Leeds have demons to exorcise against Wigan, Nathan Jones needs results to improve quickly at Stoke and familiar foes meet in League One.
Here are five things to look out for in the Sky Bet EFL on Saturday…
Leeds looking to excise the demons of Wigan
When it comes to 2018/19 and the ultimately doomed promotion challenge of Leeds United, there is no doubt that the result against Derby in the play-off semi-final is the one that will go down in history.
What may be forgotten in time, however, is that it never should have got that far for Marcelo Bielsa and Co. Head back another month to a match at Elland Road, where Leeds were a goal up against a 10-man Wigan side that hadn’t won away from home since August.
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It should have been converted into a straightforward three points but Leeds crumbled. Gavin Massey levelled for Wigan just before half-time and scored the winner just after the hour.
Leeds had 77 per cent possession, 36 shots on goal and 10 on target, but they couldn’t find their way through. They handed the ascendancy back to Sheffield United in the race for promotion – and now the Blades are preparing for their first home game of the Premier League season.
Leeds have already excised some of the demons from last season with a positive start to this campaign. Picking up four points so far and easing past Salford in the first round of the Carabao Cup. Victory against Wigan and last season’s turmoil will, well and truly, be forgotten.
Strong performances from Eddie Nketiah and Helder Costa in midweek may have given Bielsa a selection headache, but he will be reverting to the same side that drew against Nottingham Forest.
“I cannot say the team today,” he said in his pre-match press conference. “Because a supporter said two days ago I was giving the advantage to the opposition. But between you and me, it will be the same team.”
Championship fixtures (Saturday 3pm kick-off unless stated)
Huddersfield vs Fulham (Fri 7.45pm)
Barnsley vs Charlton
Blackburn vs Middlesbrough
Brentford vs Hull
Bristol City vs QPR
Luton vs West Brom
Millwall vs Sheffield Wednesday
Nottingham Forest vs Birmingham
Stoke vs Derby
Swansea vs Preston
Wigan vs Leeds
Reading vs Cardiff (Sun 12pm)
Jones needs results at Stoke
Nathan Jones largely got away with a bang average run of form towards the end of last season because Stoke essentially had nothing to play for.
All the talk was of the former Luton boss being given the summer to reshape the squad, drill his philosophy into the side and hit the ground running this campaign. It has not worked out thus far, with two defeats from two eminently-winnable opening games.
But are things as troublesome as they appear on the surface? Stoke have won just three Championship games out of 22 under Jones, but Potters fan Ben Rowley tells us that he expects things to improve sooner rather than later, hopefully starting with Derby at home on Saturday.
“The first two results have been terrible and, on the face of it, it looks like a continuation of seasons previous,” he said. “However, the manager is building a ‘Nathan Jones team’ and the players are showing much more determination on the pitch.
Despite individual mistakes currently proving costly, I fully believe both results and footballing entertainment will improve for Stoke soon.”
Sheffield Wednesday off to a flyer
When you consider the fact they lost their manager shortly before the season began, it is fair to conclude that it has been a blinding start for Sheffield Wednesday. After all, it has been just a few weeks since Sky Sports readers tipped them to finish bottom of the Championship.
Two wins from two in the league, thus far, means Lee Bullen is making a compelling case for the permanent job in his third caretaker stint in charge in as many years. It is the first time they have earned six points from six since their Premier League campaign in 1996/97.
It is far too early to suggest they may be genuine top-six contenders, but they do look fresher than they have in recent injury-ravaged years. A few old faces have been shipped out and the arrivals of Moses Odubajo, Kadeem Harris and Jacob Murphy have added a bit of zest and zip to a previously one-paced side.
There have been times in the last 18 months where Wednesday rarely looked like scoring unless Adam Reach stuck one in from 35 yards. Now they look like a team capable of hurting sides in other ways, especially by allowing their opposition to have the ball and hitting them on the counter-attack.
Whether that approach works against Millwall, who don’t try to dominate possession in the same way as Reading or Barnsley, remains to be seen.
Familiar foes meet at the Stadium of Light
Sunderland and Portsmouth may well be getting sick of one another. They meet at the Stadium of Light on Saturday – live on Sky Sports Football from 12pm – for the fifth time in 2019, and the sixth in under 12 months.
Portsmouth beat them at Fratton Park just before Christmas – which at the time was their first meeting since a Premier League fixtures in 2010 – and saw them off again on penalties in the Checkatrade Trophy final at Wembley in March.
S’land vs Portsmth
August 17, 2019, 12:00pm
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League One fixtures | League One table | Live on Sky
Then came a 1-1 draw in late April, a draw that essentially cost both the opportunity to finish in the top two, before Sunderland edged to a 1-0 aggregate victory in the play-off semi-finals.
The pressure is on Sunderland again to win promotion, but they have started this season largely how they endured the last: drawing games 1-1 after falling behind early on. They recovered 27 points in 2018/19 from losing positions, and already have two back this campaign.
Despite all the familiarity, Sunderland boss Jack Ross is still desperately trying to look ahead rather than dwell on the past. “The hangover from last season – I have said often enough that nothing we can do can affect what happened,” he said. “So those who continually harp back to losing an injury time goal at Wembley does not help us move forward.”
League One fixtures (Saturday 3pm kick-off unless stated)
Sunderland vs Portsmouth (12.30pm)
AFC Wimbledon vs Accrington
Blackpool vs Oxford
Burton vs Rotherham
Coventry vs Bristol Rovers
Doncaster vs Fleetwood
Lincoln vs Southend
Peterborough vs Ipswich
Shrewsbury vs Rochdale
Tranmere vs Bolton
Wycombe vs MK Dons
Macclesfield start life without Sol
Sol Campbell did a remarkable job at Macclesfield in his brief spell in charge. All things considered, he should have plenty of offers coming his way from other clubs in the lower leagues in the coming weeks and months.
The club had endured a nightmare start to the campaign when he took over at Moss Rose last November. They accrued just 10 points from 19 games when his appointment was announced and were already seven adrift of safety. From there, they picked up 34 more points to earn survival on the final day.
“Macclesfield Town provided me with a great beginning in the managerial side of the game, as well as a fantastic learning curve which I am truly grateful for,” said Campbell, upon announcement of his departure. “I would like to thank all the players and staff for their support during my time at the Moss Rose and also all the loyal fans, whose belief at the end of last season ultimately played a tangible role in our success.”
Danny Whitaker will take caretaker charge of the Silkmen for their trip to Northampton, where they will hope to build on a positive week that has seen them thump Leyton Orient in the league then beat Blackpool on penalties in the Carabao Cup.