The first month of 2020 has been and gone, but how has that impacted the Championship table? The second tier is a volatile division, with a burst of form capable of transforming fortunes. Leeds and Aston Villa showed that last year, as one collapsed and another stormed to promotion.
As we head into February we’re recapping the winners and losers of January 2020 in our monthly Championship form guide. We’re taking a look at who is in form going into this weekend’s games, while we’re also checking out which sides are vulnerable.
Championship Form in January
Most Points – Nottingham Forest (11)
There are two sides unbeaten in the New Year in the Championship, Nottingham Forest and Stoke. Forest now have the league’s longest unbeaten run, going seven games without defeat. That launched them back into contention for a place in the Premier League. As a result of their impressive five-game run in January, Forest are into third and just two points off second.
Sabri Lamouchi’s impressive start hasn’t quite recieved the credit it deserves, with the club flying under the radar so far. The belief seemed to be that Forest would drop off as the season got serious, but right now they look better than ever.
Highest Points per Game – Stoke (2.5)
Forest played an extra game in January, which saw them edge out Stoke’s impressive turnaround in fortunes. Having been bottom of the pile when Michael O’Neill arrived, he’ll be delighted to be one of just two sides who are yet to lose in 2020. That form has helped Stoke open up a five-point lead over the bottom three.
Meanwhile, Stoke have the most impressive goal difference across the month, recording a +6 return across their three victories from four games. That’s been largely down to their low scoring form – as the Potters conceded only twice last month. Following that form, it’s hardly a surprise that we’re backing a low scoring match in our Derby vs Stoke predictions.
Promotion Favourites Drifting
We ended 2019 with Leeds and West Brom comfortably clear in the promotion race. They were nine points ahead of the chasing pack at that point, even though their form wasn’t convincing. Things have got worse in 2020, blowing the promotion battle wide open.
West Brom are the story of the month, with the second-placed side finding themselves in 23rd across the January ranking. They’re still in the FA Cup, but their Championship form is lacking. The Baggies are one of just two sides – along with Charlton – who have failed to win a game in the league this year. This is a big test for Slaven Bilic as he looks to keep the Baggies on track ahead of the finishing line in May.
Meanwhile, Leeds are in a similar position, having only narrowly avoided defeat at home to Millwall in midweek. They fought back from 2-0 down to win 3-2, but they are still 17th in the January table. Like last season, they were in excellent form building up towards Christmas. However, their late collapse last season has increased nerves around this promotion campaign. Bielsa’s men to step up to avoid the same fate this time around.
Most Goals per Game – Luton (4)
Luton have been the most exciting side to follow this month, topping the pile for most goals with 16 scored across their last four outings. However, not many of those goals have gone in their favour, as Luton have shipped 10 goals so far this year. That’s only added to their defensive issues, as Luton are the worst side defensively in the division.
The league’s bottom club were able to produce a win at the fourth time of asking last month, with a 3-2 thriller against Derby. However, that one victory hasn’t turned things around. Luton are a side struggling for Championship form, especially on the road. The Hatters have lost their last 10 trips in the league, while they don’t have an easy start to February.
We’re backing the second tier’s most open side to thrill once again this weekend, as we are going for both teams to score in our West Brom vs Luton predictions as they cross paths with another big struggler.
Most Goals Scored – Blackburn (10)
Blackburn are a surprising name to top the scoring charts, although they do have a good manager who is committed to attacking football. They’ve seen some good form from Adam Armstrong, who has been directly involved in nine goals in his last 10 Championship appearances.
That form has taken Blackburn into the top 10 in the division, while we have confidence in them continuing their strong form this weekend. With Blackburn off to the Riverside on Saturday, we’re siding with Rovers in our Middlesbrough vs Blackburn predictions.
Looking Ahead to February
We have a much busier month ahead in the Championship, with seven rounds of action lined up for February. Nottingham Forest will face a tougher time this month, as they host Leeds before making tough trips to West Brom and Cardiff. If they can continue their unbeaten run through those games, then they should sit comfortably in the top two.
West Brom have a chance to sort their dreadful form, with three home clashes against poor away sides in the next month. Luton, Preston and Wigan all head to the Hawthorns with an average of a point per away game or less. That’s a big chance for the Baggies to fix things, but the big focus will be on their meetings with Forest.
The encounters between Forest and Leeds at the City Ground on February 8th and West Brom vs Forest at the Hawthorns a week later will be telling in the promotion battle. Given Forest’s excellent Championship form and the struggles of the top two, there’s a lot of value in getting behind Forest early on.