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Championship: Promotion pair clash in early kick-off

The EFL season is heading towards its final stretch and for teams in the top half in the table time is running out to seal automatic promotion or a play-off place - including Championship pair Sheffield United and Bournemouth.

There are still plenty of unknowns in both the battle for promotion and scrap for survival in the second tier, with this weekend's EFL encounters sure to have a big say on the final standings.

There are some mouthwatering clashes taking place throughout the divisions, but few look bigger than Saturday's early kick-off in the Championship, where play-off protagonists Sheffield United host second-placed Bournemouth.

Blades hoping to pick off the Cherries

Sheffield United failed to get off the mark in the Championship until the sixth time of asking but a dramatic turnaround under manager Paul Heckingbottom has put them in the promotion picture.

The Blades are up to sixth in the Championship, having suffered just four defeats in their last 23 league matches, and they will be eyeing the scalp of Bournemouth at their home fortress.

United are unbeaten in 11 on their own patch, winning on eight occasions, and they were worthy 1-0 winners at home to QPR on Tuesday.

That was a ninth clean sheet in their last 11 fixtures for Heckingbottom's men at Bramall Lane and they should fancy their chances against the high-flying Cherries.

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Bournemouth sit second and have a nice six-point cushion on third-placed Huddersfield with two games in hand.

However, the south coast side have stuttered on their travels, winning just four of their last 11 away league games, and were beaten 2-0 at an out-of-form West Brom on Tuesday.

The Blades are 13/10 to strengthen their play-off position with victory, while Scott Parker's visitors are 21/10 to win. The draw is available at 23/10.

Oxford and Sunderland out to bolster play-off hopes

The race for the League One play-off places promises to go down to the wire and few games in the EFL this weekend carry more significance than Oxford's visit from Sunderland.

The U's are eighth in the third tier, three points outside the play-off spots, while their visitors Sunderland are one point and place better off, albeit having played a game more.

It was a 1-1 draw when the pair clashed at the Stadium of Light in December but this rematch looks a must-win game for both sides.

And it is Sunderland, who are unbeaten in seven and have kept five clean sheets in that run, who may be feeling better about their chances.

Oxford are without a victory in three and have suffered back-to-back league defeats to Plymouth and Morecambe, with the latter currently embroiled in a relegation scrap.

The hosts are 11/8 to return to winning ways, while Sunderland are 19/10 for an away-day success. Another draw between the pair is available at 5/2.

It is worth noting that both teams have scored in each of Oxford's last seven home league games, which is a 7/10 chance to occur again this weekend.

Rivals desperate for points for very different reasons

The rivalry between AFC Wimbledon and MK Dons arose due to the relocation of Wimbledon to Milton Keynes but Saturday's League One showdown between them carries far more substance than just bragging rights.

MK Dons sit second and are within one point of leaders Rotherham following a 14-game unbeaten run - and they have won 11 of those fixtures.

Wimbledon, on the other hand, are in a slump and have dropped into the relegation places after failing to win any of their last 22 league encounters.

Recent results suggest this should be a straightforward task for the high-flying visitors, but form can often go out the window in what is considered a derby.

The Dons are 3/4 to enhance their automatic promotion hopes with a win, while the Wombles are 15/4 to spring a surprise and bolster their survival hopes. The draw is a 13/5 chance.

League Two promotion battle intensifies

The battle for promotion in League Two is one of the tightest fights in recent memory and although Forest Green may have the title at their mercy, plenty could yet change in the race to join them.

Second-placed Exeter and Port Vale, who are third and have won six of their last seven, are in the scrap for automatic promotion, but the play-off places are far from sorted out.

Only five points separate Northampton in fourth and Sutton in 11th but those eight teams involved must be whittled down to just four.

And there are two intriguing match-ups taking place this weekend that could play a big part in the final outcome.

Eighth-placed Newport travel to ninth-placed Swindon, while Tranmere, in seventh, host Bristol Rovers, who are fifth.

Tranmere have lost only one of their last 12 at home but their visitors have been one of the division's form teams in 2022, having lost only three of their last 19 fixtures.

Tranmere are 17/10 to win, a Rovers victory is 17/10 and the draw is 23/10.

In the other big clash in League Two, both Swindon and Newport need a lift after a few disappointing results.

Swindon, without a win in two, host Newport, who are winless in three, and this looks a must-win encounter for the pair.

The Robins are 11/8 to claim maximum points, the draw is 23/10 and it's 21/10 for an away victory.

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