Championship Preview: Leaders Hull visit third-placed Burnley, plus second-bottom and third-bottom clash
5th February 2016

Championship leaders Hull City visit Turf Moor on Saturday afternoon looking for their fifth consecutive league win against third-placed Burnley.

Back-to-back victories over QPR, Cardiff City, Charlton Athletic and Fulham have propelled the Tigers to the top of the table, with Steve Bruce’s side establishing a slender one-point gap over runners-up Middlesbrough due to their short blip.

Hull could hand a debut to midfielder Nick Powell after he joined the club on loan from Manchester United on transfer deadline day, meanwhile Sean Dyche’s hosts finally landed Brentford defender James Tarkowski for an undisclosed fee on Monday following their lengthy pursuit.

30 January 2016 FA Cup fourth round : Arsenal v Burnley :Andre Gray of Burnley leaves Kieran Gibbs on the floor.Photo: Mark Leech

Summer signing Andre Gray has netted 18 league goals in 26 games for Burnley this campaign.

The Clarets drew 1-1 at Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday night, with star striker Andre Gray bagging his 18th league goal of the season.

Meanwhile at the very opposite end of the standings; second-bottom Charlton welcome third-bottom Bristol City to The Valley in a crucial relegation ‘six-pointer’ as the campaign enters February.

With just a point separating the two teams before kick-off; with both sides having tasted victory just five times this campaign, three points for either the Addicks or Robins could prove pivotal in their respective fight for survival.

Furthermore; rock-bottom faces fourth-bottom this weekend too as Bolton Wanderers play hosts to Rotherham United, who hover just above the dreaded dotted line by a matter of goal difference.

Neil Lennon’s home side currently lie four points adrift of safety after 29 fixtures this term, winning just three times, the lowest amount of league victories throughout the entire Football League.

However the Trotters will take great encouragement from their last two outings; where Bolton have picked up four points following their 3-1 triumph over Milton Keynes Dons and a courageous comeback 2-2 draw at Wolves in midweek.

Meanwhile the Millers have lost two of their last three league games against QPR and relegation rivals Charlton, with a 2-2 stalemate against Cardiff the only result separating their losing streak.

Tonight’s serving of Championship action sees former league leaders Brighton and Hove Albion face Brentford at the Amex Stadium, with the hosts looking to record their third successive league win on the spin.

Slender one-goal margin victories over Blackburn Rovers and Huddersfield Town in recent weeks has helped Chris Hughton’s side firmly claw their way back into play-off contention, plus they are now five points adrift of the top two.

Whilst the Bees have finally recovered from their New Year slump of three straight defeats to the hands of Birmingham City, Middlesbrough and Burnley after earning a vital win over Preston North End (1-3) before drawing with Leeds United 1-1 last time out.

However Dean Saunders’ men still lie eight points adrift of the top six.

Elsewhere; play-off rivals Sheffield Wednesday entertain Birmingham at Hillsborough tomorrow afternoon, knowing a win for either side could see them climb above that dotted line.

The Owls would already be sat prettily in the top six had it not been for consecutive 1-1 draws against Reading and Burnley, a run which halted Carlos Carvalhal’s side’s three-game winning streak.

However Wednesday haven’t been beaten in their last five outings; although the visiting Blues haven’t suffered defeat since Boxing Day, ironically that was the 3-0 pounding by Saturday’s hosts back at St Andrews.

Following back-to-back surprise 1-0 losses to the hands of Bristol City and Nottingham Forest; Middlesbrough will be looking to keep pressure on the league leaders Hull when they invite lowly Blackburn to The Riverside this weekend.

Despite having a game in hand over the Tigers; Aitor Karanka’s side have wobbled over the last 180 minutes of play, losing a valuable lead at the top of the table and are now within catching distance from Burnley in third.

Meanwhile Rovers; who fought off League Two Oxford United 3-0 in the FA Cup last weekend, haven’t tasted league success since consecutive wins over Bristol City and Rotherham back in early-December.

The big talking point surrounding this fixture is the possibility of Scotland international Jordan Rhodes facing his former club, just five days after leaving Ewood Park for Boro in a dramatic £9m deadline day move.

There is another huge clash at Elland Road, where Leeds United host Nottingham Forest, who haven’t lost in the Championship since November.

Dougie Freedman’s men are currently enjoying a fruitful spell of 13 games without defeat, a run which has seen Forest stick their necks above the mid-table line and perhaps made them start thinking about a play-off push with the top six now nine points adrift.

However the Whites hover almost bang in the middle between the Championship’s play-off spots and relegation zone, 12 points from the top and 11 off the bottom three having won just once in their last seven league outings.

st v Derby County - Cyrus Christie of Derby looks dejected - Photo: Simon Stacpoole / Offside.

Defender Cyrus Christie – Derby haven’t won in the Championship since Boxing Day, 2015.

Fourth-placed Derby County are still looking for their first taste of success in the Championship this year, a winless run that harks back to their 2-0 victory over Fulham on December 26.

But Paul Clements’ side should take great encouragement from the fact they are playing that exact reverse fixture tomorrow afternoon, with the Rams visiting Craven Cottage to take on Slavisa Jokanovic’s Cottagers who similarly haven’t won since 2015.

After edging their way into the play-off zone in midweek, Ipswich Town will be hoping to establish a bigger gap between them and seventh-placed Sheffield Wednesday after this weekend’s visit to QPR.

Mick McCarthy’s side, who recorded a last-gasp 2-1 victory over Reading on Tuesday night thanks to Brett Pitman’s 89th minute winner, occupy the final play-off spot by a single point following their lucky 13th win of the campaign.

Meanwhile the Rs; who have still only managed one win under manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink this term, languish down in 13th spot having failed to convert numerous stalemates into an all-important tally of three points.

Off the back of their 5-1 spanking of Premier League champions Chelsea in the FA Cup last Sunday, MK Dons will be looking to avenge that result and their last league outing when they visit Cardiff.

Karl Robinson’s side were embarrassed 3-1 by rock-bottom Bolton a fortnight ago and are now just one point above the drop zone.

However Russell Slade’s Bluebirds, who have won twice in their last three games, occupy ninth spot in the standings, four points outside the play-offs.

Preston manager Simon Grayson faces his former club this weekend when the Lilywhites commence battle with Huddersfield at Deepdale.

With both sides lingering in the bottom-half of the table, a win in Lancashire for either outfit would cushion their fans’ anxiety of a possible relegation battle come May, especially David Wagner’s away side having lost their last two outings against Brighton and Cardiff.

League Division One Play off  Semi Final 2nd leg, 10th May 2015. @Deepdale Preston Photo: Steve Parkin PNE's Boss Simon Grayson

Preston boss Simon Grayson welcomes his former club Huddersfield to Deepdale on Saturday.

And finally Reading play Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Madejski Stadium to round off the Championship fixtures this weekend, with Brian McDermott’s Royals desperate to grind out their first league win since January 2 (vs Bristol City 1-0).

Kenny Jackett’s Wolves were on a terrific New Year run; winning four games in a row against Reading, Charlton, Brighton and Fulham, but two draws and a defeat in their last three outings has soon erased any memories of that formidable form.

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