Tag Archives: Championship

Plenty to play for in the Championship on midweek Wednesday

For the first time ever the final round of fixtures in the Championship will be completed midweek on a Wednesday evening.

Although Leeds United have been confirmed as champions, there is still a scrap for the one other automatic promotion spot.

West Brom, Brentford and their London rivals Fulham are the three sides in contention for the one place available.

The Baggies go into the final game only a point clear of Brentford and Fulham a further point behind.

On paper it looks likely that all three sides could win their final match, but as we know on the final day of the regular season there is always many surprises.

Brentford and Fulham will be praying that fellow London side QPR will be able to do them a favour by winning at The Hawthornes. West Brom’s form has slipped of late after not winning for three games. Despite a 4-3 victory against Millwall, Rangers form after lockdown has been poor with the club winning just twice in their last eight games.

Brentford, heading in to their final game looked the likely side who would go up with Leeds after a scintillating run of form which has seen the Bees win eight games in a row before suffering a setback with a 1-0 defeat against Stoke at the weekend.

The visitors to Griffin park are Barnsley who start the day one of the bottom of the table and two points from safety. The Tykes travel to London on the back of a fine victory at the weekend over Nottingham Forest. They know on Saturday they must win and hope other results go their way for them to be playing Championship football again next season.

Fulham make the long trip to Wigan on Wednesday and will be facing a resurgent Wigan side who are unbeaten in their last four matches. The Latics received  news this week that the EFL have confirmed that Wigan will have their twelve point deduction handed out after Wednesday nights final round of matches- provided the Latics appeal against the decision, due to be heard before 27th July, isn’t upheld.

In terms of the play-off picture it is much clearer with Forest  already guaranteed a play-off spot ,baring a 5 goal swing with Swansea,  either Cardiff or Swansea will join them .

Cardiff entertain Hull City at the Cardiff City Stadium with Swansea facing the trip to the Madjeski Stadium to face Reading.

As it stands The Swans will have to beat Reading and hope struggling Hull can beat Cardiff. A tough ask for the Tigers who are bottom of the table. However, if they could pull of a shock it would put pressure of the other sides facing the drop along with Barnsley.  Both Luton and Charlton are the two sides in most trouble, with Middlesbrough and Birmingham virtually safe.

The Hatters are at home to Blackburn Rovers, whilst Charlton travel to Leeds. Luton have hit good form of late with the Hatters unbeaten in their last four including a massive victory over Hull City on Saturday.

Charlton travel up to Yorkshire without a win in their last six games and won’t enjoy playing the newly crowned champions.

So, plenty for most teams to play for in the most competitive league in the world. Come around 9.30 on Wednesday evening we will have a clearer picture, with plenty of nails being chewed by nervous fans around the country.

Said Benrahma- The Algerian whose taken the Championship by Storm

Said Benrahma is the name on every Championship fan’s lips this season as a series of sparkling displays have highlighted just how talented the 24 year old is.

A quick search of his name on YouTube and you’ll find some of the finest highlight reels in football, including an ingenious double nutmeg on Middlesbrough’s Lewis Wimg this term.

He is so good at sliding the ball through a player’s legs that Brentford B coach Sam Saunders recently told the Guardian:

“He could nutmeg a mermaid.”

Yet, Benrahma is so much more than just a tricky winger.

He has been the Bees creative force this season, forming an impressive attacking trio alongside Bryan Mbeumo and Ollie Watkins (who have been christened Brentford’s BMW) netting fifteen goals and providing six assists in the league.

Routinely deployed on the left wing, Benrahma loves to cut inside on his right foot and deliver a cross or have a shot on goal. He is one of the most technically gifted players in the division, with his dribbling often leaving defenders in knots.

His contribution to Brentford’s promotion push since the restart has underlined his importance to the Bees, scoring five and assisting one as Thomas Frank’s side have won all of their games since the break to sit just two points behind second place West Brom.

Three of those strikes came in the weekend’s game against Wigan, with the winger clinically dispatching the relegation threatened side with relative ease. His first was a well timed volley, the second an inch perfect cross come shot after he had tormented Byrne and the third a well placed shot into the far corner giving Marshall in goal, no chance.

Manager Thomas Frank was full of praise for the winger’s display, stating in his post match press conference:

“I think in general he has had a good season so far, but he has absolutely hit the ground running after this coronavirus break.

“He has added extra to his game, such as arriving in the box, and these last four games he has been getting better and better,  with his passing and his finishing.

“I have to praise him for his work ethic. He worked extremely hard. He has been good, he needs to keep it up.”

A Benrahma inspired Brentford then came from behind against Charlton at Griffin Park to continue their march towards promotion with a 2-1 win. Benrahma won and coolly converted a penalty to equalise before the Bees scored a second to pick up all three points.

He caused problems for Charlton all evening as he occupied a more central role, picking the ball up in between the lines and playing neat interchanges with Watkins.

His form this season will come as no great surprise to those who watched him at Griffin Park in his maiden campaign in England last season. He managed ten goals and fifteen assists last year as Brentford finished 11th but Benrahma has taken his game to new levels this year.

He represents another shrewd bit of business from the London club, as he was picked up in the summer of 2018 from Nice for a fee of £2.8 million, after catching the eye on loan in Ligue 2.

Having come through the youth ranks at Algerian side NRB Bethioua, Benrahma moved to France, linking up with Balma SC Colomiers and then moving on to Nice. He made his debut for the first team in 2013, aged just 18 but spent the majority of his time at the club in the reserve side before going out on loan. He left Nice having made 17 appearances, scoring three goals.

His first loan spell came in Ligue 1 with Angers, then he dropped down to Ligue 2 and had stints with Gazélec Ajaccio and Chateauroux. It was at the latter, which he first started to show his undoubted potential and came to Brentford’s attention. He scored nine goals in 31 appearances, aged just 22 and Brentford decided to take a risk and snap him up that summer.

He hasn’t looked back since and the Algerian is now surely worth at least ten times the fee Brentford paid for him. With a host of Premier League clubs sniffing around him, Benrahma is likely to leave if the Bees don’t make it out of the Championship this time around, having already talked of his desire to play in the top flight.

A full Algerian international, Benrahma has won three caps for his country and comparisons are often drawn between him and compatriot Riyad Mahrez. Both started their journey in Ligue 2 before lighting up the Championship and both are silky wingers who enjoy nutmegging opponents and creating chances.

If Benrahma, who was nominated for the Championship Player of the Year, manages to emulate Mahrez’s career trajectory he may well go down as one of the best bargain signings the Championship has ever seen.

For now, his focus will be on finishing the campaign strongly and propelling Brentford to the big time.

With just four games left of the regular season and potential play off dates to come if Brentford can’t pop West Brom to second place, now is the time for Benrahma to show his quality and provide for Brentford when they really need him.

Sky Bet Championship Weekend Review

Leeds continue their march towards the Premiership. In form Bees put pressure on top two. Bottom two suffer heavy defeats.

League leaders Leeds United strengthened their position at the top of the table after completing a 3-1 victory at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.

The visitors took an early lead when Patrick Bamford slotted home after just seven minutes. Kalvin Phillips curled in a superb free kick to give the visitors a two-goal lead at the interval.

Adam Armstrong pulled a goal back for Rovers with an outstanding free kick, only for Mateusz Klich to restore Leeds two goal advantage for their 11th win on the road this the season.

High flying Brentford strengthened their play-off place with a 3-0 victory against Wigan Athletic at Griffin Park and turned up the heat on their bid to gain automatic promotion.

Said Benrahama’s hat trick, saw the Bees set a club record after a fifth successive win without conceding a goal. The Algerian forward has now hit an impressive 14 goals for the season.

The heavy defeat ended what has been a turbulent week in the Latics history after the club went into administration on Wednesday. The loss to Brentford also saw Joe Garner see red late in the game.

Josh Onomah’s stoppage time winner kept Fulham’s automatic promotion hopes on track after the 95th minute winner was enough for the Londoners side to grab all three points against Birmingham City at Craven Cottage.

A fourth successive defeat resulted in Bristol City removing Lee Johnson from his post immediately after the 1-0 loss to Cardiff City at Ashton Gate on Saturday.

Danny Ward climbed off the bench to net a late winner for the Bluebirds, who are now unbeaten in five games and keeps them in the play-off mix. Remarkably, this is the 16th goal scored by a Cardiff substitute this season.

The East Midland derby between Derby County and Nottingham Forest lived up to its billing with both sides getting a share of the points at Pride Park.

The hosts were indebted to Chris Martin’s 97th minute goal to rescue a point against fellow promotion hopefuls Forest. Martin bundled the ball home from close range moments after Rams substitute Martin Waghorn received a straight red card. Earlier it was the visitors who drew first blood when Joe Lolley struck for Forest.

Huddersfield’s hopes of pulling away from the bottom three and Preston’s play-off aspirations both suffered a blow as they played out a goalless draw at The John Smiths Stadium on Saturday.

A remarkable afternoon from Ivory Coast international Yakou Mieite helped Reading to their first win in four games with a 5-0 victory against lowly Luton Town at Kenilworth Road.

Mieite completed an 18-minute hat trick before he added his fourth of the afternoon in the 62nd minute. George Puscas header was the icing on the cake for the visitors on 57 minutes, who are now nicely positioned in the middle of the table.

It was an afternoon to forget for The Hatters, who remain at the foot of the table and five points adrift from safety with five games to play.

Stoke City handed out a 4-0 drubbing to Barnsley at the Bet 365 Stadium on Saturday.

The Potters raced into a two-goal lead inside the opening ten minutes through Sam Vokes and Tyrese Campbell.

Cambell bagged his second of the  afternoon before the interval, with substitute Tom Ince netting three minutes from time to complete a comprehensive victory which leaves Stoke two points clear of the bottom three and Barnsley still four points off Safety.

Swansea City continued their challenge for a play-off place after a 2-1 victory against Sheffield Wednesday at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday.

After a goalless first half, the deadlock was broken when Liverpool loanee Rhian Brewster scored. Andre Ayew struck the Swans second goal from the penalty spot. Atdhe Nuhiu headed in an injury time consolation goal for Wednesday, who drop to 15th place.

Jordan Hughill’s delicious lob proved the winner as QPR defeated Middlesborough by a single goal at the Riverside on Sunday. The defeat leaves Neil Warnock’s side in the bottom three, one point away from Hull in 21st place.

West Brom closed the gap on leaders Leeds to just a single point after a 4-2 win over Hull City on Sunday afternoon.

Charlie Austin opened the scoring for the Baggies in the fourth minute, only for Kevin Stewart to level for Hull, before Ahmed Hegazi  restored West Brom’s lead before half time.

Hull quickly drew level inside three minutes of the restart through Mallik Wilks header. Within seconds West Brown regained the lead for the third time in this enthralling match when Kamil Grosicki scored.

Grady Diangana restored West Brom’s two goal advantage with fifteen minutes to go. Deep into injury time Albion were reduced to ten men when Hegazi spoilt his afternoons work by picking up his second yellow of the game. However, the result left WBA with a healthy five-point cushion over the play-off pack with five games remaining.

 

Leeds chief exec Kinnear on a number of topics asked by fans forum

Leeds United chief executive Angus Kinnear spoke to fans forum LUFCTALK on a number of topics that the fans wanted to know.

Kinnear, who had worked at Premier League clubs Arsenal and West Ham United before joining the Elland Road outfit, commented on whether Marcelo Bielsa, his team had extended their contracts at Elland Road or is it dependent on the club winning promotion.

“As with the same point last season – Marcelo’s focus is on the final matches,” Kinnear said

“At the end of the season we will sit down and discuss the way forward. I know Marcelo loves being at Leeds.” he admitted.

Kinnear also spoke on the likelihood of signing the loanees on a permanent basis, should the club be promoted and if he had any information on potential transfers in and out of Elland Road and the transfer policy if/when they get promotion back to the Premier League.

“Some of our loan deals have clauses with view to permanent moves, others don’t but that doesn’t mean there won’t be discussions.” he revealed.

With the current Leeds United kits supplied by Kappa, whose deal ends this summer, there had been some talks that a deal was in place with German brand Adidas but when answering the question about the kits Kinnear didn’t give anything away.

“The kits this year have been the most successful ever. We have to create a range of designs that appeal to all supports with a wide range of tastes, so there is always likely to be a mix of tradition and innovation.” he explained

Kinnear also discussed how working at Leeds United compares to his tenures at both Arsenal and West Ham United and how he has personally found working at Elland Road.

“I have been fortunate to work for two great clubs before I came to Leeds and I learnt a lot from those experiences,

“But I love Leeds United. For a football fan to have the chance to get this club back to where it belongs is an irresistible challenge. Everyday I arrive at the office i feel privileged to set foot inside the ground and work with a loyal and dedicated team and for the best supporters in the country.” he revealed.

Kinnear also spoke on what Bielsa has brought to Elland Road, what he’s really like and if he speaks to the Argentine on a regular basis.

“Marcelo is unique. He combines a being a great manager with being a superb coach . This is a rarity,” he said.

“He has had a hugely positive impact on the culture of the club. Victor Andrea and I speak to him regularly.

“The conversations are lively but we are all united in getting Leeds back to where they belong.” Kinnear continued.

Kinnear also spoke on how the board at LUFC feels about potential investment and any potential sale of the club in terms of who would buy Leeds.

Kinnear said:

“Andrea Is a passionate and committed owner but has always said he will always welcome investment that can make Leeds United stronger,

“This does not just mean having the available funds but also the right ambition and principles for Leeds United. This was why our first equity partner was the 49ers.” he explained.

Leeds fans let us know your thoughts on what your chief executive has had to say.

Hull City reveal two positive COVID-19 tests after first round of testing in Championship

Sky Bet Championship outfit Hull City have confirmed they are the club who have returned two positive results during their coronavirus testing on Friday.

The EFL released a statement on Sunday lunchtime, to reveal that 1014 players and staff had been tested at 24 clubs, with only two individuals testing positive for the virus.

The Tigers, who have said they won’t reveal the identity of the individuals keeping in with medical confidentiality, released a statement on Sunday afternoon to say both of those were returned during the testing programme held at the clubs training ground on Friday.

Both players, whom are not to be identified, will now spend seven days self-isolating in line with EFL guidelines.

A statement released by the club this afternoon read:

“Hull City can confirm that two people have tested positive for Covid-19 following the first round of testing at the training ground.

“Medical confidentiality means the names will not be disclosed, and the Club asks for this to be respected.

“The duo, who are both asymptomatic and feeling no ill effects, will now self-isolate for seven days – in line with the protocols set out in EFL guidelines – before being tested again at a later date.

“The Club will continue to liaise closely with the affected personnel and will make no further comment.”

The Tigers vice-chairman Ehab Allam did write to the league and the other 23 clubs voicing his concerns about returning to action in the last week.

There were an initial letter which outlined “serious concerns” and calls to void the season, while another email was sent out on Friday reiterating their stance.

Allam wrote:

“I continue to strongly believe that Championship clubs are being exposed to entirely unnecessary legal and financial risks (and forced to overlook the health and safety concerns that exist) as a result of the inappropriate haste with which clubs are being encouraged to return to training by the EFL,

“I also retain serious concerns about the integrity of the competition (which in my opinion is more than simply upholding promotion and relegation at all costs) should some, but not all, of the remaining games of the 2019/20 season be played.”