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Championship Preview: Burnley & Forest Face Crunch Match

Burnley and Nottingham Forest face each other in the Championship's stand out match - we focus on this game, as well as twelve matches as the Championship returns after the international break.

Nottingham Forest and Burnley go head-to-head at the top of the Championship
Nottingham Forest and Burnley go head-to-head at the top of the Championship
Clive Brunskill
Nottingham Forest vs Burnley

League leaders Burnley face a tough test with promotion hopefuls Nottingham Forest hosting them at the City Ground. Burnley are having a slight stutter - with two consecutive draws against Millwall and Bournemouth. Forest beat promotion and local rivals Leicester last week.

Burnley's forward duo of Danny Ings (10) and Sam Vokes (9) has already scored them ninteen goals in the league this season. Putting that into perspective - the rest of the Burnley squad has scored only seven between them, for a total of twenty seven.

In contrast, Nottingham Forest spread the goals around the team. Henri Lansbury and Andy Reid are Forest's joint top scores with five each. Former-Royals Darius Henderson (4) and Simon Cox (2) have also managed goals for Forest this season. They've scored twenty five in the league this season.

Forest have a plethora of former-Reading players with Darius Henderson, Simon Cox, Greg Halford and Dan Harding all managing appearances for them this season. The former three are likely to feature at some point during this game.

Burnley haven't been beaten since the fourth game of the season - a 2-0 away defeat at the hands of Brighton. Nottingham Forest have only been toppled at home once this season - Blackpool stole the points with a stoppage time winner in their last home game.

Burnley signed young winger Micah Evans on a free on 14th November, however it is unlikely he will feature.

Burnley and Forest are among the top sides in the shots on target table. With the hosts having 5.7 shots on target per game and Burnley with 5.3. Forest players have been caught offside a staggering 64 times this season - easily the highest in the league.

According to the Sky Bet odds - Nottingham Forest are the favourites for this game and I would back them if they are able to isolate the Burnley front two. Sky reckon that a draw is more likely than a Burnley win.

I reckon that it will be a close game at the City Ground, with a draw being the most likely result.

Prediction: Nottingham Forest 1-1 Burnley

Ipswich Town v Leicester City

After suffering play-off heart-break last season, Leicester are challenging for promotion once again - they lie second in the Championship, two points behind Burnley. Ipswich are twelfth - and looking like they are set for another mid table finish. That said, they are only four points outside the play-off zone.

Ipswich are unbeaten in three, since their 1-0 defeat at home to Burnley. They won their last match with a dramatic late goal against Blackpool. Leicester were beaten 2-0 by Nottingham Forest last week.

Leicester travel to Portman Road with the one of the league's best away record - only Burnley  have recorded more points on their travels. Their last away match was a stunning 3-0 win at play-off hopefuls Watford.

Leicester manage a huge 16.1 shots per game - something that only Watford and Middlesbrough attempt more of. However, Ipswich concede the second least shots in the division. 10.5 shots per game against - only QPR can claim to have less against them.

Both sides keep consistent first XIs where they can, Ipswich have four players that have started every match; Leicester have three players who have started each match so far.

Leicester's Gary Taylor-Fletcher could start for the Foxes, after an injury hit start to his Leicester career. He featured in Leicester's defeat against Nottingham Forest as a substitute.

Leicester are 29/20 favourites for this match with Sky Bet; Ipswich aren't to be ruled out though. Their win at Blackpool shows that they can beat some of the league's better teams.

I will predict a narrow Leicester win at Portman Road, though. I believe Leicester will be too strong for an Ipswich side who have only won on match in their last five.

Prediction: Ipswich Town 1-2 Leicester City

Queens Park Rangers v Charlton Athletic

QPR and Charlton face each other in a London derby at Loftus Road on Saturday in their first competitive meeting since December 2008. The hosts could head to the top of the table with a win.

QPR's form has stuttered of late, with only one win in their last five matches. However, the remain one of only four sides to remain unbeaten at home this season (Reading, Burnley and Wigan are the other three). They have only let two points slip away at home - a 0-0 draw with Brighton back in September.

QPR will be able to call upon Richard Dunne, who was an injury doubt for this game. Jermaine Jenas and Junior Holiett, who picked up hamstring injures against Reading, could also feature for the hosts. Charlton will be without the defensive duo Leon Court and Chris Solly; they both have knee injuries.

Charlton haven't won a Championship match against a club from London since they beat Crystal Palace in January 2009.

QPR are huge favourites for this game, as they challenge to get back on top of the Championship.

Prediction: Queens Park Rangers 2-0 Charlton Athletic

Birmingham City v Blackpool

Birmingham face Blackpool, as the visitors look to close the gap on the top three. Blackpool haven't won at Birmingham since 2008.

The Tangerines have only won two of their last nine league matches, seeing their early form disperse. They will also be hit by their stoppage time defeat to Ipswich two weeks ago. Birmingham won their last game 3-1 (against Huddersfield) as the Blues look to get their form back on track.

Birmingham won't be helped by the fact that Wade Elliott and Kyle Bartley are both suspended. However, Aaron McLean's arrival from Hull on loan and the potential return of Chris Burke from injury could help even the suspensions out.

Barry Ferguson and Jack Robinson will both miss out through injury and suspension respectively for Blackpool, while Scottish international goalkeeper Matt Gilks could feature after leaving the Scotland camp with a shoulder injury.

Sky Bet favour a Birmingham win, but due to the recent form that both sides have been on, I reckon a draw is the most likely result.

Prediction: Birmingham City 1-1 Blackpool

Blackburn Rovers v Reading

Look out for the match preview of this game on the site for a much more detailed look at this game.

The odds are suggesting that Blackburn are the favourites for this game, however I'm going to be positive and predict a Reading win.

Prediction: Blackburn Rovers 2-4 Reading

Watford v Bolton Wanderers

Watford face a tricky test, as Bolton head to Vicarage Road. Wanderers have started to recover from their poor early from and have won three of their last five matches.

They will be without five players for this trip. Adam Bogdan, Stuart Holden, Joe Riley, Marc Tierney and Kevin McNaughton are all out with injuries for Bolton. Watford's Lloyd Doyely is injured, while Lewis McGugan is suspended.

Bolton have only ever won at Watford twice, after playing thirteen at Vicarage Road. This is despite going on a five match winning run against the Hornets, until their defeat in February last season.

Watford are firm favourites for this match, but I wouldn't rule out Bolton - who have the ability to beat any side in this division. I would predict a close contest on Saturday.

Prediction: Watford 1-1 Bolton Wanderers

Leeds United v Middlesbrough

Elland Road will host Leeds v Middlesbrough - a fixture that has had its fair share of red cards over the past few years. With five red cards in the last four matches - it's fair to say that this could be a fiery clash.

Leeds are on one of the best runs in the Championship - winning four of their last five matches. They have also managed three consecutive wins at home. In contrast, Middlesbrough haven't recorded an away win since the second game of the season - a 1-0 win over Charlton.

The Championships leading scorer Ross McCormack has come through an injury scare - with a knock picked up whilst on international duty with Scotland. Lithuania international Marius Zaliukas is expected to start for the hosts. Jonathan Woodgate and Seb Hines could both feature for Middlesbrough after injuries.

Sky are edging towards a Leeds win and on their current form, I can't look past them.

Prediction: Leeds United 3-1 Middlesbrough

Bournemouth v Derby County

Each season, the Championship usually sees a newly promoted club do exceptionally well in their first season in the Championship. Bournemouth are leading the way of the newly promoted clubs, but they aren't setting the division alight. Derby are edging up the table following the sacking of Nigel Clough.

Bournemouth could see Matt Richie feature for the first time this season; Richie featured in a behind closed doors friendly match - a 2-0 win against Reading. Zak Whitbread remains out for Derby with a calf injury, but the Rams welcome back John Eustace. He was suspended for their last match.

Derby have the second best away form in the league, with only Burnley eclipsing them. Bournemouth have an on-off record at home. This suggests that it could be a close match between two sides currently in mid-table. Sky edge towards Derby, but the odds show it should be a difficult game for them. Personally, I believe that Bournemouth will beat the Rams, as the honeymoon period of Steven McClaren will probably come to an end soon.

Prediction: Bournemouth 2-1 Derby County

Wigan Athletic v Brighton and Hove Albion

Wigan have nearly caught up all of their games missed due to the Europa League, but they still pose a threat on the top sides in the division. Brighton have started to move up the table in recent weeks - following a below par start to the season.

Both sides have similar recent form, with both winning and drawing two of their last five. Brighton have picked up nine of their twenty one points on the road this season; Wigan have one of the leagues best home record and are still unbeaten at the DW Stadium.

James McClean missed Wigan's win at Yeovil, but should return after featuring for the Republic of Ireland in the international break. Will Buckley, Keith Andrews, Andrea Orlandi, Kemy Agustien and Liam Bridcutt could all return to the Brighton side following injury. Leonardo Ulloa and Kazenga LuaLua shouldn't be fit for the Seagulls, as Craig Mackail-Smith and Will Hoskins remain out.

Wigan are the favourites for this game, with Sky placing them a 20/21 to win. The visitors won't be pushovers, however, as they have the ability to hurt the Latics. Their extensive injury list may work against them though.

Prediciton: Wigan Athletic 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion

Sheffield Wednesday v Huddersfield Town (12:45; Live on Sky)

A Yorkshire derby at Hillsborough, as lowly Wednesday host Huddersfield. Sheffield Wednesday have only managed one win all season - but we won't mention that game.

Jose Semedo returns from a three-match ban for the hosts. Martin Taylor and Kamil Zayatte are expected to miss out through injury. James Vaughan is back for Huddersfield, following a three-match suspension. Vaughan is the Terriers top scorer with eleven goals in his last fourteen matches.

Huddersfield haven't lost at Sheffield Wednesday since 2004, and this should put them in good spirit heading into this game. Sky do have the hosts as the favourites, but Huddersfield are performing better in the league and would fancy their chances here.

Prediction: Sheffield Wednesday 1-2 Huddersfield Town

Millwall v Barnsley

Two sides near the bottom play each other at the Den.

Barnsley have the worst record of all the Championship sides away from home - just one point. This was picked up in their last away match at Ipswich.

Guy Moussi joined Millwall on loan from Nottingham Forest during the international break. He could start for a Millwall side who have started to pick up their form at home. Luke Steele will miss out; Jack Butland, on loan from Stoke, will start against for Barnsley.

Millwall are evens to win this match; Barnsley's away from will be too much of a problem from them to expect anything from this game.

Prediction: Millwall 2-0 Barnsley

Doncaster Rovers v Yeovil Town (Fri 19:45; Live on Sky)

It can already be billed as a relegation six-pointer, as bottom of the table Yeovil head to fourth-bottom Doncaster live on Sky. These sides were promoted together from League One last season.

Federico Macheda has rejoined Doncaster on loan from Manchester United; he is expected to start for Rovers.

Yeovil have only managed one win away all season - the opening day win at Millwall. Doncaster have managed wins against Blackburn (2-0) and Leicester (1-0) at home this season.

Doncaster may be the favourites, but I'm going to back the underdog in this match.

Prediction: Doncaster Rovers 1-2 Yeovil Town

Charlton Athletic v Doncaster Rovers (Tue 19:45)

Following the abandonment of their game in August, Charlton and Doncaster will play each other at the Valley on Tuesday. Doncaster were 3-1 up in the abandoned game, but they will lose their lead for the replayed match.

I personally expect a Charlton win in this game.

Prediction: Charlton Athletic 3-1 Doncaster Rovers