It is well and truly crunch time in the EFL Championship, with this weekend’s fixtures marking the start of a very intense Christmas period.
This article will look at everything to keep an eye on during matchweek 23, which kicks off on Friday evening with two fixtures at Swansea City and Bristol City as we hit the halfway stage in the Championship season.
So take a read of what we think you should look out for this coming gameweek, and let us know your thoughts in the comments!
1. Saturday’s Early Cracker
There are many key fixtures this weekend in the second division. However, are bigger than the early Saturday kick-off between second-place Ipswich Town and third-place Leeds United. The Tractor Boys are ten points above their opponents ahead of Saturday lunchtime.
Expect a very exciting encounter in Yorkshire and for the hosts to take the game to Ipswich, with this match being a huge opportunity for Daniel Farke’s side to close the points gap between them and Kieran McKenna’s Blues.
2. Top vs Bottom Clash
Leicester City and Rotherham United have had two completely different first halves of the season. Enzo Maresca’s start to life at Leicester has had very few flaws, with the Foxes winning 18 out of their 22 league matches and racking up a very impressive 55 points before the halfway stage.
Rotherham United, however, are quite the opposite, picking up only two wins all season and sitting nine points adrift from safety at the foot of the table. The Millers have only picked up two points all season on the road, and their hosts have won nine out of their 11 home fixtures. The odds, are without a doubt in the home side’s favour, but can new Rotherham manager Leam Richardson pull off one of the shocks of the weekend?
3. Six-Pointer At Stoke
Stoke City sit rock bottom of the form table going into this weekend’s massive fixture against Millwall, with the Potters winless in eight and the visitors with no win in six. Both sides have had recent managerial shakeups, with Joe Edwards going in at The Den and more recently Steven Schumacher joining Stoke from Plymouth Argyle this week.
It will be a very important match in his first game in charge, with both teams looking nervously over their shoulders towards the dotted line.
4. New Era For Argyle
As previously mentioned, Steven Schumacher left Plymouth Argyle this week and, after leading them to an impressive promotion last season, it is time for the club to move on and begin to get used to life without him.
They host Wayne Rooney’s Birmingham City on Saturday afternoon who, despite winning their last away match at Cardiff, have been pretty underwhelming so far under the ex-Derby County boss.
Argyle will certainly see this as a big chance to get off to a positive start to life without Schumacher, having the fifth-best home record in the division and they will hope that the atmosphere at Home Park on Saturday will drive them on to build on their seven wins from 11 there this season.
5. Big Test For Cifuentes
Despite last week’s heartbreaking late defeat to fellow relegation rivals Sheffield Wednesday, Marti Cifuentes has done a solid job since replacing Gareth Ainsworth, with only two defeats in eight at Queens Park Rangers. The R’s are two points from safety but visiting Southampton will provide a very hard test for the West Londoners.
The Saints are unbeaten in 14 league outings and will look to continue their impressive away form this weekend, with just two defeats on the road all season. Expect Southampton to have most of the possession after they have so far had more of the ball than any side in the Championship, so QPR will need to hit them on the break if they expect to get anything out of the game.
So as we reach the halfway stage of the EFL Championship season, there is still lots up for grabs, particularly with the festive season starting this weekend – Let us know how you think your side will get on this weekend in the comments!