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Saturday, February 8
Everton v Crystal Palace – Goodison Park
Out of sorts Palace head to Goodison Park looking to end a winless sequence which has seen them slip nervously towards the relegation zone.
A clanger from goalkeeper, Vicente Guaita, cost the South Londoners against Sheffield United last time out – the usually reliable stopper dropping the ball over the line for the Blades winner. However, boss, Roy Hodgson was quick to defend the Spaniard and confirmed hs post-match apologies were rejected by both himself and the players.
“He was the first one when he came in after the game to apologise,” Hodgson told www.cpfc.co.uk
“But from my point of view, the coaching staff and the players’ point was to say: ‘You don’t apologise for anything. Because it is thanks to you that we are where we are.
“We’ve got 30 points from 25 games. Without you, and without the work you’ve done, we’d have a damn sight less points. So in actual fact, you owe us nothing and we owe you an enormous debt.”
Hosts Everton are four without defeat – the ten-man Toffees producing a stunning fightback from two goals down to win by the odd goal in five at Watford last weekend.
Brighton & Hove Albion v Watford – The Amex Stadium
As ever, Nigel Pearson offered an honest assessment after relegation-threatened Watford threw away a 2-0 lead, losing 3-2 to Everton at Vicarage Road last Saturday.
“I’ve said already the important thing is we have to look after our own performances and our own results, and this will continue to be how we approach the season,” he told www.watfordfc.com.
“Today that means we will have to reflect very honestly on the fact we’ve not taken care of our own performance.
“We worked hard enough to get in front, and then we’ve not worked hard enough to preserve the lead we’ve worked so hard to get.”
The Hornets now look to bounce back against a Brighton side who staged a remarkable recovery of their own last week – recovering a 3-1 deficit at West Ham to draw 3-3.
Sky Bet Championship
Blackburn Rovers v Fulham – Ewood Park
In-form Fulham travel to Ewood Park hoping to close the gap on the automatic promotion places.
The Cottagers face a Blackburn side in a bit of form themselves just now and although the West Londoners 3-2 victory over Huddersfield last week was their third in four games, boss Scott Parker will be hoping for an altogether more comfortable ride after his charges almost allowed an early three-goal lead slip to the dogged Yorkshiremen.
“Those are the games that take a few years off you. The first 38 minutes we were very good and we were clinical in the way we played,” he told BBC Radio London.
“We should have put Huddersfield to the sword and instead I am disappointed in the way we take our foot off the pedal. It looked like we got a bit complacent, and at that point, you give a team like Huddersfield a fighting chance.
“In the second half we were holding on and I am glad we got the result. Ultimately it was down to a lack of intensity.”
Brentford v Middlesbrough – Griffin Park
Bees Head Coach, Thomas Frank, heaped praise on impressive Algerian frontman, Said Benrahma after his hat-trick went some way towards securing an emphatic 5-1 win at Hull City last week.
Benrahma had lost his father during the week leading up to the game and boss Frank offered words of support and encouragement to the Brentford striker.
“We all know it’s very difficult when people lose a loved one. We gave him all the time off that he needed to get his head in the right place,” Frank told BBC Radio London.
“It was a very nice tribute for his father. He’s had some emotional days but he said he wanted to play for his Dad and do the best he can.
“He was magnificent in his actions, his touches and of course scoring three goals. It was a fantastic performance from him.
“It was a very good performance, especially in the final third. We had great fluidity up front and I was very pleased with our structure and discipline.”
Brentford now face a Middlesbrough side that have lost their way of late after looking likely to make a late charge for the play-off places.
Hayden Coulson netted Boro’s equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Blackburn last time out. However, its now four without a win for the Teeside outfit who face a Brentford side sitting fifth following one defeat in five.
Huddersfield Town v Queens Park Rangers – John Smith’s Stadium
Mark Warburton had mixed feelings after Queen’s Park Rangers slipped to defeat against in-form Bristol City last week.
Famara Diedhiou’s first-half diving header separated the sides at Loftus Road – the R’s third defeat in four: “Against a team that are pushing hard for promotion, you have seen a very dominant, one-sided second half,” Warburton told www.qpr.co.uk.
“We were a little bit ponderous in the first half in difficult conditions, but we lacked a bit of creativity and guile. In the second half we were so much better, but it is about putting the ball in the back of the net.
“My biggest fear is the players lose belief because they have got to understand how good they can be. We created chances left, right and centre but we didn’t get the rewards.”
Rangers now face a relegation-haunted Huddersfield side that has won once in five outings and sit three points and two places above the dropzone.
Stoke City v Charlton Athletic – Bet365 Stadium
Goals from Lyle Taylor and Andre Green was enough for Charlton to see off struggling Barnsley by the odd goal in three at the Valley last time out. However, ‘Addicks boss, Lee Bowyer, believed the margin of victory should have been greater.
“It should have been more comfortable really, and I’d rather it had been a bit prettier at times. Some of the players coming back are a bit rusty,” he told BBC Radio London.
“We didn’t pass it how we normally would and the pitch was dry. The most important thing at this stage of the season is three points – it doesn’t matter how you get it.
“You have to dig in sometimes and grind out results, and that is what we have just done.”
Charlton now take on a Stoke side that has displayed positive signs of recovery since Michael O’Neil took charge at the Bet365 Stadium.
Despite going down 4-0 at Derby last time out, the Potters have won three of their last five and have edged outside the dropzone by a place and two points.
Sky Bet League One
AFC Wimbledon v Fleetwood Town – Kingsmeadow Stadium
Glynn Hodges will be looking for an improvement from his AFC Wimbledon side after they slipped to defeat at Accrington Stanley last weekend.
The Dons boss was clearly agitated, apologising to the travelling fans, telling www.afcwimbledon.co.uk: “I apologise for that first-half. The goal gave the fans something to shout about, but the performance wasn’t acceptable.
“We appreciate their support, they were fantastic again today, and we thank them. There is lots to work on, there will be plenty of reviews and analysis. We will be getting back to working on putting things right for next weekend.
“You can’t always feel your best. Sometimes you might feel under the weather or have stiff legs, but you have to understand how you grind out results.
“We are lacking a bit of experience in that department, so you just have to know that there’s a job to do. The minimum you have to give is to do your job and be reliable in the position you are in. We’ve just spoken in there after the game and they have to take it on board.”
Wimbledon – just one place above the relegation zone – now faces Joey Barton’s Fleetwood side who remain in touching distance of the play-off places following three draws and a win in their last four.
Sky Bet League Two
Leyton Orient v Macclesfield Town – Breyer Group Stadium
Improving Orient are looking for their third win in four outings when struggling Macclesfield Town are the visitors to the Breyer Group Stadium on Saturday.
The O’s bolstered their attacking options with the addition of Danny Johnson, Ouss Cisse and Kazaiah Sterling, while Cypriot Under-21 international, Ruel Sotiriou, continues to impress – scoring twice in a 3-0 victory over Stevenage last weekend.
Visitors, Macclesfield, have lost back-to-back League Two matches but remain six points above the relegation zone. The North-West side will point to a 3-0 victory over the O’s at Moss Rose back in August, suggesting the home side shouldn’t take them lightly.
Sunday, February 9
Manchester City v West Ham United – Etihad Stadium
Troubled West Ham could hand a debut to Jarrod Bowen at the Etihad Stadium following his move to east London from Hull City.
The winger netted 52 goals in 124 appearances for the Tigers and the Hammers – sitting third from bottom – will need that form and some if they are to claim anything from a Manchester City side smarting from a dramatic defeat at Tottenham last time out.
Another new signing, Czech midfielder, Tomas Soucek is again likely to feature following an impressive debut in the Hammers 3-3 draw with Brighton at the London Stadium last weekend.
Sky Bet Championship
Millwall v West Bromwich Albion – The Den
Gary Rowett reflected upon Millwall’s draw at Sheffield Wednesday, suggesting there is room for improvement within his battle-hardened side.
The goalless draw at Hillsborough left the Lions five points outside the play-off places following a hectic schedule: “If I look at the overall performance, it is a point we are happy with,” Rowett told BBC Radio London.
“I am not overly happy with some parts of the game, but we always have to look at context.
“We’ve played a Premier League team in Sheffield United and Leeds, which was physically demanding, and we looked a bit leggy and didn’t have that zip about us.
“We were a bit slow playing through the lines and their two centre-halves dealt well with Matt Smith. A lack of quality and composure in the key area was symptomatic all game.”
Visitors, West Brom, currently top the table following a 2-0 success over Luton Town last time out, ending a run of seven without a win.