Three Massive Matches

QPR-Cardiff. Norwich-Ipswich. Leicester-Forest. WOW.

Matchday 19 sees the Championship’s top two collide, Old Farm hostilities renewed after a 19-month absence and a mouth-watering East Midlands derby rounding off the weekend.

Loftus Road plays host to arguably the biggest game of the season so far as the division’s two trailblazers come head-to-head.

Neil Warnock has done an outstanding job so far and there at last appears to be something resembling stability at the London club after the absurd number of managers the Briatore era initially heralded.

Based on a rock-solid defence, The R’s remain unbeaten at home and will start as favourites, especially given Cardiff’s dismal recent form.

Jamie Mackie has gone slightly off the boil since his incredible early-season goal-scoring form but Adel Taarabt has recently taken up the baton.

The Moroccan international scored twice in last Saturday’s 3-1 win over Preston and when on song he is a player far too good for this league.

Adel Taarabt
Adel Taarabt is a match-winner on his day

While QPR have overcome the sticky spell which saw them draw five on the spin, Cardiff’s recent form has been questionable.

Although they claimed an impressive 4-2 win at Scunthorpe, home defeats to Swansea and Nottingham Forest have seen them relinquish top spot.

But there is no doubt of the quality available to Dave Jones.

Craig Bellamy needs no discussion, and likewise Jay Bothroyd’s recent England call-up shows his ability.

But the midfield trio of Jason Koumas, Seyi Olofinjana and Peter Whittingham are all Premiership quality and while there are question marks over the defence, the Bluebirds will generally score goals.

Prediction: 2-1. QPR should just edge an intriguing game.

One of the most passionate derbies in British football will be renewed on Sunday lunchtime as Ipswich travel to Carrow Road to face their bitter rivals.

After suffering relegation two seasons ago, Paul Lambert marshalled the Canaries troops superbly to ensure a quick return to the second tier.

And his side have continued to excel in the Championship, currently sitting in eighth place.

Andrew Surman is a central midfielder with the ability to go on to greater things, and, although he has yet to score regularly this season, Grant Holt is a real handful.

The striker enjoyed a prolific 2009-10 as he banged in 24 league goals – arguably the reason his side claimed the League One title.

Grant Holt Shares a Joke with Fans
Grant Holt is a danger man for Norwich

If he fires on Sunday, Ipswich will be in trouble.

The Tractor Boys began the season well but injuries and a lack of firepower have seen them slump into the bottom half of the table.

Whether the loan signing of Rory Fallon – 19 goals in 142 games for Plymouth – will help is highly doubtful.

But form often goes out the window in derby games and Ipswich do have players who can hurt their hosts.

Jason Scotland has scored goals at this level, and the trio of midfield loanees – Andros Townsend, Jake Livermore and Jack Colback – have the ability to eventually play at the highest level.

Gianni Zuiverloon should prove to be a good addition to the defence, but his arrival may have come to late for Sunday.

Prediction: 3-1. Grant Holt is due a goal and could hit a derby-day hat-trick.

The weekend rounds off with a fascinating game between two of the division’s in-form teams as Sven’s Foxes host Nottingham Forest in the East Midlands derby.

The arrival of Chris Kirkland could prove inspired (if he stays fit) for Leicester who’s play-off credentials I inspected earlier in the week.

Likewise Forest are on an outstanding run, with nine-goal Lewis McGugan constantly bettering himself with a whole host of long-range strikes.

The sad injury to Dexter Blackstock deprives the visitors of one dangerous striker, but Robert Earnshaw is a threat at this level and the loan signing of Aaron Ramsey from Arsenal is a shrewd bit of business.

Prediction: 1-1. Both sides are playing well and may cancel each other out.

Chris Kirkland, Wigan Athletic v Real Zaragoza, 4 August 2010
England international Chris Kirkland could be an inspired signing for Leicester

Am I right? Or will results go the other way?

Let me know your thoughts?

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