Championship Preview: Cardiff and Bristol City contest Severnside derby

The Bluebirds have opened up a commanding lead at the top of the table, but the Robins are regaining form under Sean O'Driscoll as they look to clamber out of the relegation zone
While the likes of Huddersfield and Leeds United fly the flag for the Championship in the FA Cup this weekend, there are still plenty of headlines to be made in league action.

Cardiff City have dominated the division this season and are enjoying an eight-point lead at the top of the table, with a game in hand, ahead of the visit of Bristol City on Saturday.

The Bluebirds have sat atop the league since December 2, but defender Andrew Taylor insists Malky Mackay's side must remain concentrated if they are to secure promotion after three consecutive seasons of play-off heartache.

Crystal Palace
Hull City
Nottm Forest
Bristol C (13.00)

"We know as a group of lads that there's still a long way to go and we've got to remain focused," he told BBC Sport.

"I always say the same thing, nothing's certain in football. There's still 16 games to go. That's a lot of points to be played for.

"Yes, we're in a great position but it can soon change and it's down to us to make sure it doesn't. But we've given ourselves a fantastic opportunity.

"As much as we're fighting and wanting to get to the Premier League they're fighting and scrapping not to end up in League One. We'll have to go into the game with the right mentality and hopefully come out winners."

Bristol City have won three of their five games under Sean O'Driscoll to boost their hopes of survival and midfielder Marvin Elliott believes the Robins have become a much tougher prospect under the Irishman.

He told reporters: "This is a very, very tough game and we are fully aware of that. But I would like to think Cardiff will be more worried about us now than they might have been a month ago.

"Confidence is such an important factor. We are now doing things we would not have tried a month ago and they are paying off for us.

"We've already beaten Cardiff at our place and this game does not frighten us. We are playing well at the moment and we are looking forward to the challenge.

"The Championship always throws up strange results and we will go into the next two games believing we can win them."

The Bluebirds have soared to the top of the Championship this season and are well clear of their nearest challengers, but remain without a prolific goalscorer. With Fraizer Campbell looking sharp, the onus will be on the experienced attacker to hit creative form and supply the former Sunderland man.
Boro's play-off push was boosted by their midweek 1-0 win over Leeds which broke a run of five consecutive losses. The England Under-21 man saved the points with a great last-minute save and Tony Mowbray will be looking to the shot-stopper for more heroics between now and the season's end.
Dean Saunders' side are now only out of the relegation zone on goal difference alone and their woeful defence has kept just six clean sheets all season. The Scotland international was a £3 million signing over four years ago and must begin proving that pedigree once again to save Wolves.
Middlesbrough travel to Crystal Palace on the back of Tuesday night's 1-0 win over Leeds, a victory that broke a run of five straight defeats. Despite that run, Boro boss Tony Mowbray was left baffled by a negative vibe that spread around the Riverside Stadium, that he hopes has now been broken.

"Ultimately, this club is no different to any other club," Mowbray told the Evening Gazette. "If you don’t win enough matches you will lose your job.

"And I would have to say if we were in the bottom six, struggling, looking over our shoulder, no problem, that’s fine.

"But we’re not, we’re trying to get promotion and I genuinely can’t understand negativity."

The Teessiders have also announced an official partnership with Brazilian club Ituano, whose president is Boro legend and former Brazil international, Juninho.

As part of the deal, Boro have loaned 19-year-old Marcos Rhoden and Rafael Peireira until the end of the campaign and, while the pair have not been signed for first-team action, Mowbray is not ruling out their chances of making appearances if they can impress at reserve level.

"Juninho's football club aren't going to give us the next Neymar - if they had the next Neymar, he'd be costing someone 20, 30 or 40 million," he said.

"They're not going to let two young players come to us if they were going to help them win their league or win some games.

"They are a couple of young players who are not impacting on their team who they think have the right personality to come here and develop.

"They're not here as first-team players, they're here to join the development squad and see how they get on. It's at the embryonic stages at the moment but let's see how they develop."

At the other end of the table, Wolves host Derby having dropped to 21st in the table, only sitting above the bottom three on goal difference.

The Midlands side are yet to win under Dean Saunders and the Welshman is desperate to shore up his defence in a bid to stave off the dreaded drop.

"Three managers been sacked here because the team can't keep a clean sheet," Saunders told BBC WM.

"This team has been conceding too many goals for three years. I have to change it as quickly as I can.

"For me to do the job properly we can't keep conceding goals from simple football," he added.

"We don't win enough headers all over the pitch and we don't win enough challenges.

"All the teams I've had in the past have had a defence that keeps clean sheets, that can defend goal kicks, defend long throws and defend free kicks.

"It's the easiest type of football to defend against and we've struggled."

The week in headlines
  • Huddersfield appointed Mark Robins as manager following the sacking of Simon Grayson. Robins had previously been in charge of Coventry, taking the Sky Blues from 23rd to eighth in the League One table.
  • Bristol City confirmed this week that they are close to signing free agent Brian Howard. The midfielder chose not to extend his short-term deal with Portsmouth in January.
  • Surprising reports suggested that Birmingham rejected an approach from Shanghai Shenhua for striker Marlon King this week, as the Chinese look to replace Didier Drogba.
  • A Millwall fan has been charged with a racially aggravated public order offence after being shown abusing Leeds United forward El Hadji-Diouf in November's game between the sides during a Sky Sports report into racism in football.
  • Barnsley are resurgent in the Championship, having won four of their last five, and have been handed a further boost by starlet Reuben Noble-Lazarus signing a new deal until 2015. The winger became the youngest player to feature in a Football League match when he made his Reds debut aged 15 years and 45 days against Ipswich in September 2008.
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