‘Tis the period where football seems neverending, the end of December going into the new year, where the EFL seems to be on every day to our delight, and this article will highlight all the potential twists and turns to look out for as we head into the festive season.
This is without a doubt one of the most chaotic parts of the year, with so many matches being played in such a short space of time. Frustration and satisfaction with teams can form very quickly from fans following their team – whoever you support, it will certainly be an intriguing period in the Championship.
This article will highlight the key things to look out for in the English second tier as the New Year draws closer, with each team playing around five fixtures before the break for the third round of the FA Cup on the 6th of January.
1. Cifuentes’ Consolidation
Marti Cifuentes’ seven matches in charge have been a breath of fresh air for Queens Park Rangers fans, having lost just once in those matches and keeping four clean sheets, double the amount that Rangers kept for the rest of the season when Gareth Ainsworth was in charge.
The end of December will be very important if the Spaniard is to drag the West London side out of the bottom three, with trips to fellow struggles Sheffield Wednesday and a huge derby against an out-of-form Milwall on the horizon.
2. Sunderland’s Surge
Since the departure of Tony Mowbray earlier this month, Sunderland have won both of their matches under caretaker manager Mike Dodds, beating high-flying Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion. They will look to bring this good form into the final games of 2023, with winnable fixtures at Bristol City and lowly Rotherham United, while also hosting mid-table Coventry City.
Dodds will look to carry this form on until another manager is appointed, bringing good form into the New Year ahead of that mouthwatering FA Cup tie against rivals Newcastle United on the 6th of January.
3. Tractor Boys’ Tests
It’s fair to say that Ipswich Town‘s return to the Championship has shocked everyone, with sixteen wins from twenty-one in the league as the side are now sitting a massive ten points clear in the automatic promotion spots and just one point off league leaders Leicester City.
Kieran McKenna’s men will face three of their toughest tests to cap off an outstanding calendar year, hosting the huge East Anglian derby against Norwich City, before two important clashes at the top of the table against Leeds United and Leicester City which could make or break the team’s season.
4. Robins’ Decline
It’s fair to say Liam Manning’s start to life at Bristol City has not gone as planned, with the side picking up merely one win in six and being winless in their last four. City’s next three games do not get any easier, with Ashton Gate welcoming Sunderland and Hull City before the Robins travel to Watford on Boxing Day – three sides with playoff ambitions.
Manning will need to pick up a few more wins as City are definitely not clear of relegation trouble and are only six points above QPR in 22nd. Failure to pick up points in these games and all of a sudden, they will be nervously looking over their shoulders.
5. Saints’ Climb
After a shaky start to the season, Russell Martin is finally bringing some positive results on the south coast, with no defeat in thirteen matches. However, after drawing a few too many games recently, the Saints will look to rack up wins to keep the pressure on the top two heading into the new year. With three home games against a topsy-turvy Blackburn Rovers side and mid-table Swansea City and Plymouth Argyle, Southampton certainly have a chance of picking up three wins from three.
The Championship is one of the most exciting leagues in the world, and nothing beats the festive season, where the neverending drama entertains us all. However, these games coming up are much bigger for some than others, with the likes of Ipswich playing three huge fixtures in a row and Liam Manning being in desperate need of steadying the ship at Bristol City.
It will certainly be an enjoyable few weeks, with plenty of twists and turns up and down the table, so stay tuned here at The Real EFL where we will provide you will all the updates you need as the action intensifies!