Championship Preview: Watford face Wolves hoping to consolidate second place

The Hornets look to be hitting their straps at just the right time after climbing into the automatic promotion places for the first time this season last weekend
Every season a team comes from seemingly nowhere to snatch promotion from the Championship and Watford currently look to be this term's candidates ahead of their trip to Wolves this weekend.

Gianfranco Zola's side are the top scorers in the division and have won seven of their last nine games, propelling them into the top two for the first time this term.

Despite his side's meteoric rise from mid-table to promotion pace-setters, the former Chelsea striker is refusing to get carried away with his success.


Hull City
Sheff Wed
C Palace (Fri)
Watford (Fri)
Bristol City
Nottm Forest
After the Hornets' 2-1 win over Derby last weekend, Zola told BBC Three Counties: "We have to keep our feet on the ground, we're not elevating ourselves.

"Anything can happen, but we have to be calm and controlled. We need to keep performing and winning games.

"It's essential we keep working on performances and improving things. Today, although it's a good victory, I see things we need to work on."

"In football, it happens every week, favourites lose and it happens."

Watford's transfer policy has raised many eyebrows and even angered the usually placid Ian Holloway, who blasted the "ludicrous" agreement which has seen them take 10 players on loan from Udinese and Granada, with all three clubs being owned by the Pozzo family.

One of Watford's biggest loan successes has been Matej Vydra.

The Czech Republic international has scored 20 goals in 29 games in the English second tier and exclusively revealed this week that the 20-year-old's exploits have piqued the interest of Manchester City and Juventus.

Vydra's agent, Ondrej Chovanec, also confirmed in January that a host of other top-flight teams were eyeing the forward as a potential bargain buy.

"At the moment, five Premier League clubs are interested in Matej," he said at the time.

"[But] we want Matej to stay with Watford at least until the summer. We are not planning any rush move for him.

"He has been at the club for six months, everything has worked fine, he has been coached by a great manager and the people love him. We have no reason to change anything.

"Udinese or Watford will not sell him for £5 million. If you look back at the previous transfers of the clubs owned by the same owners, you will see that they only do big ones. They sold [Alexis] Sanchez to Barcelona [for £23m], for instance."

While the Hornets buzz around the upper echelons of the table, early-season favourites Blackpool will hope to inch their way towards survival when they face 23rd-placed Bristol City.

The Czech starlet has the best goals-to-games ratio of any of the Championship's big-hitters and has struck eight times in his last eight outings. With Manchester City and Juventus looking at a summer deal for him, he will be desperate to impress.
The 27-year-old has featured in all but one of the Tangerines' league games this term and Paul Ince's side have a relatively strong defensive record compared to those around them. Baptiste's continued good form will be crucial to keeping his side safe.
Since his January arrival from Sunderland, Campbell's five goals have been worth a total of eight points to Cardiff. Without the 24-year-old, the Bluebirds would have seen their dominant lead wiped out and the jitters would once again be setting in around the Welsh capital.
Since taking charge at Bloomfield Road, Paul Ince is yet to see his team score a goal across two games but striker Matt Derbyshire, who has experience of working with the former midfielder, has backed 'the Guv'nor' to turn things around.

"Obviously I've known him from my time at Blackburn and he's a good manager," the 26-year-old told Blackpool's official website. "He knows how to work with the boys and I enjoyed my time with him last time.

"He hasn't changed that much, he's still the same manager and the same person. I think at Blackburn he didn't get enough time, and that was wrong.

"I think now though at Blackpool he'll get that time and I think he'll show a lot of people what he can do."

The Robins are still mired in a relegation fight, despite a stunning 5-3 win over Barnsley last weekend, a result that manager Sean O'Driscoll believes had been coming, despite consecutive defeats preceding it.

He told reporters: "I said after our defeats at Cardiff and Crystal Palace that the spirit had not been knocked out of us and this display proved it.

"We still have a long way to go, but if the players can maintain that level of commitment we will give ourselves a chance.

"Our home form is good and we have improved in away games without getting any reward as yet."

At the very top of the table, however, remain Cardiff, who will be hoping to pile more misery on Tony Mowbray's out-of-form Middlesbrough.

Boro faced Chelsea in the FA Cup on Wednesday night, going down 2-0 to the Blues, and Mowbray has demanded a switch in focus from his side as they look to get their promotion push back on track.

"We've got 12 games left," he told reporters. "For six months of the season, we've been in the top six. We've obviously fallen off the pace in the last six weeks for whatever reason.

"We've got to get back to business really and start winning football matches. Our only ambition this year is to try and get out of this league.

"The top two looks beyond us now, but we've got every chance of finishing in the top six, as do a lot of other clubs, of course. We've got a 12-game season to achieve that goal."

After changing the Bluebirds' kit to red in the summer, reports in the week had suggested that Cardiff owner Vincent Tan could change the club's name to Cardiff Dragons, but the Malay businessman was quick to play down the speculation.

"I can assure all supporters that we will not be changing our name from Cardiff City Football Club, a club I am very proud to be a part of," he told BBC Sport.

"Our name is our identity and remains at our core. I would not want any of our supporters to be concerned that this change would be made, hoping that this personal commitment from myself removes any fears.

"I believe the colour change is positive and will bring good tidings to Cardiff City Football Club. At this point of time, no decision has been made to change the club crest for the next season."

The week in headlines
  • Wolves owner Steve Morgan declared at a club meeting this week that he would not hang around at Molineux if he is not backed by the fans: "If it gets to the point where I feel I am not wanted, I will go. Simple as that."
  • Gedo has insisted that he wants to remain in English football with Hull City when his loan spell expires, especially if he can fire the Tigers into the Premier League.
  • Gus Poyet has impressed many with the work he has done at Brighton, and the Uruguayan admitted to being flattered by links with the manager's job at former club Chelsea this week.
  • Cardiff striker Rob Earnshaw brought his second spell with the Bluebirds to an end on Thursday, signing a permanent deal with MLS side Toronto FC.
  • Energy company nPower confirmed this week that they will not be renewing their sponsorship deal with the Football League when it expires at the end of the season. A replacement is yet to be found.

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