THE BIG MATCH

Molineux is the venue and West Midlands bragging rights are the prize as Wolverhampton Wanderers host Birmingham City in Saturday evening's televised npower Championship clash.

Wolves go into the match on the back of a 4-1 win at Bristol City last Saturday that saw them pick up their first three-point haul since October 6th.

It was a horrendous run for Stale Solbaken's side but they were outstanding at Ashton Gate after putting in a 90-minute display following a series of occasions where they were performing well in the first halves but poorly after the break.

Now defender Kevin Foley has his eyes on Wolves achieving back-to-back Championship victories for the first time since September.

He told www.wolves.co.uk: "Ourselves and Birmingham have both been up and down over the last few seasons and we've had some good games against them. I'm sure this one will be just as competitive as they always are.

"Like us, Birmingham might not be where they want to be so far this season but they have got some experienced players and are coming off the back of a good result beating Middlesbrough.

"I've said it a million times - if you win a couple of back-to-back games it makes such a difference in such a tight league. And it also does so much for confidence as well. That has to be our aim now as we play Birmingham on Saturday."

Wolves start the weekend 17th, two places and one point clear of their visitors, whose televised victory over Middlesbrough last Friday was only their third win since the end of September.

The Blues are yet to win successive matches at all this season but prior to beating Boro they did collect a good point in a 1-1 draw at Blackpool, and on the road they have only lost one of their last five matches.

Boss Lee Clark told www.bcfc.com: "These are the games I was looking forward to when I took the job - derby games between two huge clubs with great traditions in this area. Both clubs have got terrific support and the game is being played at a terrific venue and I'm looking forward to it immensely.

"We've got four points from six in the last two matches, and we've now got another very tough game but we need to get a positive result from it.

"As a footballer in away games your first objective is to get a foothold in the game. That means trying to quieten down the opposition's support and then try to turn those supporters against their own players and make them feel a little bit nervous in front of their own fans."

KEEP AN EYE ON

Ian Holloway's move from Blackpool to Crystal Palace is perhaps the highest-profile managerial appointment so far this season in the npower Championship and on Saturday afternoon the two clubs come up against each other at Selhurst Park as Holloway's new employers host his old club.

Second-placed Palace have been in irrepressible form all season and since Holloway's arrival they have won five times and drawn once in seven games, with a solitary defeat coming away to Leeds United three matches ago.

Four points from their last two matches, allied to successive clean sheets, have set them up nicely for Saturday's encounter.

Midfielder Owen Garvan told Palace Player: "They won 4-1 at the weekend [against Peterborough United] and have got a lot of talent. Our manager had done really well with them, they've always been up towards the top six, and they've been in the Premier League so they've got a lot of quality.

"For us, as the manager has said, we've got to forget that he was there and a lot of people outside the club will make it into a big game but for us, we're at home, we've got a good record here and we want to keep it going."

Holloway's replacement at Blackpool, Michael Appleton, had seen his new charges draw all four of their fixtures until going to the Posh last Saturday and winning 4-1.

It was the kind of performance that Blackpool will be hoping to put in on a far more regular basis for the rest of the season as they aim to push themselves back up towards the Play-Off places again.

They start the weekend in 12th and are aiming to use that win at Peterborough as a springboard.

Appleton told www.blackpoolfc.co.uk: "If we can get three points I'll be absolutely delighted, it doesn't matter who it is against. Everyone else is going to play the game up, probably a little bit more than a normal game between Palace and Blackpool, understandably.

"It's a big, big game because we want to go there and keep an unbeaten run going and they're up there at the top of the league, and deservedly so. Until this point they've been one of the two most consistent teams in the division, and that's why they are where they are.

"They've got a lot of talent, especially in the wide areas that we need to nullify if we can. I think from a fans' point of view they'll be desperate for the players to do well, and I'm sure that will add a little bit of extra spice to the atmosphere."

ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION

The npower Championship weekend kicks off on Friday night in front of the Sky Sports cameras with leaders Cardiff City looking to press home their advantage as they travel to Blackburn Rovers.

Cardiff have a one-point advantage at the top of the table and playing before the rest of the division gives them the chance to stretch that ahead of Saturday's fixtures, though ninth-placed Blackburn will have something to say themselves.

A win for Rovers would lift them to within a point of the Play-Off places before everyone else plays, and if they do take all three points it would represent a first home Championship success under Henning Berg.

Any time a Derby County side managed by a man named Clough goes up against Leeds United a hot atmosphere is guaranteed and in Saturday's first match that is likely to be the case.

The Rams, under Nigel Clough, are at home to resurgent Leeds in a 1.00pm kick-off with the visitors having won three on the spin, but Derby's recent record against their Yorkshire opponents reads seven successive victories in all competitions.

At the bottom of the table, two of the teams currently in the relegation zone - Sheffield Wednesday and Bristol City - meet at Hillsborough.

Both are locked on 15 points with City having the edge on goal difference but neither club is flying at the moment; the Owls having lost six in a row, while the Robins have won just one of their last 14.

Below those two are Peterborough United, two points further back and with a home game against fourth-placed Middlesbrough to look forward to on Saturday.

Leicester City, Hull City and Watford are the teams making up the Play-Off places going in to the weekend and two of them meet at Vicarage Road.

Sixth-placed Watford are two points behind visitors Hull with both sides looking to cement their top-six status, while Leicester are aiming to close in on the top two as they host fourth-bottom Barnsley.

The Tykes are only two points clear of the bottom three and a further three points on are Ipswich Town - Mick McCarthy's men hosting seventh-placed Millwall on Saturday.

The teams in 13th and eighth respectively meet at The Valley with Charlton Athletic up against Brighton and Hove Albion, and it's 10th against 14th when Nottingham Forest host Burnley.

Saturday's fixtures are completed with Huddersfield Town, in 15th, at home to Bolton Wanderers, who are three places behind them.

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