Championship Preview: Table-toppers Cardiff face tough Leeds trip

After a busy end to the January transfer window, the second tier resumes action with clashes of importance at the top and the bottom of the table to be found
After the whirlwind that is the January transfer window, the Championship gets back to action on Saturday with a near-full schedule of fixtures.

Cardiff look well set to put the disappointment of recent seasons behind them, as they currently enjoy a seven-point lead at the top of the Championship as they travel to Leeds on Saturday.

The Bluebirds pulled off what was seen as one of the coups of the window by signing Fraizer Campbell from Sunderland for £600,000 and former team-mate and Wales international David Vaughan believes the striker can be the man to secure a Premier League place for Malky Mackay's side.

Crystal Palace
Sheff Wed
Nottm Forest
Bristol City
Hull City

"Fraizer can be the difference for Cardiff," the former Crewe Alexandra midfielder told reporters.

"He’s a good player who was just a bit unlucky with injuries when he was here at Sunderland, but I’m sure he can go to Cardiff and give him that little bit extra which they need to push them over the line to promotion.

"Cardiff have done well so far and hopefully Fraizer can put his stamp on the team and get a few goals for them."

Former Cardiff man Ross McCormack will be leading the line for Leeds and is confident of pulling off a league upset after the Whites shocked Tottenham in the FA Cup last time out.

He told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "I got on well with the fans there and everyone at the club meant a lot to me. But I will be looking to put one over on them and get three points.

"I do think when we turn up and are the underdogs, that is when we are at our best.

"Cardiff won’t have it easy and won’t be able to swan around and pass us off the ball and really dominate us.

"I think if we do what we did on Sunday and get in their faces, we can definitely beat them."

In a clash that sees east Midlands meet west, Nottingham Forest's trip to Birmingham also marks Alex McLeish's first return to St Andrews since overseeing their Premier League relegation in 2011.

The Reds have not been able to find any consistency under McLeish, a fact that is not lost on the former Scotland international.

He told reporters: "I have to pick these guys up and show some leadership. I will do that. I also know they are much better than they have showed.

"I have stuck to the formula that has taken us so far this season. We tinkered with things a little in the Oldham game, but otherwise we have not changed too much.

The former Manchester United trainee is available to make his Cardiff debut this weekend and added goals from the one-time England international could see the Bluebirds romp to the title. Campbell has a good track record at this level after helping Hull City to promotion in 2008.
After a tumultuous month or so at the City Ground that has seen the Reds struggle for consistency, all involved at the club will be keen to see a charge for the top six maintained - not least the Al Hasawi family. Sharp is a proven goalscorer and will be hoping to get back into form against a struggling Birmingham side.
The Egyptian spent a couple of weeks at parent club Sunderland this month due to a lack of numbers at the Stadium of Light, but is now back at the KC Stadium. He should slot straight back in at right wing-back where his defensive aggression, pace and dangerous crossing have been missed by the Tigers in their last few games.
"We had Andy Reid missing for a few weeks, Daniel Ayala is still missing – there are missing players who are crucial to our attempt to make the play-offs.

"I also have to evaluate why there has been a lack of sharpness."

The Blues are unlikely to launch a play-off push after an injury-hit season, but Lee Clark is confident of adding to his squad once the loan window re-opens next week.

"There are lots of factors involved," Clark told the Birmingham Mail. "It’s not as easy as just having players lined up and bringing them in.

"We all know our financial situation and people have to go out first.

"It’s whether the right players are available still and the plan is to change the format of the wage bill at this time.

"We do have to be realistic about where we are. You can only have five loan players in your [matchday] 18 and we already have three in Paul Caddis, Rob Hall and Ravel Morrison. So if we’re trying, it’s very much just two more."

Also in the hunt for a top-six spot are Millwall, who host automatic promotion-chasing Hull City at The Den.

The Lions have fallen away from the play-offs since losing loan sensation Chris Wood and boss Kenny Jackett lamented a lack of attacking spark as his side slipped to a 2-0 defeat at Barnsley on Tuesday.

"We created one good chance in each half, Andy [Keogh] in the first half and John [Marquis] in the second when he was through on the keeper," Jackett said.

"After that we didn't create enough. We tried to get hold of the ball in midfield, where they had an extra man and made it pay.

"When their opportunities came they took them and it was a night for the first goal and it fell to Barnsley."

The Tigers have wobbled in recent weeks but Alex Bruce believes his side can get back on track against the Lions, having also suffered defeat to Barnsley in their last game - a result which ended their FA Cup run.

"I don't think people should dwell too much on what has happened in the last two or three games," defender Bruce told the club's official website.

"If you look at the overall picture since the start of the season, we've done well and everybody has to remain positive

"To get knocked out of the FA Cup at the weekend was disappointing, but we've said all along that promotion is our main aim this season and hopefully we can go on and achieve that now.

"You're never going to go through a season where everything is rosy all the way through.

"You'll pick up injuries and have little sticky patches. We've had a little run where things haven't gone our way, but one win can put us on a run again."

Deadline Day Headlines
  • Middlesbrough signed ex-England international Kieron Dyer on a short-term pay-as-you-play deal but released former Scotland man Kevin Thomson.
  • Hull City completed the signing of Ahmed Elmohamady from Sunderland, while fellow Egyptians Gedo and Ahmed Fathi moved to the KC Stadium from Al Ahly.
  • Leeds United swapped Luciano Becchio for Steve Morison with Norwich. They also signed Stephen Warnock from Aston Villa.
  • Kevin Phillips is reunited with former Blackpool boss Ian Holloway after joining Crystal Palace on loan. A striker who could not complete a loan move was DJ Campbell, as he saw a temporary move to Blackburn unexpectedly collapse.
  • Peterborough completed the temporary signing of highly-rated Tottenham midfielder Alex Pritchard, but a bizarre turn of events saw George Boyd's move to Nottingham Forest collapse due to a failed eye test.
  • Brighton bolstered their defensive ranks with the loan signing of Matt Upson from Stoke. The Potters signed Jack Butland from Birmingham, but he will remain at St Andrews for the rest of the season.
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