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EFL Championship Boxing Day Preview: Congested table means chaotic Christmas in Championship

A congested table means there is lots to play for at both ends of the Championship, starting with the 10-match schedule on Boxing Day.

The race for the play-off places is fascinatingly poised and there are some key battles taking place with fourth-placed Watford taking on 10th-placed Millwall and 13th-placed Sunderland hosting third-placed Blackburn. 

Just 10 points separate the play-off places from the bottom three, but basement boys Huddersfield are seven points adrift of safety so their visit to seventh-placed Preston looks a very important game for both teams.

Inconsistent Rovers hope to avoid Wearside woe

Blackburn are the only team in the EFL to have avoided drawing any of their matches, yet they are just 9/4 to share the points in their fixture with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light in the Full Time Result market. 

It has been a case of feast or famine for Rovers, who have won 13 and lost 10 of 23 Championship games so far. 

Jon Dahl Tomasson's side had an indifferent build-up to Christmas, following up an impressive 2-0 league victory at Norwich with a dismal 4-1 loss at home to Nottingham Forest in the EFL Cup fourth round. 

Rovers are third in the second tier but have lost seven of their 12 Championship away fixtures and their defensive record (26 goals conceded) is the worst among the top five. 

Last season they failed to build on a strong start to the campaign and their chances in the 2022-23 promotion race may depend on the future of nine-goal top scorer Ben Brereton Diaz. The Chilean is out of contract next summer and is expected to attract lots of January interest.

Rovers can be backed at 9/4 for a Wearside win in the Full Time Result market, but they can expect a tough game from 13th-placed Sunderland, who are only eight points below them. 

Sunderland had to deal with a lot of injuries in the first half of the season, including a layoff for their star striker, Ross Stewart. 

However, Stewart made a goalscoring return to the squad in last Saturday's 1-1 draw at Hull and could make a massive difference in the second half of the season. 

The Black Cats should also benefit from the ongoing improvement of Manchester United loanee Amad Diallo, who has netted five goals in his last eight appearances. 

Diallo and Stewart are likely to cause problems for the majority of second tier defences and their qualities explain why Sunderland are 13/10 Full Time Result favourites to topple a Rovers team perched 10 places above them. 

Hoops aiming to secure the spoils in Wales

Promotion-chasing QPR were successful in their first match under their new manager Neil Critchley, winning 1-0 at Preston, and they will be hopeful of claiming another away win when taking on fifth-bottom Cardiff in south Wales. 

QPR struggled before the World Cup, taking one point from five games, and suffered another blow when their former manager, Michael Beale, accepted an offer to join Glasgow Rangers. 

The Londoners played just one game under caretaker manager Paul Hall, losing 3-0 at home to Burnley, but the appointment of Critchley seemed to give them a major boost. 

The Hoops were worthy winners at Preston last Saturday and, with confidence restored, they will have their backers at 2/1 in the Full Time Result market against Cardiff. 

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Scoring goals had become an issue for Rangers in recent matches but they should have an extra offensive option against the Bluebirds with Moroccan attacking midfielder Ilias Chair back in the fold after World Cup duty. 

While QPR are targeting a victory to boost their play-off hopes, Cardiff are bidding to put a bit more distance between themselves and the drop zone. 

Mark Hudson's side are just two points above the bottom three and their winless run extended to four with a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to injury-hit Blackpool last weekend. 

The Welsh side are the second-lowest scorers in the division with 20 goals, but they are 7/5 Full Time Result favourites to get the better of QPR and chalk up their eighth league win of the season. 

Terriers torment could continue at Deepdale

While large parts of the Championship table are looking extremely congested, basement boys Huddersfield are in danger of losing touch with their relegation rivals and they need a few positive results over the festive period, starting with the trip to Preston. 

Huddersfield are 7/2 in the Full Time Result market at Deepdale, but they have taken just five points from 10 away games and have struggled since the World Cup, losing 1-0 at Sheffield United and 2-0 at home to Watford. 

Mark Fotheringham's side are the lowest scorers in the division (19 goals) and have failed to find the net in seven of their last nine matches. 

Strikers Danny Ward and Jordan Rhodes are their joint-top scorers with just three goals each and are 10/1 and 17/2 to strike First on Boxing Day. 

Preston are 4/5 favourites to win the game in the Full Time Result market as they aim to bounce back from last Saturday's 1-0 loss at home to QPR. 

Ryan Lowe's seventh-placed side have the joint second-best defensive record in the division (22 goals conceded) but they are only the third-highest scorers with 22 goals. 

Only three of Preston's nine victories have come on home soil, but the Lancastrians have been in generally good form over the last two months, winning four of their last six fixtures. 

Hornets on a revenge mission after Lions loss

Fourth-placed Watford will have revenge on their minds when they take on promotion-rivals Millwall at Vicarage Road. 

The Hornets have thrown in some poor performances this season but their October 3-0 loss at Millwall stands out as their very worst across their 23 league games. 

Slaven Bilic's side were suffering from a defensive injury crisis on their visit to The Den, but they have looked much more solid in recent months and are aiming for a fifth successive clean sheet. 

Watford are also looking potent up front with star attacker Joao Pedro scoring four goals in the last four games, and they are 21/20 shots to add another three points in the Full Time Result market. 

The trip to Hertfordshire comes at a tricky time for Millwall, who have taken just one point from their last two matches. 

However, the Londoners are only five points below Watford in the table, and are 3/1 to register their 10th league win of the season in the Full Time Result market.

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