Midweek madness, a heap of pressure and a full fixture list – in the Championship, anyway. Our Football League Hotpicks are back. We’ve plucked out five of the most likely happenings this midweek, so back our picks at your peril! Good luck, people!
The Seagulls are flying high in the Championship and could go top of the league with a win against Gianfranco Zola’s Blues at the AMEX on Tuesday evening. Since Zola’s arrival, Birmingham have slipped from play-off contenders to potential-to-be-in-League-One following their dismal results under the Italian since he took over from Gary Rowett. Zola’s first game in charge was actually against Brighton at St Andrews, and he’s won just two of the 20 games since taking over the reigns. In their last 60 Championship matches, Brighton have kept an amazing 30 clean sheets, and when you have the likes of Glenn Murray, Tomer Hemed, Anthony Knockaert and Sam Baldock as attacking options, it’s no wonder Chris Hughton’s side are the favourites for this one.
Already relegated Rotherham United face Sheffield Wednesday in a Yorkshire derby for the first time at the New York Stadium since their plummet to League One was officially confirmed on Saturday, where they lost – again – this time to Fulham. The Millers have won only four games all season, incredibly losing 30 of their 39 matches in the Championship. This should be an easy victory for Wednesday, but with Rotherham already doomed, perhaps the shackles will come off them? Whether they do or they don’t Wednesday won’t get a better chance than on Tuesday night to win and leap above Fulham into that last play-off place.
Four wins in their last four games have pushed Wolves away from relegation danger, in fact, during that sequence of results, they’ve leapfrogged Forest, who sit perilously close to the drop zone. Wolves have hardly made Molineux a fortress this term – only Rotherham and Wigan have worse records on home turf – but they’ll be in confident mood and come up against a Forest team who have the second-worst record on the road – only ‘beaten’ by Rotherham. Wolves, however, haven’t won five games in a row since the 2013-14 campaign – when they were in League One – being victorious in nine consecutive matches. In fact, it was in the 2013-14 season which was the last time we actually saw Paul Lambert crack a smile – that’s what managing Aston Villa does to you, we suppose. Incidentally, if Wolves do win, watch out for Lambert's post-match interview. We guarantee he will say "I thought we were excellent." He does it after every win. 100%.
It’s pretty much now or never for Rochdale is they want to get in the play-offs, with two wins, two draws and a couple of losses in their last six games, it shows they’re struggling for consistency at a crucial time in the season. They’ve eight points off the last spot in the top six, meaning it’s handy they’re tackling a Port Vale side who have a dismal away record in League One. The Stoke-based outfit are only two points off the relegation zone in the division, mainly down to winning once from 18 on the road this term – losing 11 of their matches away from Vale Park. For us, there’s only one way this game’s going to go.
Another side down in the dumps versus another team eager for some play-off penetration sees Millwall head to Shropshire to take on Joe Hart’s hometown team, Shrewsbury. Millwall have the upper hand historically against Salop, which, although doesn’t sound to appetising, is in fact the nickname of Shrewsbury. Anyway, as we were saying, the Lions will be aiming for their 18th win in the 39th meeting between the pair, however, they’ll also be seeking revenge for a home defeat to the same opponents earlier in the season, which saw Shrewsbury win away to Millwall for the first time in 54 years. Millwall won on their last trip to New Meadow and we expect they’ll do similar in midweek this time around.
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