The Christmas period is a busy time for everyone, especially football fans. Sandwiched in between your turkey sandwiches is a ton of football action. This year sees a madcap couple of weeks in the Championship, as the promotion race ramps up going into the New Year.
However, there’s no need to fret over the busy Championship schedule. Here’s everything you need to know about a busy two weeks. We have the low-down all the biggest matches, running through the standout clashes. We’re also going through all the televised games. From kick-offs to betting previews, we have you covered.
(All kick-offs 3pm unless stated)
December 22nd & 23rd
This weekend kicks off a busy 11 days, the first of four rounds of matches bringing us into the New Year. It’s a regular Championship weekend, with 12 games split across Saturday and Sunday. That includes second-placed Norwich heading for a tough trip to Blackburn, Sheffield United at bottom side Ipswich and West Brom facing a trip to Rotherham.
One standout clash comes at the very bottom, as Bolton look to climb out of the bottom three. The Trotters are away to Brentford, a side who are only three points clear of the bottom three. The Bees have been slipping down the table, as we covered in our latest Championship review. They’ve ended up as candidates for relegation after one win in 16 games. That makes a meeting with struggling Bolton a crunch clash.
5:30pm, Sky Sports Main Event
The late game on Saturday is a test for a Swansea side who have pushed into play-off contention with back to back wins. They face an in-form Hull side, which is bound to be a challenge. The Swans are hoping that Graham Potter can inspire a return to the Premier League despite their summer exodus, and a win here would go a long way.
1:30pm, Sky Sports Main Event
The key game of the weekend is Sunday’s match, as the Championship wraps up before Christmas. Leaders Leeds United put themselves clear of the chasing pack last time out, but they kick off after everyone else this time around. A tough visit to an improving Aston Villa side should make things difficult for the league’s pacesetters, with the Villains pushing to boost their own play-off ambitions. However, a win in this trip leaves Leeds top of the tree at Christmas.
Christmas Day will likely be a turkey free-zone for the Championship footballers, as they’re quickly back in action. It’s set to be a madcap day of action, with 12 matches kicking off at 3pm. It’s certainly a day for those who enjoy a Both Teams to Score accumulator across the second tier.
Sheffield United v Derby
Sky Sports Main Event
We’ll start with Derby’s trip to Bramall Lane, the day’s featured game. The Rams are hoping to boost their own play-off ambitions. However, they’re up against another side who have spent the majority of the campaign inside the top six. There’s pressure on both to continue their push for promotion, and it’s got to be worth keeping an eye on what should be an entertaining clash.
Norwich v Nottingham Forest
The Canaries want to press on with their automatic promotion bid, but Forest are aiming to go up themselves. The visitors invested in the summer, handing Aitor Karanka a squad capable of making the top six. It’s a worthy rival to the live game, as the Canaries continue to challenge for the second tier title.
Leeds v Blackburn
Meanwhile, Norwich’s main rivals face a Blackburn side who beat them earlier in the season. The hosts are hopeful of keeping up their hold in first place over the Christmas period. However, we have concerns about how Marcelo Bielsa’s style will fit such a busy period. They’re meeting a Blackburn team who are able to match many of their strengths, which could make thing really difficult.
The first Saturday after Christmas brings a full round of 3pm games, mirroring Boxing Day. These are the games which carry you through that hazy break between Christmas and the New Year. This time around, there are no live matches from this round. That doesn’t mean there’s a dip in quality, as there’s more than enough to keep an eye on this weekend. Bolton’s relegation fears are put to the test against Stoke while struggling Brentford face a test at Birmingham.
Norwich v Derby
A clash between the Canaries and the Rams pits together two sides with Premier League aspirations. The duo have talented squads, and they’ve more than proven their worth so far. It’s a shame that this won’t be a featured TV game, but it’s certainly one which could provide plenty of entertainment in a packed day of action.
Leeds v Hull
A clash between one English giant starved of Premier League football, and one recent top-flight drop-out potentially crashing to League One. It’s an interesting battle, which once again puts pressure on Leeds due to the hectic schedule. The Tigers will see this one as a free hit, knowing that Elland Road has seen a few shocks already.
Preston v Aston Villa
When these two last met, they played out a thrilling 3-3 draw at Villa Park. That result came at a time when the two sides were turning around their seasons. Now Villa are hopeful of a play-off spot, while Preston are making a move for a top half finish, following their terrible start. Given that they’ve both improved since their last thriller – but arguably remain as open defensively – this could be one to remember.
New Year’s Day
The EFL Clearly believe in kicking 2019 off with on the right foot. Aston Villa v QPR, Ipswich v Millwall and Hull against Bolton are all scheduled in, which could impact the top and bottom of the table. Despite that, they haven’t made our four picks from this round.
Derby v Middlesbrough
Another clash between play-off hopefuls, this encounter comes after these two shared a draw earlier this term. The duo will be searching for another victory to stay in the top six hunt, which arguably gives it level billing with the biggest clash of the day.
Nottingham Forest v Leeds
Sky Sports Main Event
There’s another live 3pm game on New Year’s Day, which pits Leeds at a strong Nottingham Forest side. They were level at Elland Road earlier this season, but this is a Forest side who tend to do slightly better on their travels. The visitors will want another big result in their push for the Premier League, but as their fourth match in 11 days, it’s a massive hurdle for Bielsa’s side.
Blackburn v West Brom
West Brom’s chase for a quick top-flight return brings them to Ewood Park, but can they claim all three points? Tony Mowbray will be eager to get one over his former side, given his excellent work with Rovers. These two were a full division apart last term, but now they seem quite evenly matched as they come head to head again.
Brentford v Norwich
Back in October, an assenting Norwich side beat Brentford 1-0, as the Bees fell away from the promotion race. These two had very different starts – Norwich won one of their first six, Brentford were early promotion contenders. With their positions switched, this should be a telling game for both as they look for a strong 2019.