The FA Cup fourth round has decimated the latest weekend of Sky Bet Championship action but two fixtures have survived the cull as four teams go in search of three much needed points in their various quests for the remainder of the campaign.
Unfortunately both of the matches kick off in the traditional 3pm slot on Saturday afternoon so there will be no live coverage of them so if you don’t have a ticket for either game then you’ll need updates from the usual places to stay on top of your bets.
Millwall vs Preston North End (15.00)
One of the two matches comes from the capital where Millwall will look to end a slump of two straight defeats when they host a Preston North End side who haven’t found any consistency in recent times and will want a win here.
Preston were the early pacesetters in the competition but have floundered in the last 20 games or so and are five points off the play-offs but going in the wrong direction. Millwall have been in and around the top six for much of the last few years but they are a classic case of being careful what you wish for because they are at the wrong end of the table this time around. They did win three matches over the festive period to pull away from immediate relegation danger but they look very much like a work in progress under a former assistant to Frank Lampard. I don’t really like Millwall and while Preston put up a bit more of a fight at Leeds last week I think the atmosphere contributed to that and I’m not certain there will be enough of one to fire them up here. This feels like a classic game to leave alone.
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Sunderland vs Stoke City (15.00)
The other match on Saturday afternoon comes from the Stadium of Light where Sunderland will look to get back to winning ways when they take on a Stoke City side who saw a seven-match unbeaten run come to an end last week.
Recent renewals of this fixture have been fuelled by the appearance of Alex Neil in the Stoke dugout but that is not the case this time around so it will be interesting to see what the atmosphere is like in this one, especially with Mick Beale not exactly flavour of the month at the Stadium of Light. To be fair to the Black Cats fans, they were terrible against Hull City last week and need to be much better here but to be fair to Beale, only Coventry, Ipswich and Hull have beaten his side since he took over and all three are in the top seven in the table. Steven Schumacher is probably a work in progress at Stoke but seven unbeaten since the departure of Neil until last week suggests there is something to build on, albeit the defeat to Birmingham would have been disappointing, although I do think Tony Mowbray will turn that particular ship around. I wouldn’t really trust either of these sides to win the game but I think two teams under relatively new coaches will still have enough about them to go for the game. Sunderland will know they have to be a lot better here but they do still have a goal threat in Jack Clarke and Alex Pritchard among other creative elements while Stoke will score more goals with them playing a more progressive 4-3-3 under Schumacher. That makes me think there is a goal for both teams in this one even if neither have what it takes to win a competitive game.
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