This weekend marks the start of the Championship’s eighth round of games. Mark Heath takes a weekly look at the most important matches and storylines…
This weekend has four days of games, but I’m focusing on tomorrow because it has the best games.
Two of them caught my eye. The fascinating encounter at the King Power Stadium between promotion favorites Leicester City and seventh-place Bristol City is at the top of the list.
The Foxes require no introduction. They are still the title favorites, sitting second after seven games with six victories and one defeat.
They looked pretty impressive in Wednesday, beating that Norfolk club 2-0 at Carrow Road, with winger Stephy Mavididi and midfield master Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall – when he came on – looking like different animals.
However, Bristol City will put them to the test. Nigel Pearson’s Robins have had a fairly successful start to the season, losing only one of their first three games.
They’re also coming off one of their best performances of the season, a 4-1 thrashing of rising Plymouth Argyle.
They are solid defensively and – to add a dusting more spice – you’d imagine Pearson will be keen to get one over his former club, whom he left in acrimonious circumstances eight years ago.
The other game I like the look of is the ‘no-one thought they’d struggle’ crossroads clash between rock-bottom Middlesbrough and fast-falling Southampton. Michael Carrick’s ‘Boro grabbed a point at fellow strugglers Sheffield Wednesday in midweek but still prop up the second tier table with just two draws from seven games and the league’s joint worst goal difference at minus nine.
But, heading into the Riverside, the Saints are battling their own mini-crisis with three losses on the bounce – by a combined 10-1 scoreline – and some very restless locals.
It will be fascinating to see who can pull themselves out of their funk and grab a very important three points.
Our weekly look at Town’s feathered friends finds them not quite so chirpy this week, having been handled at home by the flying Foxes on Wednesday.
That match saw star youngster Jonathan Rowe hauled off at half-time, while they suffered another injury blow to a striker, with no-nonsense Ashley Barnes going down with a knee ligament issue in the second half which will keep him out until November.
They already have star hitman Josh Sargent out until the new year with a serious ankle injury.
Boss David Wagner said: “We have shown we can trust and believe in every single one of our players. Unfortunately injuries are part of the game. We hope it is not too bad.”
Norwich, who are still having a fine start to the season and sit in fifth spot, five points behind Town, look to bounce back from defeat with the long trip to Plymouth this weekend.
The Pilgrims are traditionally very hard to beat at Home Park, while ex-Canary Bali Mumba will surely be relishing the chance to take a few pecks at his former employers.
Wagner remained upbeat though, saying: “The players have done an unbelievable workload.
“They never gave up. The support was there from the stands. Everything was here to get the result. But we got beaten by a top side. Accept it, respect it. Now we move on.
“We had three points on the table and we were not able to grab it. Three more points are on the table this Saturday at Plymouth.”