THE BIG MATCH
Two npower Championship promotion hopefuls meet on Saturday as Leeds United make the short trip east to face Yorkshire rivals Hull City at the KC Stadium.
United come into the game sitting ninth - three places and two points behind Watford in the lowest Play-Off position - having won five of their last seven league games. They were on the end of a defeat last time out, though, losing 4-2 against Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day.
One of the driving forces behind Neil Warnock's men this season has been the form of Argentine striker Luciano Becchio. The 29-year-old has scored 17 goals from 26 appearances in all competitions this term, including six in his last six league outings.
And Warnock has a few personnel headaches in the striking department heading into the Yorkshire derby. David Somma may be available to start for the Whites after missing the last 18 months.
The Leeds boss told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "I don't know whether he [Somma] is an option to start because he's been out for over 18 months but he's trained really hard and he got another game on Monday. That gave him another 45 minutes of match time. We're pleased with him."
If Leeds are to get back on the winning trail following their Boxing Day loss, they must overcome the division's form side.
Hull City are flying high in second place, five points behind leaders Cardiff City and a point better off than Middlesbrough in third, and come into this weekend's game having achieved eight victories from their last 12 games.
The Tigers can thank a solid defensive unity that ranks third in the league - behind only Leicester City and Brighton and Hove Albion - for their current position, having conceded just nine since the beginning of November, 11 games ago.
Despite the strong run, boss Steve Bruce is aware of his side's difficulty finding the net - they have scored just 35 league goals, the second lowest in the top half of the table, telling the Hull Daily Mail: "It's gnawing away at us all. It's not just the forwards, all round we have to contribute a bit more.
"I hope it's not going to be our achilles heel because some of the football was terrific to watch. I suppose that's why the strikers get paid the most money."
The two sides have met 43 times over the years and Leeds hold the advantage with 20 wins compared to Hull's 13, with 10 ending level.
This encounter certainly looks set to be a tight one, as four of the last eight games between the two sides have ended as draws.
KEEP AN EYE ON
The stand-out fixture on New Year's Day in the npower Championship sees two sides at the wrong end of the table go head-to-head at London Road as Peterborough United host Barnsley.
The Posh - despite sitting 22nd - will go into the game full of confidence having turned around an eight-game winless streak to win their last three matches prior to this Saturday's games, including a 5-4 victory over Bolton Wanderers in their last home fixture.
A marked improvement in the club's ability to find the net has helped spark their revival. In the opening 21 league fixtures, Peterborough only mustered 21 goals, yet they have netted 10 in their last three outings.
Much of the praise can go to the club's in-form striker Dwight Gayle as he has scored six goals in his seven appearances since joining on loan from Dagenham and Redbridge, and Posh fans will be pleased that his move has been made permanent.
The Tykes are currently a point and a place behind Peterborough but that could change by the time the two teams meet on the 1st. Barnsley are up against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday - a side without a win in six and without a manager after Henning Berg was sacked following Boxing Day's 1-0 defeat at Middlesbrough.
Barnsley go into the two games having only managed a solitary victory in their last 13 matches, though, and that form that has seen them plummet to 23rd in the table - three points off Sheffield Wednesday and safety.
Goals have been an issue for the South Yorkshire outfit; they have the lowest scoring attack in the Championship having notched just 25 goals in their 24 league games - nine of which have been supplied by striker Craig Davies.
The Posh and the Tykes have met 27 times in league action over the years and, according to the records, a draw doesn't look on the cards. Peterborough have taken all three points on 13 occasions, compared to the Reds' 11 wins, but there has only been three draws between the sides.
In this fixture last season, Barnsley left London Road with all three points following an enthralling 4-3 victory - Davies scoring the winning goal in the 78th minute after the Posh spectacularly pulled themselves level from three goals down.
ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION
While Barnsley host managerless Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, Peterborough United head to Ashton Gate to face struggling Bristol City.
It's a significant match at the foot of the npower Championship as a win for bottom of the table Bristol would leave them level on points with Posh, while a win for Darren Ferguson's men could lift them out of the relegation zone.
The only team they can overtake at the bottom, though, is 21st-place Sheffield Wednesday, and they are on the road to Huddersfield Town who are winless in eight.
Between the Owls and the Terriers in the standings, there's Ipswich Town on 27 points and four sides - Birmingham City, Charlton Athletic, Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers - all on 29 points.
The Tractor Boys could overtake all four of those teams if they beat Wolverhampton Wanderers. Stale Solbakken will be after a response from his side, though, after they fell to a 3-0 Boxing Day defeat at home to Peterborough.
From them teams on 29 points, two are going head-to-head as Birmingham meet Bolton, while Charlton host Derby County.
At the top, Cardiff City will be eager to maintain their five-point lead as they host Millwall. After their red-hot run that roared them into the Play-Off places came to an end, the Lions have become somewhat inconsistent. One win in five has left them outside the top six.
Kenny Jackett's men are back on the Play-Off trail, though, and providing they win, they could replace either Watford or Leicester City in the top six on Saturday. The Hornets visit Brighton and Hove Albion, which is the last live Football League match on Sky Sports in 2012, while the Foxes travel to mid-table Burnley.
Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough are the two other sides in the Play-Offs and they meet Nottingham Forest and Blackpool respectively. The match between Palace and Forest will be Alex McLeish's first game in charge at the City Ground, after he replaced Sean O'Driscoll as manager.
Both Palace and Middlesbrough are in the hunt for automatic promotion at the top and either of them could be sitting second, in place of Hull, by the time the New Year fixtures kick-off.
Palace are at home to Wolves on January 1st, while Tony Mowbray's Boro travel to Derby County, who currently sit 12th.
With their five-point lead to rely on, Cardiff will remain at the summit going into 2013. Lee Clark's Birmingham City are the first side in the new year to take on the leaders. The Blues will be hopeful of a more positive time in the second half of the season. The Midlands outfit lie 19th going into the games on Saturday but remain seven points clear of danger.
Of the sides in the bottom three, only Bristol City are guaranteed to be there on New Year's Day. The Robins have a tough assignment on their hands, too, away at Millwall.
The other two teams in the relegation zone - Peterborough United and Barnsley - lock horns at London Road, as previously mentioned.
Another significant tie of the first round of npower Championship matches in 2013 sees Huddersfield Town manager Simon Grayson go up against a club he spent a large chunk of his career playing for - Leicester City.
Elsewhere, Alex McLeish will take charge of his first away game as Nottingham Forest boss with a trip to Blackburn Rovers.
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