Today sees Sky Sports One air an afternoon full of important games starting at the Amex Stadium.
Brighton vs QPR (12:30, KO)
Brighton come into this match knowing that a victory will send them top of the Sky Bet Championship.
The Seagulls however have injury issues that they need to manage in the long run, if they want to be automatically promoted. Key players including; Liam Rosenior and Beram Kayal are currently coming back from injury so expect them to either be on bench or not playing the full match.
QPR on the other hand, have to worry about midfield with Jordan Cousins and Ariel Borysiuk both being given late fitness assessments. Defender, Steven Caulker will also need to undergo the assessment after picking up a thigh injury in recent weeks.
This match looks one sided with Brighton unbeaten in 16 whilst the Hoops are currently without victory in five games. Realistically, this is a must win match for both sides with the home side looking to go top and QPR need a win to pull away from relegation zone. The Seaside club however are on a roll and I can’t see QPR causing much of an upset.
Prediction: Brighton 3-1 QPR
Result: Brighton 3-0 QPR
Derby vs Birmingham (3:00, KO)
Both sides are in play off contention heading into this tie. A win for Derby will put their just a sole point off Sheffield Wednesday, who sit in the last play off spot. Birmingham on the other hand will go three points behind and needing another win to try and put themselves in the top six.
The Rams are currently on an impressive run and looking to set a new club record for consecutive home clean sheets. They will however be without Nick Blackman and Ikechi Anya, who have only just returned from knee injuries.
Birmingham on the other hand, have Paul Caddis back from three months out. He is however likely to feature on the bench today. New manager, Gianfranco Zola got some tough decisions to make with Stephen Gleeson (toe) and Clayton Donaldson (calf) out injured.
Given that both clubs are in the play off hunt, I am expecting both clubs to try and sneak a early goal before defending deep for the rest of the match. A point apiece at this stage of the season would come as acceptable to both clubs and I got a feeling that this will be how the match plays out.
Prediction: Derby 0-0 Birmingham
Result: Derby 1-0 Birmingham
Liverpool vs Stoke (5:15, KO)
Stoke face a daunting start to the festive fixtures with a trip to Anfield to face a Liverpool side confident after their Merseyside derby win.
Liverpool come into this match with seven points from their last four games. Stoke have however collected five points in the same period. This suggests that there is very little to separate these two clubs on paper.
Jurgen Klopp will however be without Joel Matip and Philippe Coutinho, who are both recovering from ankle injuries. This will give Sadio Mane and Divock Origi the opportunity to secure their places in Saturday’s crunch match against Manchester City, should they put in good performances.
Stoke are set to welcome Ibrahim Afellay back into the fold, after he recovered from a knee ligament injury sustained in April. The downside is that Mark Hughes got decisions to make up front. Marko Arnautovic is still serving a three match ban.
Expect Liverpool to be back to their fluent best, after a lacklustre performance away at Everton. Stoke however are afraid to push big clubs to their absolute limits after testing Leicester’s spirits in a 2-2 draw, last weekend.
If they can take a win here then on Saturday evening, the title race is realistically Chelsea vs Liverpool. This match is however critical to catching Chelsea so expect a Reds win.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-1 Stoke
Result: Liverpool 4-1 Stoke