Final Matchday Preview
All of the action in the Coca-Cola Championship takes place on Sunday with only the play-off places to be decided. A recent report from Deloitte’s Sports Business Group estimates that promotion from the Championship to the Premiership will be worth about £60m. The three promoted teams are guaranteed at least £35m extra revenue and if teams are subsequently relegated they will get “parachute payments” of £20m over the next two seasons.
Derby, who should are in the playoffs for sure, take on the relegated Leeds side. Wolverhampton take on Leicester and Wolves boss Mick McCarthy has no serious injury concerns ahead of this must-win clash.
My pick to win this weekend and to win the playoffs, Southampton, won’t have it easy despite being matched up against relegated side Southend United. The Saints are hopeful that Polish stikers Grzegorz Rasiak and Marek Saganowski will be healthy. Southampton were also making news this week as they were linked with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the world’s 19th richest man, as a potential investor. A source close to Allen told the Daily Mail: “He sees Southampton as a sleeping giant, a family-supported club with traditional values.” Southampton have been searching for new investors since Michael Wilde replaced Rupert Lowe as chairman last summer. Wilde resigned earlier this year after failing to attract investment to the club.
West Bromwich Albion face a tough game against Barnsley. Injuries and suspensions have cut into Tony Mowbray’s options as on-loan Reading defender Sam Sodje is hampered by a foot problem and striker Diomansy Kamara and defender Neil Clement are suspended. On the positive side for the Baggies, midfielder Darren Carter returns from his recent ban and defender Paul McShane has had his appeal against a red card at Burnley on Monday upheld by the Football Association. McShane would have faced a four-match ban after receiving his second red of the season following a clash of heads with Burnley’s James O’Connor.
Currently outside the playoff spots but still in contention are Stoke and Preston North End. Stoke are facing QPR and received bad news this week when winger Liam Lawrence discovered that he had torn his knee tendon while making a challenge during the 3-1 win against Colchester last weekend. QPR will be bolstered by the returns of winger Lee Cook, defender Danny Cullip, striker and leading scorer Dexter Blackstock and midfielder Mark Bircham, who is back in the squad for the first time since January.
Preston face the already promoted Birmingham, who will likely field a strong side as they are still in position to go up as champions of the league. Preston will be without two key players as striker Neil Mellor pulled a hamstring playing for the reserves on Monday and midfielder Paul McKenna with a groin strain. The 29-year-old has been absent since February after hernia surgery but has been struggling with associated problems and suffered a groin injury when he tried to step up training on Monday.
For Birmingham, Fabrice Muamba will miss the match after his red card against Sheffield Wednesday last weekend. Damien Johnson is doubtful as he is battling to recover from the hamstring injury which has seen him sidelined for the last three games. In other club news, the Blues have agreed to sell Mikael Forssell to German club Hannover for around £1million. Forssell is keen for a fresh start after being dropped from the Birmingham starting XI earlier this season and being unable to force his way back in after an October knee operation. Birmingham’s rival for first place, Sunderland, face the relegated Luton Town.
Burnley v Coventry
Colchester United v Crystal Palace
Hull City v Plymouth Argyle
Ipswich Town v Cardiff City
Sheffield Wednesday v Norwich City