Friday, January 17
Sky Bet Championship
Fulham v Middlesbrough – Craven Cottage
It should prove to be a cracker when play-off chasing Fulham and in-form Middlesbrough go head-to-head at Craven Cottage on Friday evening.
Boro arrives in the capital unbeaten in five league outings following a monumental turnaround in fortunes under Jonathan Woodgate.
Meanwhile, Fulham enhanced their ambitions of a return to the Premier League. A single Ivan Cavaleiro goal snaffled the points at Hull City, much to the enthusiasm of boss, Scott Parker.
“It was a very good goal. Cav’s been working on that over the past few weeks in terms of coming inside, I think we’ve seen a replica of the Huddersfield goal earlier this year and a couple of others he’s scored,” the Cottagers chief told BBC Radio London.
“It was worthy of a match-winner and there were limited chances for us, but once you get your noses in front it was about digging in and keeping that 1-0.
“A clean sheet today is very pleasing and we move on to the next.”
Saturday, January 18
Watford v Tottenham Hotspur – Vicarage Road
Watford defender Craig Dawson, spoke enthusiastically about the new-found spirit and belief at Vicarage Road, installed by Head Coach Nigel Pearson and his assistant, Craig Shakespeare.
The Hornets hammered AFC Bournemouth by three unanswered goals last time out, a result which lifted them out of the relegation zone and left them positively looking ahead to Saturday’s lunchtime showdown with Spurs at Vicarage Road.
“That’s the thing that has changed totally: the work rate,” he told www.watfordfc.com’ s Added Time.
“Everyone is working hard for each other. If someone is slightly out of position, the person next to them is helping them out.
“You can see that throughout the pitch. Everyone has got each other’s backs and it’s great to see and great to be a part of. We just need to keep the run going, keep working hard and keep winning games.”
Erratic Tottenham showed signs of improvement despite slipping to defeat against Liverpool last weekend. Then the North Londoners made FA Cup progress at the expense of Middlesbrough during the week.
The Portuguese midfielder, Gedson Fernandes, could be involved following the completion of his 18-month loan move from Benfica. Indeed, the 21-year-old insisted he couldn’t wait to get started, explaining: “All young players want to work with Jose Mourinho because he’s one of the best. All of us as players want to stay near the best, so it’s fantastic to work with him.
“The Premier League is a different competition. Every player in the world wants to play in the Premier League. For me, it’s one more motivation because I always dreamed of playing in this league and now let’s make my dream come true.
“I think we’re going to do fantastic things because this is a fantastic club.”
Arsenal v Sheffield United – Emirates Stadium
Arsenal face a stiff test from a Sheffield United side who are looking to secure a Europa League spot for next season.
The Blades won the corresponding fixture at Bramall Lane by a goal to nil, and despite an improvement under Mikel Arteta, a draw at Crystal Palace last time out – coupled with the dismissal of goalscorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – suggested we are far from witnessing vintage Arsenal.
And Arteta seemed to share that view, telling www.arsenal.com: “I asked them to go 100 miles per hour to chase the ball, to be very aggressive when we didn’t have it, to win it back as quickly as possible and they tried to do that.
“We need to know that there are certain areas we can do it. Against these kinds of teams, it’s dangerous because they bring the two centre backs up. They put the ball in the box and you have to defend.
“Their goal was a consequence of a sequence of a number of things that happened afterwards. We have to know to play these situations a little bit better. In terms of effort and spirit that they showed – it was top.
“It’s game management, it’s game moments, and we’ll get better at it. We need to know that at this type of ground, that we don’t want to put ourselves on the back foot in set-piece situations because they are really good and work a lot on it.”
Manchester City v Crystal Palace – Etihad Stadium
Palace head into the lion’s den to face a City side seemingly scoring goals for fun and having hit six at Aston Villa last Sunday.
Nevertheless, Palace will take heart from the fact they won by the odd goal in five at the Etihad last season, and off the back of a reasonable performance to earn a point against Arsenal last time out.
Indeed, with the Gunners reduced to ten men following Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s dismissal, defender Gary Cahill was disappointed that his side didn’t claim all three points.
“We are a bit frustrated,” he told www.cpfc.co.uk.
“Circumstances of playing against 10 men in the second-half meant we tried to push and it’s a bit frustrating we didn’t come away with the three points. But at the same time, in the first 20 minutes, we found it very difficult to much their movement and quality on the ball.”
West Ham United v Everton – London Stadium
Goalkeeper, Darren Randolph, could feature for West Ham United following his move back to east London from Middlesbrough.
First choice, Lukasz Fabianski, suffered a recurrence of his recent hip injury during last Friday’s defeat at Sheffield United. Boss, David Moyes, must decide whether to throw the Ireland international straight ahead of David Martin.
Speaking to www.whufc.com, the 32-year-old stopper said: “It was a bit weird walking back in.
“There have been some changes around the training ground, but still some familiar faces around. It feels good to back.
“I’ve been back training. Injury-wise, I’m fine. Everything’s healed and I’m fully fit.
Newcastle United v Chelsea – St James Park
Frank Lampard heaped praise on Callum Hudson-Odoi after the winger – who recently signed a five-year deal at Stamford Bridge – netted his first Premier League goal for the club in their comfortable 3-0 win over Burnley last weekend.
“For Callum to score in the six-yard box is more exciting than him scoring from 30 yards without a doubt,” the Blues boss told BBC Sport.
“It means he is willing to get in there. It wasn’t the only time he did that. His overall performance was a statement of what he has to do.
“That was the real Callum. If he carries on like that we will have a real player.”
Hudson-Odoi is expected to feature when Chelsea face a Newcastle side without a win in four Premier League matches, but who brushed aside Rochdale in a midweek FA Cup replay.
Sky Bet Championship
Queens Park Rangers v Leeds United – Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium
Mark Warburton was once again left bemused by his inconsistent side after they slipped to a derby defeat at Brentford last week.
Rangers found themselves three-goals behind at the break before a Nahki Wells tap-in gave the scoreline a little more respectability.
“We didn’t show enough character, we didn’t do our jobs at set-pieces and we didn’t win our duels,” Warburton told www.qpr.co.uk.
“I know the wind was exceptionally strong in the first half, but we’ve got to be better – it’s as simple as that.
“We had some words at half-time and saw a much-better second-half performance. We got the goal and missed a couple of big chances after that.
“But we gave ourselves a mountain to climb and that can’t happen – not through two set-pieces, which we worked on. Brentford are a good team who also work hard on set-plays.
The R’s boss added: “In the second half, we knew we had to get hold of the football.
“We made changes and were much better – as I said, we got the goal and missed some big chances, which we’ve got to take.
“We do things together – we defend our goal together and we attack together.
“As a team, we have to stop giving away soft goals.”
It doesn’t get any easier for Rangers. Visitors, Leeds, currently occupy one of the automatic promotion places and will be keen to bounce back following a derby defeat of their own at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday last time out.
Huddersfield Town v Brentford – John Smith’s Stadium
Promotion-chasing Brentford head to Huddersfield brimming with confidence after a comfortable derby success over Queen’s Park Rangers at Griffin Park.
Saïd Benrahma opened the scoring for the Bees and was quick to praise the clubs supporters as well as touch upon the spirit in the camp, built by boss, Thomas Frank.
“The fans push us and they help us,” he told Brentfordfc.com.
“We are trying to do our best at the moment. We are really enjoying playing because this is our home. There’s a real confidence in the team too and that is thanks in a big way to Thomas.
“He is a good communicator and he gives us confidence. We are going along well because we have a coach who helps us a lot and gives us a lot of belief and confidence on the pitch.”
Meanwhile, Huddersfield suffered back-to-back league defeats of late, leaving them four points and two places above the relegation zone.
Millwall v Reading – The Den
Millwall face in-form Reading at the Den, looking for a victory which would see them keep tabs with those occupying the play-off places.
The Lions slipped out of the top six following a goalless stalemate at Stoke City last Saturday, with manager, Gary Rowett, offering an honest assessment on the dour contest.
“It was a difficult game, a poor game in terms of a spectacle,” the Lions chief explained to BBC Sport.
“That’s what the Championship is like sometimes, the wind swirls around this stadium and makes it so difficult.
“First half we probably tried to over-play to get into the positions we wanted to.
“Second half was probably the opposite, we then become direct because we’re not making the extra pass, and Stoke started to get a little bit more control of the ball.
“I’d like to see us use the ball better but what we have got is incredible spirit and determination to get results. We’ve had some difficult games.”
Preston North End v Charlton Athletic – Deepdale
Lee Bowyer was satisfied with his sides toil after they twice came from behind to earn a share of the points against league leaders, West Bromwich Albion, at the Valley.
“I thought there were a lot of positives, especially to come from behind twice shows the character and togetherness to keep going against a good West Brom side,” the former midfielder told www.cafc.co.uk.
“I’m pleased my players could stand up to their physicality.
“Josh (Davison) deserved his goal. He wasn’t meant to be on that side! But fair play to him, he hit it well. It’s not been going for him and let’s not forget he was playing for Enfield a few weeks ago. I’m really pleased for him.”
The ‘Addicks now face a Preston side without a win in five following last weeks 1-1 draw at Blackburn Rovers.
Sky Bet League One
AFC Wimbledon v Peterborough United – Kingsmeadow Stadium
Glynn Hodges will be wanting to see an improvement from his side when Peterborough United are the visitors to the Kingsmeadow Stadium.
The Dons went down by the odd goal in three at Portsmouth at the weekend and the manager was critical of his sides defending at Fratton Park.
“We gave a poor goal away in the first-half, we gifted them that. We got ourselves back in the game, which is hard here anyway, and then we are thinking ‘great, we are on the front foot, we are doing okay,” he told www.afcwimbledon.co.uk.
“Then all of a sudden, another fundamental way of defending, as we have key areas that we work on, has disappeared again. Two things that we work so hard on, let us down.”
Visiting Posh have slipped away from the play-off places of late following a run of five without a win.
Sky Bet League Two
Port Vale v Leyton Orient – Vale Park
Leyton Orient head to the Potteries looking to build on last weekend’s draw with in-form Grimsby Town.
The O’s face a Port Vale side who were surprisingly beaten by struggling Morecambe during the week, having remained unbeaten in their previous six league outings before that.
Orient have won just once in twelve League Two outings and currently occupy twentieth place, eight points above the dropzone.