Championship: What to look for in the midweek fixtures

Luton Town boss Nathan Jones
Three points for Luton would see boss Nathan Jones take his side off the bottom of the table

With just five games left of the regular season, the major issues in the Championship are still to be decided.

Yet the midweek fixtures could prove to be pivotal in the final standings, with a huge game at the bottom, tricky matches for those in the automatic promotion places and several clubs aiming to revive their ambitions of a play-off place.

Top-of-the-table Leeds United need a maximum of 10 points to end their 16-year absence from the Premier League, but the Whites are not in action until Thursday when they host a Stoke City side who are not yet clear of danger.

Here's what else to look out for in the next few days.

Bottom two go head to head

Bottom of the Championship table

We start at the very bottom of the second tier with a game which could serve as the definition of a relegation six-pointer.

Luton Town prop up the Championship table and are five points from safety. Tuesday's visitors Barnsley (18:00 BST) are one place above them and just a point better off.

Both clubs suffered a major setback to their respective survival bids on Saturday, with Luton thumped 5-0 at home by Reading and the Tykes being brushed aside 4-0 by fellow strugglers Stoke.

The picture at the bottom is complicated by the fact that Wigan Athletic are set to be deducted 12 points by the English Football League for entering administration, which would put the Latics 24th on 38 points.

That will place Luton and Barnsley a point closer to safety - but both clubs have an inferior goal difference to the sides around them, so have a pressing need for victories.

Troubled Latics in peril

Paul Cook
Paul Cook's Latics seemed safe from relegation but are now anxiously looking on

Wigan need to return to winning ways after suffering a 3-0 defeat at high-flying Brentford, a result which ended a run of three successive wins.

The Latics were on a nine-match unbeaten run before their trip to west London, and also saw a sequence of seven consecutive clean sheets come to an end.

With a possible points deduction looming, Paul Cook has to lift his side 13 points off the bottom three to guarantee a place in the division next season - and Wigan are only six points above the bottom three heading into the midweek fixtures.

QPR, who picked up their first points since the restart with victory at Middlesbrough on Sunday, are the visitors to the DW Stadium (Wednesday, 18:00).

Meanwhile, another bottom-six team, Hull City, travel to a Bristol City side who have lost all four games following the resumption, while new Boro boss Neil Warnock will be licking his wounds when the Teessiders go to Millwall (Wednesday, 15:00) after back-to-back defeats.

Last top-two chance for Forest and Fulham?

Top of the Championship table

Two clubs whose automatic promotion hopes are fading meet at the City Ground.

Fulham have slipped to seven points off the top two since the restart, while Nottingham Forest are now nine points behind second-placed West Brom.

Defeat for either side on Tuesday tea-time (17:00) will likely consign the beaten party to a place in the play-offs.

Fulham remain without top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic, while Forest striker Lewis Grabban is one goal away from making it 20 league goals for the season.

The Whites made hard work of beating mid-table QPR last week and had to wait until the 95th minute to beat Birmingham at the weekend.

Forest, who looked to be heading for victory at East Midlands rivals Derby County before conceding a equaliser in second-half stoppage time, have only lost one of their past nine league games.

Baggies have chance to hit summit

West Brom celebrate
The Baggies bounced back from back-to-back defeats to beat Hull City

West Bromwich Albion have been in the Championship's top two since October, but now have an in-form Brentford side breathing down their necks.

The Bees are looking to record a sixth straight win when they host Charlton Athletic in a London derby (Tuesday, 18:00), and Thomas Frank's men will be two points off the automatic promotion places if they extend their victorious streak.

The Baggies have dealt with the pressure put upon them since the restart, bouncing back from a defeat by Brentford at Griffin Park in their second game after lockdown to register back-to-back wins.

And, with leaders Leeds not in action until Thursday, West Brom will go back to the top of the Championship if they avoid defeat at home against Derby County (Wednesday 17:00)

But the Rams have also enjoyed a rich vein of form, with a six-match unbeaten run including five straight victories, and need a win to keep their play-off bid alive.

Phillip Cocu's side will be six points off the top six if Cardiff beat Blackburn Rovers on Tuesday - and four of Derby's remaining five games are against the current top six.

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