Blogs & Opinion


Peter Beagrie looks at live Championship games coming your way this Christmas

Features - Peter Beagrie Posted 19th December 2012 view comments

I hope all the people who are unable to get to a Football League game this Christmas tune into Sky Sports' live offerings.

We will bring you four key matches from the Championship over the festive period, starting with Blackpool's duel with Wolves on Friday night.

Each off the fixtures will feature teams gunning for promotion or, at the very least, places in the play-offs, so the clashes are sure to be keenly contested.

Clayton: the Huddersfield midfielder could play a key role against Crystal Palace

Clayton: the Huddersfield midfielder could play a key role against Crystal Palace

Read below for my thoughts on the games in question...

Blackpool v Wolves: 7.30pm, Fri, Dec 21 (Sky Sports 2 HD)

Blackpool are eight games unbeaten under the stewardship of Michael Appleton and have tightened up defensively in recent weeks, though there is still work to do in that department for the former Portsmouth manager. A heart-warming win over near neighbours Blackburn in front of the Tangerine Army has moved Blackpool to within five points of the play-off places, and their next two matches - against Wolves and Huddersfield - represent their best chance of getting points over the Christmas period with games against high-flying Middlesbrough and Hull up after that.

Wolves continue to be a conundrum; performances are getting better but back-to-back victories were followed by a defeat at Middlesbrough last weekend. Wanderers have an experienced squad and should be doing better but with an inexperienced yet seemingly unflappable manager in Stale Solbakken at the helm, the Wolverhampton faithful are not convinced the club has the recipe for promotion. The players who could light up the game are Blackpool's much-coveted Thomas Ince (pictured) and Wolves newcomer Bakary Sako. Both widemen have devastating pace and trickery and an eye for goal, and have been stars of the Championship season so far.

Crystal Palace v H'field: 5pm, Sat, Dec 22 (Sky Sports 2 HD)

At the time of writing, Crystal Palace are two points behind Championship leaders Cardiff and one point ahead of Middlesbrough and Hull so, with an evening kick-off against Huddersfield on Saturday, could find themselves in fourth place. Even if that is the case, the Eagles have covered themselves in glory over the first half of the season and Dougie Freedman, Ian Holloway and the playing staff have been a revelation - but the Palace fans have created such noise that they have more than matched the on-field exploits of their side. Glenn Murray and Wilfried Zaha have been taking all the plaudits but the Londoners are anything but a two-man team, with midfielders Owen Garvan, Andre Mortiz and Kagisho Dikgacoi troubling the scorers regularly.

I was worried when my favourite Championship 'keeper, Julian Speroni (pictured), cut off his ponytail but he has performed heroics and shown no loss of strength or form after his visit to the barbers. Huddersfield, meanwhile, have dropped a couple of places after their fourth defeat in six games but a 29-point haul from 22 games has given them an 11-point buffer from the relegation places. The Terriers have picked up more points away from home and found it easier to score on their travels than at the John Smiths Stadium. It was always going to be tough without Jordan Rhodes' goal-scoring endeavours but expect a couple of signings to boost a squad that has shown enough to suggest they will consolidate in the Championship. The men to watch in this game will be the brilliant Yannick Bolasie (Crystal Palace) and bargain buy Adam Clayton (Huddersfield).

Nott'm Forest v Leeds: 12pm, Boxing Day (Sky Sports 1 HD)

Only one point separates these two teams but with Forest playing away at Gianfranco Zola's Watford and Leeds afforded home advantage in a Yorkshire derby against Tony Mowbray's Middlesbrough that could easily change by the time these sides meet. After back-to-back losses against Ipswich and Hull, Forest have gained four points from six and the big plusses have been the blossoming strike partnership of Billy Sharp and Dexter Blackstock and the renaissance of Andy Reid.

Leeds have had a positive response since their takeover, however flaky the investment of real investment seems. Recent loan signings have made a huge difference so expect the five or six borrowed players to sign to the end of the season, as well as the acquisition of a new striker. Leeds are playing a very attacking brand of football under Neil Warnock and have taken 15 points from a possible 18 with both Luciano Becchio (pictured) and Paul Green among the goals. Forest star Sharp - buoyed by the birth of a new baby boy - is an out-and-out goal-scorer who will catch the eye, while Leeds' teenage sensation Sam Byram will hope to add to his growing reputation as one of the most assured attacking full-backs outside the Premier League.

Brighton v Watford: 5pm, Sat, Dec 29, (Sky Sports 2 HD)

Brighton are without a win in four Championship matches and have been beset by injuries to Spanish trio Andrea Olandi, Vicente and Bruno Saltor, as well as Gary Dicker. Albion showed great heart to come from 2-0 down to draw with Millwall on Tuesday night but Gus Poyet was once again left bemoaning the fact that he did not have the threat of one-time loanee Chris Wood to finish off all the fantastic approach play that Brighton produce. Watford have Nottingham Forest at home and Bristol City away in their next two fixtures and should have kept pace with the teams around them before they tackle Brighton. The Hornets, along with Palace are one of the two teams that have, against the odds, made a big impression with limited resources and little expectation. This should be a game for the purists as Gus and Gianfranco like their teams to play out from the back.

Brighton will be favourites on home soil but that could play into Watford's hands, as Zola's men flourish with the underdog tag. Many people will be expecting this to be a low-scoring affar and a direct shootout between Brighton's Craig Mackali-Smith and Watford's Troy Deeney, but my players to keep an eye on are Will Buckley and Nathaniel Chalobah. Albion's Buckley is a tall, rangy winger who is comfortable on either flank and even though he already has five goals to his name this term, there is much more to come from a player who I have watched closely since his early days at Rochdale. Hornets man Chalobah, meanwhile, is a machine; athletic, elegant on the ball and with a great temperament, the Chelsea loanee is equally comfortable playing as a footballing centre-half or a Patrick Vieira-like midfield player; the 17-year-old's influence on this game will be crucial.

Excitement

However, there are big matches aplenty in all three divisions this Christmas that will effect both tends of the tables.

Defenders usually afford forwards lots of festive spirit leading to crazy scorelines and excitement galore, so strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.

My games to look out for are as follows...

CHAMPIONSHIP

Cardiff v Crystal Palace (Boxing Day)
Hull v Leicester (Boxing Day)
Bristol City v Peterborough (Sat, Dec 29)

LEAGUE ONE

Brentford v Stevenage (Sat, Dec 22)
Doncaster v MK Dons (Sat, Dec 22)
Hartlepool v Portsmouth (Sat, Dec 22)

LEAGUE TWO

Rotherham v Port Vale (Boxing Day)
Southend v Gillingham (New Year's Day)
Bristol Rovers v Plymouth (New Year's Day)

And finally...

Thank you to all the fans that have taken time to write in and ask me questions this year, regarding your club's players, performances and general wellbeing. I hope you all have a brilliant Christmas and prosperous New Year.

back to top

Other Experts:

Latest Posts in :

Alex Ferguson

Clowney's no joke

US sports expert Alex Ferguson profiles Jadeveon Clowney, the biggest defensive pick of the draft....

Alex Ferguson

King James reigns

Alex Ferguson celebrates a wacky, smile-inducing year in US sport - and salutes Miami's LeBron James....

comments

Alex Ferguson

Start your engines!

Alex Ferguson predicts who will triumph in NASCAR's showpiece race, the Daytona 500....

comments

Alex Ferguson

A perfect union?

Alex Ferguson looks at the possible unionisation of college football and how he would handle the issue....

Alex Ferguson

Call of the century

Spacemen Portland pick Bowie over Jordan - Alex Ferguson ranks the biggest decisions in US Sport....

comments

Alex Ferguson

Independence aces

Alex Ferguson kicks off his Independence Day fun by picking his 20 best bits of American sport....

comments

Jamie Redknapp

Toffees come unstuck

Man Utd's men with a point to prove can take advantage of Everton's midweek blow, says Jamie Redknapp....

Paul Merson

Merson's predictions

Paul Merson says Liverpool WON'T beat Norwich - and Chelsea and Man City will close the gap....

Ed Chamberlin

Van the man?

Ed Chamberlin explains why Tejay van Garderen is capable of plucking the Tour de France's Yellow Jersey....

comments

Jamie Carragher

Bruce almighty

Steve Bruce deserves a mention when this year's managerial awards are handed out, says Carra....

Dewi Morris

Heart and soul

Dewi Morris looks at a crucial weekend in the Championship as we head towards the play-offs....

Stuart Barnes

Ups and downs

Stuart Barnes says the drama of relegation must be kept in rugby, but the play-offs need changing....

Phil Clarke

To Hull and back

Phil Clarke looks at the mental damage done to Hull FC and Huddersfield in the Challenge Cup....

Bob Willis

Away for a while

Bob Willis thinks Jonathan Trott will be absent from England duty for some time following his latest setback....

Rob Lee

Pinky and perky

Rob Lee blogs on his vivid Masters Breakfast attire and the men that made waves at Augusta National....

Mark Petchey

Fillip for Ferrer

Mark Petchey marvels at David Ferrer's win over Rafael Nadal but downplays it's long-term significance....

Barry Cowan

Heavy burden

Great Britain's best Davis Cup since 1986 fails to mask their reliance on Andy Murray, says Barry Cowan....

Alex Hammond

Just Cause

Alex Hammond reveals her tips for the Irish Grand National and the other decent racing in Ireland this weeend....

Alex Hammond

Going the distance

Marathon entrant Alex Hammond previews the Newbury action and Scottish National meeting at Ayr....

Alex Hammond

Rocky's road

Alex Hammond explains why she is backing Rocky Creek and Lion Na Bearnai at the Grand National....

Johnny Nelson

The best of friends

It will be tough but Johnny Nelson expects mates Anthony Crolla and John Murray to serve up a classic....

Glenn McCrory

Manny happy returns

Manny Pacquiao is back to his best and could yet get it on with Floyd Mayweather, says Glenn McCrory....

Johnny Nelson

Delighted for DeGale

James DeGale's Matchroom switch is the perfect move to get him back in the mix, says Johnny Nelson....

View from America

Desperate deals?

Simon Veness reviews a crazy week in the NFL's free agent frenzy, as sides splash out over $1bn....

comments

Neal Foulds

Trump tip

Ronnie O'Sullivan is favourite for the Worlds - but Judd Trump could spring a shock, says Neal Foulds....

Neal Foulds

Night at the Circus

Neal Foulds is looking forward to another fun, raucous Snooker Shoot-Out - but can't pick a winner....

comments

Neal Foulds

Simply the best?

Five-time Masters champion Ronnie O'Sullivan may be the best snooker player ever, says Neal Foulds....

comments

Kelvin Tatum

The contenders

Kelvin Tatum runs through the teams and riders ahead of the 2014 Elite League Speedway season....

Kelvin Tatum

Kelvin's 2013 Review

Kelvin Tatum salutes Poole's hierarchy and Tai Woffinden in his round-up of the speedway season....

comments

Kelvin Tatum

Rich re-Ward

Poole, and the dynamic Darcy Ward, will wrap up the Elite League title at Perry Barr, says Kelvin Tatum....

comments

Richard Moore

The final curtain

Richard Moore reflects on Sunday's Closing Ceremony to an unforgettable Olympic Games......

comments

Richard Moore

A lasting golden glow

Richard Moore suggests all the British Olympians should visit schools and talk about their experiences....

comments

Richard Moore

Favourite Froome

Richard Moore reveals his predictions for the 100th Tour de France, which starts on Saturday....

comments

Wayne McCullough

Wonderful Davis

Wayne McCullough watched Antonio Rogerio Nogueria take on Phil Davis at UFC Fight Night 24. ...

0 comments

Wayne McCullough

Jones shines bright

Wayne McCullough was highly impressed as the talented Jon Jones made short work of Mauricio Rua....

2 comments

Wayne McCullough

A bloody marvel

Wayne McCullough salutes Diego Sanchez as he edges out Martin Kampmann in a UFC humdinger....

0 comments