CONTRASTING FORTUNES

Selhurst Park brings together two sides at opposite ends of the spectrum in the npower Championship. Crystal Palace and Coventry City are both former Premier League clubs and it's the visitors to South London who look closer to a return.

The pressure has been mounting on Eagles' boss George Burley but that has somewhat eased following the midweek 3-2 win against Watford.

"All I can do is do my best," he told Palace Player. "Speculation happens and unfortunately I haven't got a magic wand. It isn't going to happen overnight, and if you are not winning games people will speculate."

Coventry City arrive on the back of consecutive defeats to Leeds United and Nottingham Forest. Manager Aidy Boothroyd has worked wonders so far, and won't be pressing the panic button after two reverses.

"We are a work in progress," he told Sky Blues Player. "If you allow yourself to get carried away by a couple of wins and get down by a couple of defeats you'll create yourself problems. Every game is an opportunity to get better."

The chance to put things right will face a stern test in the capital, it's the type of test Boothroyd hopes his side can pass.

"They've got some good players in the team. It will be a very difficult game for us but if we are going to be successful we have to go to places like Selhurst Park and give our fans something to shout about."

In South Wales on Sunday Swansea City will be looking to end a contrasting week in the style they started it. It began by beating fierce rivals Cardiff City in the Welsh capital, only to come crashing back down to earth at home to Bristol City. Brendan Rodgers hopes his side will benefit from the experience of the past seven days.

"You cannot pick and choose your games," he told Swans Player. "We have to learn our lesson from the Bristol City game and realise that they are all difficult games. Middlesbrough will be another tough opponent, they try and play a certain way. I watched them at Scunthorpe and they had a good result."

Middlesbrough's results have started to pick up following the return of local hero Tony Mowbray as Manager. After a wretched run of form Boro have put back-to-back wins together, and there are signs Mowbray's message is sinking in.

"To my mind this is a special club," he told www.mfc.co.uk. "We should be ambitious and look up at what we might be able to aim for. There's no point being in football if you're not ambitious. I remember the year Sunderland came from the bottom to win promotion and that tells you it can be done."

EAST MIDLANDS PRIDE

Leicester City striker Steve Howard has called for a marked improvement in the team's performance when they face East Midlands rivals Derby County at the Walkers Stadium.

Howard's injury time spot-kick rescued an unlikely point against Sheffield United in midweek and the 34-year-old striker, who spent two years at Pride Park, said the Foxes must do better against the Rams.

Speaking to the Leicester Mercury he's said: "We're happy to keep the run going and that's the main thing, but it's going to be a tough game against Derby and we're going to have to do better than that. We've got to get our heads down and work hard."

Their will be a familiar face in the visitors ranks as Robbie Savage returns to the club where he spent five happy years. That will count for little though as Savage looks to secure three points for his current employers. The midfielder is very much the elder statesman in the Rams' dressing room, but he's been impressed by the 'fearless youngsters' who earned their fifth win in six matches at Ipswich Town on Tuesday night.

"What we have here are players, young players, playing with no fear," he told Rams Player.

"Winning games like we are and playing with such a youthful side makes me feel like a spring chicken right now. Joking aside, the gaffer has assembled a remarkable group of players."

The Rams' skipper believes Nigel Clough's young charges travel to the Walkers Stadium having laid down a marker for the rest of the Championship.

"We're not getting carried away, you can sense it, but it really is great to be up there at the moment. It is easy getting in the top six, the hardest thing is staying there."

ON THE BOX

Two teams at the wrong end of Championship will lock horns in front of the cameras on Friday night. Preston North End and Hull City were tipped by many to challenge, neither side has yet to fulfil the pundit's early predictions.

Preston have flattered to deceive so far, and welcome the Tigers following a 2-1 home defeat to Barnsley. Deepdale boss Darren Ferguson told PNE Player: "It's important that we try and get consistency into our performances.

"We have to have energy about us and play at a tempo. Most importantly we need to get control of the game. It's a big game, we know that. We have spoken for a couple of weeks about the run of fixtures that we have."

The visitors to Deepdale arrive in Lancashire in better financial shape after agreeing a takeover, on the pitch the Tigers are as desperate as North End for all three points. Veteran star Nick Barmby says that is exactly what they will be aiming for.

"We need the three points and so do Preston," he told www.hullcityafc.net. "I'm sure it will be cagey early on but then I'm sure it will open out and we'll see two sides trying to win the game. We'll be scrapping for the points and as long as we go there with the same spirit and attitude we showed against Leeds United we'll be in with a chance of getting a good result."

On Saturday teatime Reading and Norwich City will meet in front of the cameras at the Madejski Stadium. The Royals have just faced the top two in the Championship, and Manager Brian McDermott believes his side were unfortunate to not pick up more points.

"Against the best sides in the league we have taken just one point," he told Reading Player. "We felt we should have taken three points out of the two games, but we now look forward to another good game against Norwich."

Reading will face a Canaries side who have welcomed midfielder Matt Gill back into the fold after a loan spell at Peterborough United. It was Gill's long throw that supplied David Fox's goal in Tuesday's 1-1 draw at Millwall. He's now hoping to carry on in a similar vein.

"It's great to be back," he told Canaries Player"I love every day coming to the training ground, it's a pleasure to work with the bunch of lads in that dressing room.

"The lads keep driving on every week, they don't know when to stop. It's a winning mentality in that dressing room, which is why it's so good to be back part of it."

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