displeased with his sides week after they outclassed Brentford to get off to a winning start in the league. This will be a much tougher test and a hurting Newcastle will be difficult to cope with. The Terriers have to defend well to avoid a heavy defeat on Tyneside.
Preston North End(21st) vs Fulham(7th)
Slavisa Jokanovic will be delighted with Fulham’s efforts this week as they stunned title favourites Newcastle in the league and edged past Leyton Orient in the cup thanks to an exceptional display from forward Cauley Woodrow.
The Cottagers will attempt to continue this momentum against Preston, who were very poor in their defeat at Reading last Saturday. They weren’t much better in their cup tie with Hartlepool where Grayson’s men needed an injury time Eoin Doyle goal to get them into the next round. There will need to be drastic improvement in performance if they are to overcome a confident Fulham side at Deepdale.
Wigan Athletic(18th) vs Blackburn Rovers(23rd)
This early season Lancashire Derby sees both teams looking for their first points of the season.
While Blackburn responded to their humiliating defeat against Norwich with a midweek win in the cup, Wigan suffered further disappointment with a late defeat at Oldham. Gary Caldwell will have been gutted not to have taken anything from their opening game against Bristol City having led for so long and he has to pick up his players as they prepare for a very winnable match. Despite their EFL Cup triumph at Mansfield, Blackburn fans will still be angry at their display in the opening day 4-1 defeat, and defeat at Wigan could see an already unpopular Owen Coyle come under early pressure.
Wolves(11th) vs Reading(8th)
These are very exciting times at Wolves with their new financial muscle putting them right into the promotion contender category. While off the field they attempt to add to their squad, including a move for Derby striker Chris Martin, on the field Walter Zenga will be focused on adding to their point earned at Rotherham. Having come from 2-0 down at the New York Stadium to draw, and then putting in a professional display against Crawley on Tuesday, there should be a fairly strong feel good factor at Molineux for their clash with Reading.
Jaap Stam’s Royals were deserved winners against Preston in the Dutchman’s first game in charge before they eased past Plymouth in the cup. A trip to Wolves will definitely be Stam’s most difficult test so far in his short managerial career and will need his players to be at their very best to get a result in the Black Country.
Norwich City(1st) vs Sheffield Wednesday(9th) – 5:30pm
Both of these favourites for promotion showed exactly why they are being tipped as the Canaries and the Owls flew to first game victories.
Norwich sit top of the early standings after a devastating first half performance at Blackburn which saw them three goals up inside half an hour. Alex Neil’s men eliminated any fears of a relegation hangover and with Ireland’s Euro 2016 hero Robbie Brady in contention to return from injury, the Norfolk side will be confident going in to this highly anticipated tussle.
Sheffield Wednesday fans endured the ups and downs of life in the football league as they went from a superb victory over Aston Villa in the league to a humiliating defeat at League Two Cambridge in the cup. Carlos Carvalhal’s men had to play extra time in that game and that could take its toll on the Wednesday players while Norwich have a had a whole week to prepare for this match. Again, both side’s fitness level could be a deciding factor come Saturday evening.
Sunday 14th August, 3pm
Cardiff City(14th) vs QPR(2nd)
QPR’s dismantling of Leeds has convinced many that Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s side can compete for promotion and they will be looking to add to that expectation when they travel to the Welsh capital.
Cardiff started with a steady point at Birmingham and the Bluebirds will want to build on that in their first home game of the season. Paul Trollope’s men will have to deal with playing on Thursday in a cup tie at Bristol Rovers with QPR having already negotiated their way past Swindon, albeit needing extra-time and penalties to do so. Expect a tight affair at the Cardiff City Stadium.