Ah, Friday night lights. There’s nothing quite as fulfilling as a Championship fixture the day before the full programme to bridge the gap.
That being said, if your pinnacle in terms of end-goal weekend entertainment is Championship football, you’re in trouble in the first place.
But even still – this Friday, we don’t just have a single Championship fixture. Oh no. We have two Championship fixtures.
So instead of having to go all-in on a correct score to get yourself a few pints on Saturday night, we can now land you a tasty double to enable you to get the drinks in.
The Football League don’t do a whole lot right, but we’ll give them this one.
Cardiff City are a bit of an enigma.
On one hand, you think Neil Harris isn’t doing them a service as a football club given how industrial they can be at times, and yet, they go out last week and beat West Brom.
It’s easy to think that this many games in such a short space of time will cripple a team whose resources are limited and whose squad is even more limited, but momentum in these situations is as good as an extra five players.
The energy players to keep in reserve when they’re in form is incredible and no medical charts can account for it.
Cardiff need to capitalise on that very buzz they get from beating the then-league leaders. West Brom are probably the best team in the division after Leeds.
Reading, you would think, should meat and drink at home for them, but it doesn’t quite work like that. Reading’s performances should have produced more results, and they’re considerably below their xG.
That tide will turn and this seems like the right kind of fixture for them to play around Cardiff. George Puscas – 6/1 for first goalscorer if you’re interested – has the potential to be the best player in the entire Championship, but it’s yet to bear fruit.
Look out for him in this one.
Friday, 7.45pm, Sky Sports Football
This is a gorgeous narrative. Derby County, a club who probably think a bit too much of themselves given they’re slap bang in between Leicester City and Nottingham Forest went and made what seemed to be a trendy appointment.
But the Cocu hire hasn’t worked out, and that’s being kind. The Rooney signing and the controversy earlier in the season have produced a campaign that Rams fans would rather just forget.
While players haven’t lived up to standard, the constant tinkering and reliance on a 19-year-old midfielder is a serious issue for the former Barcelona standout and former Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill is going to stroll into Pride Park and laugh at them en route to guiding a club who have embraced their identity to victory over a team clearly suffering from a crisis of their’s.
Maybe Derby County can learn that lavish splurging doesn’t always land you in front of your targets. In fact, I’m not even sure Derby know what their targets are anymore.
Stoke win this in very Stoke fashion, while Derby County surrender without much of a fight – a trend that is, unfortunately, becoming a worrying, repeated coincidence.
*All odds correct at time of publication