Championship Preview: Derby host rivals Forest as play-off race hots up
By Football News
Much more than local rivalry will be on the line when promotion hopefuls Derby County and Nottingham Forest meet on Saturday.
Bragging rights may be important to the fans, but for the managers a return to winning ways means much more as they look to secure a Championship play-off berth.
Having moved themselves into the top six earlier in the season both sides have begun to stutter with Derby without a win in their last four, and Forest in their last six.
Derby remain in third place in the table but they have fallen 10 points behind the second-placed Burnley, making their automatic promotion bid unlikely, and they have also seen the chasing pack close the gap, with six teams - from third to eighth - now only separated by seven points.
After four matches without a win against Derby, Forest collected all three points at the City Ground earlier this season, a result which saw Nigel Clough sacked, and they will hope to extend Derby's current run of four games without a goal.
Another play-off contender, Queens Park Rangers, have also stumbled in recent weeks and defeat at Sheffield Wednesday saw them miss the chance to overtake Derby.
Harry Redknapp's men were beaten 3-0 at Hillsborough on Tuesday and travel to Middlesbrough on Saturday, a side they have beaten three times in a row.
Wigan Athletic, who host Watford, are the form team in the play-off hunt and although they were held by Yeovil Town on Tuesday, in a thrilling 3-3 draw, they are now unbeaten in their last seven league matches and still have a game in hand.
If Forest to lose to Derby, they could see their top-six place taken by Reading or Brighton and Hove Albion.
Reading face struggling Birmingham City at St Andrews, while Brighton host Ipswich with the two sides only separated by five points ahead of kick off.
The top two, Leicester City and Burnley, have yet to lose in 2014 and while the sides below them struggle, they have both continued to dominate the division.
Leicester can record a fifth consecutive league win at Blackburn Rovers, and Burnley travel to relegation-threatened Charlton Athletic.
Charlton collected their first with under new head coach Jose Riga against Bournemouth on Tuesday but reproducing a similar result against Sean Dyche's side will be a big ask.
That midweek win saw Charlton climb out of the bottom three on goal difference, and the side that replaced them, Millwall, will hope to return the favour when they travel to the out-of-form Leeds United.
Yeovil could move out of the relegation zone if they beat Bolton Wanderers at Huish Park, while bottom club Barnsley host AFC Bournemouth.
Sheffield Wednesday, with four wins in their last six, face Yorkshire rivals Doncaster Rovers and Blackpool will hope to arrest their fall down the table when they host Huddersfield Town.