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Championship: December return for England’s second tier

After an enforced four-week break, there is a full round of Championship fixtures on the weekend of 10th-11th December as we head into the busy festive period.

Due to the World Cup, Burnley have enjoyed a lengthy spell at the top of the table, with their boss Vincent Kompany taking up a role as TV pundit in the meantime. 

The action in Qatar may continue until 18th December but everyone in England’s second tier will be back to business next weekend and there are some mouth-watering fixtures to look forward to.

What: Blackburn v Preston 
Where: Ewood Park, Blackburn
When: 12:00, Saturday, 10th December 
How to watch: Sky Sports Football 
Odds: Blackburn 11/10, Draw 11/5, Preston 5/2 

Blackburn pushing for Premier League return

It’s been 10 years since Blackburn were last in the top flight, but this looks like their best chance since then of returning to English football’s elite. 

Last season, under Tony Mowbray, Rovers finished eighth and threatened to make the play-offs before just falling short. This season they are available at 9/1 to finish in the top two.  

The belief has grown though under Jon Dahl Tomasson, whose side are just two points outside the automatic promotion places and are looking to build on an impressive home record – having won all of their last six league games at Ewood Park. 

In Ben Brereton-Diaz, Rovers have one of the most feared strikers outside of the Premier League, with the Chilean international having already bagged nine goals this season. 

Blackburn are involved in the first fixture of Week 22, when they face Lancashire rivals Preston North End at Ewood Park in Saturday’s early kick off.

Steely Blades threaten Premier League return

Sheffield United are currently in the top two and look well set for a run at promotion this season, highlighted by their crushing 5-2 win over Burnley last month.

Paul Heckingbottom was not high on the list of most Blades fans when he was appointed as permanent manager last November, but the former Barnsley boss currently has a 52% win ratio. 

They have the league’s joint top scorer in their ranks, with Oliver McBurnie having the best stats of those sat on nine goals – with 117 minutes per goal this season. When they return to action, the Blades – 4/6 to be promoted - will face a Yorkshire derby against a Huddersfield Town team that are propping up the rest.  

Terriers boss Mark Fotheringham has only been in charge since late September and there have been signs of improvement. 

In their last 11 games they have won three, drawn three and lost five and go into this cash off the back of four points in their last two matches. 

Huddersfield, who are four points from safety, are currently priced at 8/15 to drop into League One at the end of the season. 

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What: QPR v Burnley 
Where: Loftus Road, London 
When: 13:00, Sunday 11th December 
How to watch: Sky Sports Football 
Odds: QPR 2/1, Draw 9/4, Burnley 13/10  

Leaders looking to deal with the pressure

Promotion favourites Burnley will look to hit the ground running on their return to action, when they travel to London to face a dangerous Queen’s Park Rangers team. 

The Clarets have lost just two of their 21 league fixtures this term although both of those defeats came away from home, winning just three of their nine league games on the road. 

Kompany’s men though have shown their quality and strength in the first half of the season and it’s hard to see them not being in the top two come May, and they are currently 11/10 in the Outright Winner market.  

Burnley are the top scorers in the league, with 40 goals to date, with Jay Rodriguez having chalked up nine and Nathen Tella – on loan from Southampton – finding the net on six occasions. 

QPR meanwhile, are sat in seventh in the Championship and the festive period looks like being a definitive period for their promotion hopes. 

Paul Hall has been appointed as the club’s interim manager and the Burnley game will be his first match in charge, after Michael Beale left to join Scottish giants Rangers having impressed during his five months in charge in west London.

What: Sunderland v West Brom 
Where: The Stadium of Light, Sunderland 
When: 20:00 Monday 12th December 
How to watch: Sky Sports Football 
Odds: Sunderland 2/1, Draw 9/4, West Brom 11/8 

West Brom showing signs of life

Many pundits had West Brom amongst their favourites for promotion at the start of the season, but the Baggies find themselves fourth from bottom at this stage of the campaign. 

Under Steve Bruce, the Albion struggled for points and goals and it wasn’t a big surprise when the owners decided a change was needed in the dugout. 

Former Huddersfield boss Carlos Corberan was appointed as Bruce’s successor on 25th October, and since then the Baggies have won three of their four Championship matches to move themselves out of the relegation zone. 

They will face Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on 12th December with the Black Cats currently sat in 15th and 11/2 to secure a top-six finish.  

Mowbray’s men are four points from the play-offs and four points from the relegation zone, which highlights just how tight the division is likely to be for the remainder of the campaign.

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