Newcastle United could have another perfect opportunity to open up an even bigger gap to their rivals.

Looking at the top eight (see below) in the Championship table, a win for Newcastle would automatically open up a 15 point gap to Sheffield Wednesday who are currently sixth.

Before NUFC play tonight there are three other games affecting the top end.

Norwich have bizarrely fallen right away in the last two months but their last four games have seen a couple of wins, beating Villa and hammering Brentford 5-0. They may be displaying no consistency any longer but it must still be a strong possibility that they can take something at third placed Reading and also give Newcastle a helping hand.

Fifth place Leeds visit Preston and fourth placed Huddersfield host Forest this afternoon.

Newcastle play a day before Brighton this time and it would put extra pressure on the challengers if United can open up a four point gap tonight.

Form team Derby don’t play until tomorrow either and it is seventh v eighth as they face Birmingham, who could benefit from the new manager bounce after Zola’s appointment.

I can see points being dropped elsewhere, so if Newcastle can successfully manage the loss of Jonjo Shelvey, we could be sitting even prettier after this latest round of matches.

Current Championship Top Eight

49 Newcastle (+28)

48 Brighton (+21)

40 Reading (+1)

39 Huddersfield (0)

38 Leeds (+4)

37 Sheffield Wednesday (+3)

36 Derby (+8)

34 Birmingham (-2)

Monday 26 December

Huddersfield Town v Nottingham Forest (3pm)

Preston North End v Leeds United (3pm)

Reading v Norwich City (3pm)

Newcastle United v Sheffield Wednesday (7.45pm)

Tuesday 27 December

Brighton v QPR (12.30)

Derby v Birmingham (3pm)