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Brentford

Brentford were in sparkling form last weekend when in front of the live TV cameras they demolished Hull City 5-1 with an attacking display that really caught the eye.

Said Benrahma hit a wonderful hat trick whilst ‘Mr Reliable’ Ollie Watkins was on the scoresheet again, bagging his 19th Championship goal of the campaign.

With title favourites Leeds surprisingly beaten at home, the Bees have closed to within five points of the Yorkshire outfit and are putting real pressure on the clubs above them. They are proving popular for automatic promotion and, if they maintain the form shown in 2020, will be very hard to keep out of the top two.

They are back on home soil this Saturday and welcome Middlesbrough to Griffin Park. The visitors look to have put any lingering relegation worries behind them and have only lost two of their last eleven Championship games, albeit that run also includes four draws. Therefore, they arrive in confident mood but still well behind Brentford and it would need a season’s best performance to shock the Londoners.

Brentford have the best goal difference in the section with a +26 differential and will be looking to keep the pressure on their rivals. A side full of attacking weapons will look to continue to entertain and they can help themselves to three more points here.

 

Cardiff

Reading enjoyed FA Cup success on Tuesday when coming from 2-0 down to beat hosts Cardiff in a penalty shootout, and they have also shown improved form in the Championship.

A side that looked to be facing a relegation fight, the club appointed Mark Bowen in mid-October and they haven’t looked back since. They have probably left themselves too much work to make a playoff charge but have strong hopes of a top-half finish and now entertain free falling Hull City.

The Tigers’ loss at home to Brentford was in fact a fourth straight league reverse and they have been nibbled at in our relegation market after descending into the bottom half. With star forward Jarrod Bowen sold to West Ham in the transfer window, the club looks short of goal threats and Reading should be able to inflict further pain at the Madejski this weekend.

 

Charlton

It may take a leap of faith to back Stoke but they host fellow relegation rivals Charlton in the Potteries in what is really the proverbial six-pointer.

City are two points above the drop zone and were hammered 4-0 at Derby on their latest outing. However, prior to that disappointment, they had secured ten points from four matches and were finally showing the form that had seen many support them for promotion during the summer. That is now an impossibility but preserving Championship football would see manager Michael O’Neill hailed a savior.

Charlton are only two points better off and on a shoestring budget, manager Lee Bowyer has worked miracles. They saw off Barnsley 2-1 at the Valley last Saturday but rarely put two wins together, and this inconsistency has been their major problem this campaign. Stoke can overtake the Addick’s with a crucial win now.

Wycombe

Wycombe have been the surprise package in League One and even though they have been unable to match their excellent early season form lately, the Chairboys still occupy second position and are more than hopeful of promotion.

A very tough recent set of fixtures didn’t help but with many of the more established clubs all beating each other, this section has remained extremely close throughout and it would take a brave man to predict the title winners and the other two promoted clubs at this stage.

Wanderers now have a chance to re-establish themselves, starting with the visit of Bristol Rovers to Adams Park. The Gas may have kept top striker Jonson Clarke Harris in the transfer window but they have dropped tamely out of the playoff picture following the loss of manager Graham Coughlan to Mansfield. They look booked for a mid-table finish and they have not won a league match in nine attempts.

Wycombe won’t have a better chance to reinvigorate themselves and should enjoy their Saturday afternoon.

Portsmouth

Portsmouth have stood by under-fire manager Kenny Jackett and the Hampshire club look to have been rewarded after storming back into the promotion race.

Over eighteen thousand saw them beat fellow title rivals Sunderland at Fratton Park and they have closed to within six points of leaders Rotherham with two games in hand.

The Pompey chimes are certainly beginning to peal and the fans are sensing promotion. They will be well supported on the long trip north to Tranmere, with the Merseyside club in danger of the drop and currently in the bottom three.

A 6-0 home defeat at the hands of Manchester United in the FA Cup followed a run of three League one defeats, with Rovers failing to trouble the opposition goalkeeper.

The club have had major issues with the playing surface at Prenton Park but that didn’t prevent Doncaster from netting three times without reply on Tuesday, and a rampant Portsmouth must be eagerly looking forward to adding to the hosts’ woes.

John Marquis was a big summer signing from Doncaster and although the front man has not scored as many as most would have hoped, his recent performances are pleasing Pompey fans and the goals are starting to follow.

Irish international Ronan Curtis has been showing his class and also finding the net regularly, and the team looks well balanced and confident. I expect another three points on their way to promotion in the North West.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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