Championship Preview: Struggling Wolves and Blackpool meet in reduced programme

The Tangerines travel to the Black Country as two of the clubs who best epitomise the managerial mayhem in the second tier this season face off at Molineux
The Championship is reduced to five games this weekend as the FA Cup fourth round sees most of the league otherwise engaged, but there is no lack of intrigue with the five remaining fixtures.

Wolves and Blackpool have had a total of five men in charge of first-team affairs this season, as the Championship managerial merry-go-round has been in overdrive so far this term.

Dean Saunders has led the Molineux side to two draws so far since replacing Henning Berg earlier this month but will not rush into the transfer market as he looks to lead the Black Country side back to the top half of the table.

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"I think these players are good, they've just had the stuffing knocked out of them," Saunders told BBC West Midlands.

"If I can get the belief back in them, I'm sure you'll see some of those players playing like they can play, and we won't need to sign anyone.

"What I don't want to do is just panic buy and bring players to the club that are not as good what we've got."

The Tangerines are yet to find a permanent replacement for Michael Appleton, who joined Blackburn after just two months at Bloomfield Road, and caretaker boss Steve Thompson admits that the players have been affected by the uncertainty.

Thompson was assistant to Appleton and his predecessor Ian Holloway but insists he feels ready to step into the hot-seat full-time.

He told BBC Radio Lancashire: "Every week, there just seems to be some sort of blip - from the manager leaving, to losing four players [to illness] before Saturday's game [against Cardiff].

"Somewhere along the line, we're due a little change of luck. The lads are down in there but we've got to make sure we lift them and I will do.

"We see the speculation and we hear managers turning it down. All I can say is I'm ready to be a number one.

"Whatever role [chairman] Karl Oyston sees me having at this place, I'll do it to the best of my ability, like I'm doing now. Until I hear any different, I'll keep getting these lads going."

The Tangerines have been dealt a blow ahead of the game as experienced defender Ian Evatt will not play again this season after surgery on an ongoing knee injury.

Watford will look to steal a march on the play-off contenders around them who are not playing when they travel to Nottingham Forest on Saturday.

Former Hornets striker Darius Henderson joined the Reds from Millwall this week while Alex McLeish further boosted his attacking options by tying Dexter Blackstock down to a new four-and-a-half-year deal, with the Scot looking to do much more business in the coming week.
The former Manchester United trainee is Wolves' top scorer so far this season and Dean Saunders will be relying on the No.9 to grab the goals to fire them up the table. The stocky has striker has scored just once in his last six games, however, and will be eyeing a swift improvement.
The Argentine-born Italy Under-21 international recently committed his long-term future to Vicarage Road, signing a five-and-a-half-year deal after an initial loan spell from Udinese. The attacker has endeared himself to Hornets fans, contributing to 10 goals in 16 games so far this term.
Ipswich have improved markedly since Mick McCarthy's arrival but the former Arsenal attacker has scored just once this season, despite his abundance of talent. McCarthy will be demanding more goals from the former England Under-21 man as the Tractor Boys look to keep moving the table.

"We have not sat down to discuss things, but the most important thing for me is choosing who goes on that pitch and who comes into the club," McLeish told the Nottingham Evening Post.

"I am waiting on the owners' plan. I have not been briefed in the way forward. But I am picking the players, in terms of targets.

"We have had a few run by us by agents and I have said no to them. I have a clear idea of who we want. We want to remain prudent, in terms of the club, and make sure we only bring in players who will make us better.

"What do we need to win promotion or get to the play-offs, to go up automatically? I don't know. But I think we need four or five, if you include a couple on loan."

Watford boss Gianfranco Zola has once again seen his name linked with the manager's job at Chelsea, but the Stamford Bridge favourite has  been quick to dismiss the rumours.

"To be honest I am more focused on what I have to do here," he told BBC Three Counties Radio.

"I know people have been writing things but my mind is completely on this job. I want to do well until the end here."

A battle in the lower reaches of the table sees rock-bottom Bristol City host improving Ipswich at Ashton Gate.

The Robins got off to a losing start under Sean O'Driscoll last week as they slipped to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Leeds and the Irishman is looking to add numbers to his squad, but admits the club's current standing makes things tricky.

"We are not an attractive prospect at the moment," he told reporters.

"We're bottom of the league and that obviously makes it difficult when you are trying to attract people.

"If we were top of the league and going for promotion, it would be a different matter. But we are not and that affects what we can do.

"I want to have a long-term policy as well as a short-term one. But I don't want to fill the place full of players who are not going to be committed to the cause."

The Tractor Boys currently sit in 18th place, six points above the drop-zone, but have lost just four of Mick McCarthy's 15 league games in charge and he is hoping to boost his squad in order to keep the Suffolk side's upward momentum going.

"We'd like to get players in before the window closes, permanent ones but we are not having much joy at the moment," he told the club's official website.

"We're looking at loans now more than signings and I know I said that I didn't want to do that but at least if it's window to window, they stay with us until the end of the season.

"There are players out of contract and available on a free. That looks a good gig until you find out what the players are earning at the moment.

"Then you have the fact that you have to take them on to the end of the season. That's fine if it's May 4 but it's not like that, you have to take them up to July 31.

"If you don't sign them after that, it means you are paying them for three months football and three months to sit on the beach. That's just not viable."

Headlines of the Week

  • Huddersfield sacked manager Simon Grayson on Thursday after a run of 12 league games without a win. The Terriers are the 11th Championship club to have changed their boss this term.
  • Table-toppers Cardiff boosted their attacking ranks with the permanent signing of Fraizer Campbell from Sunderland. The striker was top scorer as Hull City were promoted to the Premier League in 2008 and the Bluebirds will be hoping he can repeat the trick this term.
  • Nottingham Forest released goalkeeper Lee Camp this week following the signing of Kuwait No.1 Khalid Al-Rashidi. The Ulsterman promptly joined Premier League side Norwich.
  • Luciano Becchio has rocked Leeds United by handing in a transfer request. The Argentine striker is seeking a better pay-packet and feels he must leave to get it.
  • Matej Vydra's agent has claimed that five Premier League clubs are seeking a deal for his client after his fine form for Watford this season, however the Czech striker wants to remain in Hertfordshire until the end of the season.
  • More agent talk has seen Charlie Austin's representative forced to deny rumours that the Burnley striker has been lined up by Celtic as a replacement for Gary Hooper, if he moves to Norwich.
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