Playmaker's weekend top tier thigh-rubbers

          2020/02/06 20:49
          By Connor Andrews

          Our weekly pick of the one-to-watch fixture from each of England's top four tiers finds you some top of the table beauties, as title challengers take on promotion pushers.

          Premier League:

          Brighton vs Watford, The AmEx, Saturday 17:30

          ©Getty / Nick Potts

          With the Premier League’s fixtures staggered for the first run of the hybrid ‘winter break’ there’s only four games to choose from, but plenty of entertainment still to be had with one of the most fascinating relegation fights in recent years.

          There’s a glut of sides on 31 points from 10th downwards, and realistically right now they’re still in the fight, with Brighton just five points back and Watford a further three.

          Watford were previously dead and buried in last place, but Nigel Pearson’s turnaround saw them move clear, recently though, winless in three, they’re back in trouble, and will be desperate for a result this weekend.

          The reverse fixture saw a comfortable away win for Brighton against the first of Watford’s three managers this season, Javi Gracia, but it’s unlikely they’ll have things so easy this weekend as the Seagulls are winless in six and only West Ham have worse form.

          »Key Men: Lewis Dunk & Troy Deeney«

          It's likely to be a battle of the captains, with Deeney's return coinciding in Watford's improved from, while Dunk will be the man stopping him and setting the standard.



          Nottingham Forest vs Leeds, The City Ground, Saturday 17:30

          ©Getty / Alex Dodd - CameraSport

          This might be the game where the season truly drifts away from Leeds, facing a Forest side primed to take advantage of their run of slip-ups that has seen their security in the automatic promotion places drift away.

          Short of a big goal swing Leeds will retain their top two spot this weekend, but with defeat against Forest and if Fulham can beat Blackburn, their previous 11 point gap to third will be obliterated.

          Season narratives can change quickly, and a 3-2 comeback win against Millwall featuring a Patrick Bamford brace looked like exactly the kind of result to put their season back on course. Following it up with a home loss to Wigan means anything less than a win this weekend could spell the beginning of full crisis mode.

          Forest themselves missed a huge opportunity last time out with defeat to Birmingham, but could quickly readdress things as they continue to look like one of the few sides ready to take advantage of West Brom and Leeds’ dire runs.

          »Key Men: Lewis Grabban & Patrick Bamford«

          Two strikers that have been far more profligate than their fans would hope have a big chance to readdress things this weekend.

          League One: Peterborough vs Oxford, Weston Homes Stadium, Saturday, 15:00

          ©Getty / Jordan Mansfield

          Two of the EFL’s biggest entertainers meet at the weekend in a mouth watering clash that could go a long way towards deciding the League One promotion race.

          Peterborough are coming off the back of a four game winning run that's seen 12 goals scored and two conceded, whilst Oxford are currently experiencing a slight stumble in their entertaining season that’s seen a promotion push and multiple cup runs.

          If Posh can extend their stellar run to five games they could be back in the top two after drifting all the way down to 10th, while Oxford, on the back of taking Newcastle to 210 minutes of FA Cup football will be looking to re-enter the top six with a win. As far as EFL Thigh Rubbers go, this one’s a can’t miss.

          »Key men: Sam Szmodics & John Mousinho«

          Szmodics has four in three for Peterborough who have regained their goal scoring reputation, and it will be up to Oxford captain Mousinho to stop him. 

          League Two:

          Colchester vs Plymouth, JobServe Community Stadium, Saturday 15:00

          ©Getty / Dan Mullan

          As far as winning form goes in League Two, it’s hard to look past Plymouth, and when it comes to staying unbeaten, Colchester’s incredible 16 game run can only be admired despite ending last time out against Cambridge.

          Plymouth will be desperate to cement their place in the automatic promotion places, while Colchester are aiming to do the same in a top six that looks like it may finally be breaking away from the chasing pack with those outside showing some appalling form.

          Much like Oxford in the league above, Colchester have had plenty of fun in the cups this season, but are now emerging from those highs as a solid promotion pick. A win on Saturday would see them two points behind Plymouth who are third, while Argyle have an outside shot of closing the gap to leaders Swindon down to two as well.

          »Key men: Luke Jephcott & Dean Gerken«

          Jephcott has looked dangerous up top since his return to Devon, while keeper Gerken has been the key man in Colchester's recent resilience.



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