Four sides with promotion aspirations are in action tonight in the Championship. Can West Brom keep their faint automatic hopes alive against Bristol City? And which of Preston or Leeds will bounce back from weekend defeats with a win?
Bristol City vs West Brom
After impressive back-to-back away wins at Sheffield United and Middlesbrough, Bristol City were widely expected to see off struggling Wigan last time out. But the Robins conceded a last minute equaliser to the Latics and dropped two important points in the process.
But with a game in hand on many of their playoff rivals, Lee Johnson’s side will still be confident of securing a spot in the top six this season.
Their opponents on Tuesday night are high-flying West Brom who still harbour automatic promotion hopes despite a very below par performance in losing 2-0 to Millwall on Saturday. The Baggies have a great record against Bristol City, winning five and losing just one of their last nine meetings but they’ve stuttered on the road of late, tasting defeat in two of their last three, having won eight of their previous nine before that.
In Dwight Gayle and Jay Rodriguez, West Brom have a strike force that has shared 36 goals in the Championship this season. They’ll fancy their chances of adding to that tally at Ashton Gate given that Bristol City have kept just one clean sheet in their last 10 games in all competitions.
Saturday’s draw with Wigan was Bristol City’s fourth home match in a row without a victory (D2, L2). That’s after winning the previous five in a row. Meanwhile, West Brom have blown hot and cold in the last two months, winning three and losing three of their last seven matches.
The two sides served up a six goal thriller at The Hawthorns back in September with West Brom winning 4-2 and Rodriguez scoring twice. Goals look on the cards again here and it might be honours even for two sides struggling for consistency at the moment.
Preston vs Leeds
With six games to go in the Championship season, Leeds have slipped out of the top two and face a tense battle with Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United for that coveted second automatic promotion place.
Leeds trail the Blades by one point after Marcelo Bielsa’s men went down 1-0 to Birmingham on Saturday and will be desperate to return to winning ways tonight. They have only suffered consecutive defeats on one occasion this season, losing to Hull and Nottingham Forest at the end of 2018.
On paper, this fixture looks more challenging still than the one at St Andrews, with Preston just five points outside of the playoff places. But after 12 games without defeat, the men from Deepdale have lost their last two and given up precious ground on the top six.
Alex Neil’s side have been in mixed form of late at home as well, picking up a win, a draw and a defeat in their last three. Matches involving Preston have typically been tight affairs with only one of their last eight being decided by more than the one goal. And aside from their 4-0 win against West Brom and 3-0 victory at Reading, it’s been a similar story for Leeds, with eight of their last 10 decided by a single strike.
That wasn’t the case however when these two sides met in September when Leeds ran out comfortable 3-0 winners. A Tyler Roberts brace and an opener from Liam Cooper securing the points for Bielsa’s side. It’s unlikely to be as plain sailing for Leeds on this occasion but they have got a strong recent record against Preston, winning five of their last eight.
And if fit, in Pablo Hernandez, Leeds have perhaps the standout player on the pitch. The Spaniard has directly contributed to 23 goals so far this campaign, scoring 12 and assisting 11. So it’s easy to understand why Leeds fans are sweating on his fitness after he left St Andrews on Saturday wearing a protective boot. It’s no exaggeration to say that the outcome of the match could well hinge on whether Hernandez is able to participate or not.
If Hernandez does miss out, much of the goalscoring burden for Leeds will rest on the shoulders of Patrick Bamford. The former Chelsea and Middlesbrough striker has four goals in his last eight games.
With automatic promotion still a very distinct possibility for Leeds and Preston reeling from back-to-back defeats, we’re tipping Bielsa’s men to edge what may well be a tight affair.