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Seven of the league's top 10 teams lost their last game and now face two fixtures in a whirlwind five-day spell as the closing stages of the season get under way

Second-placed Hull City host Watford, who sit third ahead of the weekend, in the pick of the games from a bumper programme of Easter fixtures in the Championship.

Each side will play twice in just a few days as the sprint finish for places at the top and survival from the trap door at the bottom gets under way in earnest.

EASTER FIXTURES IN FULL

FRIDAY

Blackburn
Crystal Palace
Derby
Leicester
Watford
vs
vs
vs
vs
vs
Blackpool
Birmingham
Bristol City
Millwall
Burnley

 SATURDAY

Charlton
Ipswich
Huddersfield
Nottm Forest
Peterborough
Sheff Wed
Wolves
vs
vs
vs
vs
vs
vs
vs
Bolton
Leeds
Hull City
Brighton
Cardiff
Barnsley
Middlesbrough

MONDAY

Barnsley
Birmingham
Blackpool
Bristol City
Burnley
Cardiff
Leeds
Millwall
vs
vs
vs
vs
vs
vs
vs
vs
Leicester
Wolves
Crystal Palace
Sheff Wed
Nottm Forest
Blackburn
Derby
Ipswich

TUESDAY

Brighton
Bolton
Hull City
Middlesbrough
vs
vs
vs
vs
Charlton
Huddersfield
Watford
Peterborough
The Tigers are currently Cardiff's closest rivals at the table's summit and midfielder David Meyler believes his side are capable of putting together a run of results that would secure Steve Bruce's side a top-flight spot.

He told BBC Radio Humberside: "I want to win the next eight games. I'm looking at picking up 24 more points and I'm not looking at anything else.

"With the side and the manager we have we know we are capable of doing it. That is the target.

"We've got to start taking those kind of opportunities if we're going to keep winning games.

"In the last few weeks we've been quite inconsistent and that isn't like us in the time I've been here."

Before taking on the Tigers, Watford will welcome former manager Sean Dyche back to Vicarage Road with his Burnley side.

Dyche was let go by the Pozzo family upon their takeover of the Hornets and his replacement, Gianfranco Zola, expects a warm welcome for the former boss, as well as a tough test from his new side.

“It’ll be a tough game, that’s for sure,” the Italian told the club's official website.

“They are a side that play better when they’re away from home so they will make it difficult for us, but I’m relying on our quality and on the fact that we lost the last two games and the players will have a lot to show tomorrow to the people.

“I’m sure the supporters will give him [Dyche] a good wave and he deserves that because he’s done a good job for the club last year and for the players, so he really deserves that.

“I hope there’s going to be a good atmosphere tomorrow because we need it.”

Dyche himself is currently having to balance the books and has warned first-team regulars such as Dean Marney, Chris McCann and Lee Grant, who are out of contract in the summer, that they must agree to lesser terms if they want new deals at Turf Moor.

"We're not market leaders financially currently, so we can't just give them what they want and they just re-sign," Dyche told BBC Radio Lancashire.

"With the club transitioning out of the Premier League financially, there are players here who we deem good players and they're on contracts that were signed amongst those years of trying to immediately get back into the Premier League.

"It doesn't mean that we're not trying to do that, but those contracts are going to have to come down because the cost base has to come down. The negotiation process obviously becomes more difficult."

More turmoil has beset Blackburn in recent weeks, ahead of their crunch meeting with Lancashire rivals Blackpool on Friday evening.

The clash could have seen Michael Appleton return to his former club, but he was sacked after a 1-1 draw with Burnley. However, the tie will see Paul Ince return to Ewood Park for the first time since he was sacked and replaced by Sam Allardyce in 2008.

The former England midfielder is excited for the clash and has called on the travelling Tangerines support to build an atmosphere that can spur the players on to a vital three points, with both sides currently just four points above the relegation zone.

"The fans are brilliant, even the other Saturday when we were down against Peterborough, they were behind us and tried to get us going," Ince told the club's official website.

PLAYERS TO WATCH
GEORGE BOYD
A failed January move to Nottingham Forest has not perturbed the Scotland international, who has shone since switching to the KC Stadium instead. Boyd has proven himself a vital link between midfield and attack in his few appearances, scoring three goals, including one against the Reds last time out.
MATEJ VYDRA
Watford's star loanee was crowned the best player in the division last week after a stunning campaign that has yielded 20 goals in just 23 league starts. The 20-year-old Czech Republic international also notched his first international goals in midweek and will be full of confidence.
GRANT HANLEY
Plunged into turmoil once again ahead of the international break, Blackburn are now scrapping for survival and will need some strong performances from the Scotland international as they look for crucial points.
"The away fans are extra special, they really, really are. There will be loads of them making a noise and I'm sure it will be a great atmosphere.

"I'm really looking forward to it because it's a club that I've managed in the past and we've got a few players that have played there before in the past. It'll be a good occasion but we've just got to think about playing well and trying to get the three points."

In the chaos surrounding Appleton's departure from the Blackburn hot seat, Gary Bowyer has been put in temporary charge of first-team affairs for the second time this season, although he is unsure how long it will last.

"The board asked me to look after it for now," he told reporters.

"They've announced that it's until the end of the season, but I was supposed to be looking after it for the whole of January and that only lasted a week.

"We'll just treat it game by game, starting with Blackpool at home on Friday.

"We've got to try and win the game and get the team climbing up the league. You've always to be realistic and we have to try and get some wins as quickly as possible.

"Hopefully we can the start climbing the table. It has been a tough season and we want to finish it on a high now."

In the race for the play-offs an intriguing clash between Nottingham Forest and Brighton takes place on Saturday at the City Ground.

The Reds are the league's form team having won their last six games and owner Fawaz Al Hasawi believes returning manager Billy Davies can build a legacy akin to Sir Alex Ferguson's at Manchester United, despite being the Kuwaiti's fourth permanent manager in just under a year at the helm of the club.

In an interview with BBC Sport's 'Late Kick Off', Al Hasawi said: "Billy will be with us like Ferguson is with Manchester United. I mean that.

"If I am a dictator I would not bring Billy Davies into my club because he doesn't like people to interfere in his job; he is a strong manager.

"Everything was difficult when it started. There was no consistency so we changed to another manager and another manager until we got the right manager and I am really happy with Billy. The players are all the same but maybe Billy has the magic stick.

"From the beginning I didn't want to do anything in the club but when I saw what was going on I brought in Billy Davies and I am happy.

"The atmosphere has changed, the spirit has changed. Everything has changed since Billy has joined - and changed in a good way. Everyone is working harder and harder and that's what I want."

Brighton saw manager Gus Poyet strongly linked to the Reading job during the international break, before he turned down advances from the Madejski Stadium and Nigel Adkins was hired instead.

Spanish defender Inigo Calderon believes the Seagulls will now be spurred on to snatch a place in the top six after fading out of contention towards the end of last season.

"Now we have eight games against some tough teams, starting with Nottingham Forest on Saturday," he told reporters. "You have to be in with a chance with maybe five games left, not necessarily in the top six but seventh or eighth.

"For me we are better this year. We are more prepared to push for the play-offs so we will see what happens."

The weekend in headlines
  • Watford striker Matej Vydra was named Championship Player of the Year last week whilst Blackpool starlet Tom Ince picked up the gong for Young Player of the Year.
  • A "shocked and hurt" Kevin Davies has been told he will not be offered a new deal by Bolton and he will have to request a testimonial. The decision was branded "insensitive" by former Trotters boss Sam Allardyce.
  • Crystal Palace have been given a huge boost as Championship top scorer Glenn Murray agreed terms on a new three-year contract this week.
  • Leeds manager Neil Warnock has revealed that he approached Nigel Adkins about replacing him at Elland Road in the summer before his eventual move to Reading.
  • The closing of the loan window on Thursday saw a number of late deals pushed through. Crystal Palace have signed Aruna Dindane, formerly of Portsmouth, on a short-term contract. Sean St Ledger has joined Millwall on loan from Leicester. Bolton have signed Rob Hall on loan from West Ham after his temporary spell at Birmingham ended. The Trotters have allowed Stuart Holden to join Sheffield Wednesday for a month, while the Owls have also snapped up Steve Howard and Seyi Olofinjana.

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