With so many Championship fixtures to fit in, there are games all over the place for those in the top six before Newcastle play again.
With some promotion contenders exiting the FA Cup, it has allowed them to go ahead with games whilst the likes of Newcastle and Brighton attempt to reach the fifth round.
Also, both Brighton and Reading are fitting in their games that were cancelled due to fog recently.
This weekend’s results couldn’t have gone much better for Newcastle United.
As well as beating Rotherham 4-0 at St James Park, three of the other five teams in the top six all lost, plus two of them actually took the lead before eventually losing.
Friday 20 January
Brighton 2 Sheffield Wednesday 1
Saturday 21 January
Huddersfield 2 Ipswich 0
Derby 3 Reading 2
Newcastle 4 Rotherham 0
Barnsley 3 Leeds 2
Forget about the fact that Sheff Wed only lost because it was Brighton who beat them, we know by now that the south coast team are almost certain to end up in the top two. So it is all about the gap to third and beyond, Wednesday’s defeat means that they are now 13 points behind Newcastle (effectively 14 points, as NUFC’s goal difference is so superior to everybody else’s, apart from Brighton to an extent).
This is how the Championship top six looks now on Sunday 22 January (Brighton and Reading having played one game less than the other four clubs):
58 Newcastle (GD +33)
57 Brighton (+24)
49 Huddersfield (+2)
48 Leeds (+10)
46 Reading (+2)
45 Sheffield Wednesday (+5)
Bizarrely, if Reading had beaten Derby yesterday, they could have been top of the table by the time Newcastle next play, as they have a concentrated spell of three games in the space of a week.
Brighton can go top on Tuesday, if they overcome Cardiff on Tuesday.
These are the fixtures involving the top six over the course of the next 11 days:
Tuesday 24 January
Brighton v Cardiff
Reading v Fulham
Wednesday 25 January
Leeds v Nottingham Forest
Saturday 28 January
Reading v Cardiff
Tuesday 31 January
Birmingham v Reading
Bristol City v Sheffield Wednesday
Wednesday 1 February
Blackburn v Leeds
Newcastle v QPR
Thursday 2 February
Huddersfield v Brighton
This rush of matches elsewhere looks set to make or break things for Reading, for so long they looked the biggest threat to Newcastle & Brighton, picking up nine wins from 11 games before running into successive defeats in their last two matches. Three wins in the fixtures above would take them back to within three points of Newcastle.
I can’t help think though, that whatever happens elsewhere, if Newcastle win the two home matches with QPR and then Derby three days later, that will go a long way to breaking the back of this promotion challenge.