Leicester and Derby in Championship showdown after FA Cup defeats
It’s back to the serious business for the top sides in the Championship – Leicester City, Burnley, QPR and Derby County – after all four were knocked out of the FA Cup last weekend.
Leaders Leicester (11/8) have replaced QPR (2/1) at the head of Coral’s outright Championship market, while upwardly mobile Derby (5/1) and a stubborn Burnley (9/1) outfit are still well in the mix.
The Foxes and the Rams gave good accounts of themselves against Premiership opposition last weekend, but will both view their clash at the King Power Stadium on Friday as far more important in the overall scheme of things. First and foremost, both clubs are desperate to gain promotion at the end of the season and reach the promised land.
Leicester have scored eight goals while winning their last two league games and on current form Nigel Pearson’s side would appear to have what it takes to go all the way.
Derby were on a great run of their own before Christmas and it will be fascinating to see how they respond this weekend after their recent wobble. Coral go evens Leicester, 11/4 Derby and 12/5 the draw, but whatever the outcome it should be an entertaining encounter between the two top scoring teams in the Championship.
QPR boss Harry Redknapp is apparently looking for a striker in the January transfer window to take some heat off Charlie Austin up front, but their defence remains sound – just 14 goals conceded in 24 games – and it’s hard to imagine the west Londoners not staying in contention to the end.
Burnley are a big strong side who just won’t go away and another team definitely worth bearing in mind for promotion is Nottingham Forest (22/1).
Their confidence will be sky high after their 5-0 pasting of West Ham in the FA Cup (ironically straight after manager Billy Davies complained about the lack of a cutting edge up front), but more importantly, they have proved a difficult side to beat in the league this season with only Burnley losing less games.
They are 11 points behind Leicester, so the title might be beyond them, but promotion (7/2) is a distinct possibility and they certainly look good for a top-six finish (8/11)
Down at the bottom, Coral reckon Yeovill (30/100), Barnsley (2/5) and Doncaster (10/11), the three clubs currently propping up the division, are favourites to be relegated.
Close behind come Millwall (2/1) and Sheffield Wednesday (5/2), but the Lions will be expecting the charismatic Ian Holloway to pull them clear of trouble, while Owls fans will be hoping that whoever takes over permanently from Dave Jones at Hillsborough (and the odds are that it will be caretaker boss Stuart Gray) will so a similar job.