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Friday's Championship preview: Burnley aim to finish 2022 on a high

The final four Championship matches of 2022 are contested on Friday, with leaders Burnley and managerless Norwich City among the teams in action.

Norwich will be seeking some seasonal cheer after parting ways with Dean Smith and the Canaries have home advantage for their clash with Reading, while Burnley are on the road to take on Stoke City.

Watford are another of the promotion contenders who will be away from home as they travel to Swansea City, while Birmingham City entertain Hull City at St Andrew's.

Canaries begin life after Smith

What: Norwich City v Reading
Where: Carrow Road, Norwich
When: 19:45, Friday 30th December
How to watch: Sky Sports Red Button
Odds: Norwich 8/11, Draw 5/2, Reading 17/4

It was a difficult 13 months in charge of Norwich for former Aston Villa boss Smith, who could not keep the Canaries in the Premier League last season, while there was not much optimism that they were going to secure an instant return to the top-flight with him at the helm this term.

The writing certainly appeared to be on the wall for the 51-year-old, who won just three of his final 13 Championship matches in charge, while he publicly questioned the attitude of some of the club's supporters following a home defeat to Blackburn Rovers earlier this month.

The final straw for the Norwich hierarchy was the Boxing Day loss to Luton Town, as Smith, assistant manager Craig Shakespeare and first-team coach Liam Bramley departed the club soon after that defeat at Kenilworth Road.

Remarkably given their poor form, Smith was relieved of his duties with Norwich still sitting fifth in the table and they remain 11/5 To Be Promoted come the end of the campaign.

Former Huddersfield Town boss David Wagner and ex-Bournemouth head coach Scott Parker are among the frontrunners to take over at Carrow Road, but it is Steve Weaver and Allan Russell who are set to take temporary charge on Friday.

Opponents Reading head into the contest level on points with their hosts following three wins from four, the latest of which came against Swansea on Tuesday.

However, history does not favour the Royals in this fixture, as they have picked up just two draws from the last eight meetings between the two sides, a sequence that began with a 7-1 victory for Norwich at Carrow Road in April 2017.

A repeat of that scoreline seems unlikely, but Norwich are 8/11 to secure the three points, with Reading 17/4 to condemn the Canaries to another defeat.

Can anyone stop Kompany's Clarets?

What: Stoke City v Burnley
Where: bet365 Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
When: 19:45, Friday 30th December
How to watch: Sky Sports Red Button
Odds: Stoke 11/5, Draw 9/4, Burnley 13/10

Burnley made it eight wins from their last nine Championship games and scored three goals for the fourth league match in a row as they comprehensively beat Birmingham 3-0 on Tuesday to consolidate their place at the top of the standings.

Vincent Kompany's side are 4/6 to end the season as champions and they can take another step towards that target by winning at the bet365 Stadium against Stoke.

The Potters are unbeaten following the World Cup break and they are also one of only four sides to have taken a point off Burnley at Turf Moor this season, claiming a 1-1 draw in early October.

A repeat of that result on Friday can be backed at 9/4, but it is difficult to look beyond 13/10 Burnley.

The Clarets are the leading scorers in the division, but it may be worth considering under 2.5 goals in Friday's match at 4/5, as that has occurred in 15 of the last 16 meetings between these two sides.

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Swans need major response

What: Swansea City v Watford
Where: Swansea.com Stadium, Swansea
When: 19:45, Friday 30th December
How to watch: Sky Sports Red Button
Odds: Swansea 5/4, Draw 23/10, Watford 9/4

An eight-match winless run either side of the World Cup break has seen Swansea plummet down the Championship table, with head coach Russell Martin labelling their performance in Tuesday's defeat at Reading as "pathetic".

Martin will now be expecting a response from his side when Watford visit South Wales, with the Swans aiming to complete the league double over the Hornets following their 2-1 success at Vicarage Road back in October.

The defeat for Watford that day was Slaven Bilic's first after being appointed head coach the previous month and the Croatian will be hoping his side, at odds of 9/4, can gain their revenge on Friday.

Like Swansea, Watford head into this game on the back of a disappointing defeat, as the Hertfordshire outfit were beaten 2-0 by Millwall on home turf on Boxing Day, a match that saw Hornets full-back Hassane Kamara sent off for the second time this season.

Draw specialists head to Birmingham

What: Birmingham City v Hull City
Where: St Andrew's, Birmingham
When: 19:45, Friday 30th December
How to watch: Sky Sports Red Button
Odds: Birmingham 19/20, Draw 23/10, Hull 3/1

Hull face a battle to retain their Championship status this season, but they have proven hard to beat following Liam Rosenior's appointment as manager, as he has lost just one of his six games in charge.

However, the former Tigers defender has also won just once, with each of Hull's three matches since the World Cup break ending in draws.

Next up for Hull is a trip to St Andrew's to take on a Birmingham side still licking their wounds following Tuesday's 3-0 defeat at leaders Burnley.

The Blues do boast a strong home record, losing just one of their last eight matches at St Andrew's, while Hull are unbeaten in five away, all of which makes the draw worthy of consideration at 23/10.

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