Five questions for the weekend
New manager bounce for the Foxes and Fulham?
7 days, as we know, is a long time in football.
Just ask Claude Puel and Claudio Ranieri. Both were Premier League managers this time last week but now find themselves dumped on the managerial scrapheap.
Truth be told, neither dismissal came as a surprise; Leicester supporters nor the players never seemed to really take to Puel, while the man responsible for the demanding nature of the Kingpower faithful these days, Ranieri, failed to kick-start Fulham’s bid for survival and paid the price for coming off worse in a crucial midweek six-pointer with Southampton.
Over to the new guys then. Brendan Rodgers is tasked with lifting Leicester up the league having waived the chance of winning the treble treble at Celtic, while ex Fulham skipper, now coach, Scott Parker has been given a 10 game job audition at Craven Cottage.
Both will take on former clubs in their first game with Leicester heading to Watford and Parker’s Fulham welcoming West London neighbours, Chelsea. Can both get off to flying starts?
Will the Seagulls plummet further into trouble?
Brighton may have reached the FA Cup quarter finals for the second successive year but their Premier League status is in grave danger.
A run of seven games without a win has seen Chris Hughton’s side slide down the standings at some speed. The comfort of mid-table safety of just a few weeks ago has been replaced with an anxious glance over the shoulder at how close they sit to the drop zone (2 points).
A game in hand and a favourable fixture list ahead in which the Seagulls host the teams in and around them means it’s far from panic stations at the Amex just yet.
But Saturday’s home fixture with bottom side Huddersfield is shaping up to be Brighton’s most important in some time. Can they secure an overdue three points?
Last chance saloon for Ipswich?
The Championship continues to throw up some stellar games with Leeds vs. West Brom and Aston Villa vs. Derby sure to catch the eye this weekend.
But the biggest game, arguably, is at the foot of the division where it’s surely all or nothing for Ipswich in their bid to avoid dropping into the third tier for the first time since 1958. This is it, as they say.
Paul Lambert’s ailing side, marooned in 24th place and with only 3 wins from 34, host Reading, three places and nine points above them. The game has been described as ‘massive’ by the Scot and he wouldn’t be far wrong. Win and Town cut the gap to six points. Lose however, and it’s curtains.
Lambert can take a small crumb of comfort from a run of three consecutive draws. But draws are no longer good enough. Can Ipswich spark one of the great escapes?
County to close the gap?
At the very bottom of the entire football league, crisis club Notts County are staring into the abyss.
They may be the oldest league club in the world and one of the original founders of the EFL but anything other than three points on Saturday and all likelihood they’ll be crashing out of it for the first time in their history.
Port Vale, hovering just outside the drop zone five points above County, are the visitors to Meadow Lane and arrive having lost the last four.
A win for Neal Ardley’s side and they could climb off the bottom for the first time in a long time. Defeat they dare not consider. What will the table look like come 16.50 on Saturday?
Salford to stop the rot?
There appeared no stopping Salford City’s rapid climb up the football pyramid earlier this season. The class of ’92 owned club looked destined to cap a remarkable rise with promotion to the EFL following a blistering start to their first season at this level.
A sequence of 20 games unbeaten saw Salford top the table and emerge as serious promotion contenders. However, 4 defeats on the spin pre-Christmas and just two victories from the next seven and City are now clinging onto a play-off spot.
Not even the addition of David Beckham to the ownership mix has done much to inspire - Salford went down 1-3 to Dover in what was Beckham’s first trip to the Peninsula Stadium.
Even after three straight defeats though, City's saving grace is they're still in the picture for automatic promotion. Only six points separates Salford in sixth to Wrexham who occupy top spot. Can they stop the rot and get back on track away at Ebbsfleet?