EFL WATCH: MIDWEEK MAGIC AND RELEGATION FIGHTS
THE CHAMPIONSHIP – Nottingham Forest vs Sheffield Wednesday (15th December – 7:45pm)
When Chris Hughton was appointed as manager of Nottingham Forest, many expected Forest to lift themselves away from the relegation battle to at least mid-table obscurity.
However, Hughton has failed to hit the ground running and his side currently sit in 21st, just outside the relegation zone, having not won in six games. Granted most of these games were against top half teams, but the poor defending that Forest have displayed is not something you get from many Hughton teams, so this may be slightly worrying for the City Ground faithful.
Another team whose new manager has not hit early form is Sheffield Wednesday. The league’s bottom side hired Tony Pulis on the 13th November 2020 and have not won since. Like Chris Hughton, Pulis normally has teams solid at the back, and this is yet to be seen at Hillsborough so far during the Welshmen’s reign. The early points deduction did not help Wednesday whatsoever, but the form on the pitch must be addressed sooner rather than later.
This game will certainly not be fun or entertaining, but it is very important to the relegation picture in the Championship, as these two historically big clubs look to avoid the drop.
LEAGUE ONE – Charlton Athletic vs Bristol Rovers (15th December – 7:45pm)
After three defeats on the trot, Lee Bowyer seems to have recovered his Charlton Athletic team, as they drew 1-1 with Shrewsbury and got a convincing 5-2 win against Wimbledon. The Addicks will need to start a winning run if they want to be in the title conversation, and looking at the table, a real winning streak could send Charlton into the driver’s seat. With five different goal scorers against Wimbledon, Charlton have goal all over the pitch and that makes them a threat to any team in the league.
Paul Tisdale has seemingly found his rhythm with Bristol Rovers, as the Gas have started to pick up wins under the former Exeter City manager’s leadership. A 4-2 win away at Wimbledon was followed by a 3-0 win against local-ish rivals Plymouth Argyle, a victory his former club’s fans would have enjoyed. The likes of Sam Nicholson have caught the eye recently, with his creative play and first touch leading this Bristol Rovers side forward.
Both teams have scored plenty of goals, especially against Wimbledon, and will be looking to carry on their form in this game.
LEAGUE TWO – Carlisle United vs Mansfield Town (15th December – 7:00pm)
Carlisle have been one of League Two’s best teams this season, currently sitting in third, which is unexpected on paper, but Chris Beech has built a strong team capable of challenging for the League Two title. With four wins in their last five, Carlisle’s form is good and that makes them a worry for any team in this division. Lewis Alessandra and Joshua Kayode have been tearing defences apart in recent weeks, and the defensive partnership of Rhys Bennett and Aaron Hayden have been keeping it solid at the back.
Mansfield have lost as many games as Carlisle (three) so why are they 17th? It probably has something to do with the fact that they have won as many games as bottom of the league Southend, with two wins so far. It would be fair to say that Nigel Clough would have wanted to turn some of those ten draws into wins, but ever since his appointment, it is undeniable that the Stags have improved, and they will want to start putting some wins together to truly show that improvement.
This will be an entertaining encounter, with two teams that have not lost often in recent weeks but do not be surprised if this game ends a draw.
WILDCARD – Reading vs Norwich City (16th December – 8:00pm)
Despite a blip a few weeks back, Reading have hung on to their play-off position, and are starting to get back to their early season form, which saw them rush to the top of the league. With three wins out of their last five, Velkjo Paunovic needs to cut out the off days and keep his side on form, as they look to continue their surprise Premier League push. While not convincing against QPR, Reading have shown they can grind out those important wins, which is a great trait to have if you are looking to go up.
Norwich have recovered from their terrible Premier League season by turning back into the Norwich side that romped to Championship glory in the 2018/19 season. Three wins on the bounce mean that the Canaries come into this game top of the league, and unable to drop out of the top two regardless of the result. Teemu Pukki has got his form back, which makes Daniel Farke’s side automatically much more threatening in front of goal, alongside Emi Buendia and young Josh Martin feeding the Finnish talisman.
Both sides have made a habit of conceding goals regularly, but with both teams still on good form, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.