THE BIG MATCH

Passions will always be running high when Leeds United host Cardiff City so expect Saturday's npower Championship encounter at Elland Road to be no different.

Leeds go into the game fresh from their FA Cup triumph over Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur last Sunday and have been buzzing all week - while their main deadline day activity saw the arrival of striker Steve Morison from Norwich City in an exchange deal that saw Luciano Becchio go the other way.

But in the Championship they are a little off the promotion pace and start the weekend 11th in the table, six points adrift of sixth-placed Middlesbrough, and boss Neil Warnock knows now the importance of league results.

He told www.leedsunited.com: "It's a great game for us to come back to is this one.

"Sunday was a fabulous occasion against Tottenham and it's back to the league now, and our bread and butter.

"Of course everyone has come back in on a high because that's what happens when you beat a team of quality players like we did on Sunday.

"You can see an extra spring in the step, and everyone is looking forward to Saturday now. Cardiff are obviously a good side who are going well, but these are the games you look forward to."

Cardiff remain comfortably clear at the top of the Championship table with 60 points from their 28 games, seven points ahead of Leicester City who were 2-1 winners against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Thursday night.

They can stretch their advantage back to 10 points with a victory at Elland Road and if they do so, it will be a fifth successive win away from home - along with a fourth triumph at Leeds in five visits.

Boss Malky Mackay told the South Wales Echo: "We have a real fight on our hands at Leeds, but that's how it should be.

"Neil [Warnock] is a hugely experienced manager and I take in everything he says. There are always words of wisdom in what he says.

"I've been to Elland Road a lot of times in my career and it's a fantastic venue to go and play football in. There is a lot of history about the place and I love going up there. There are usually more than 20,000 there and there were another 10,000 for the Spurs tie.

"Leeds United is a monster of a club and if you throw Neil into the mix as well you know you are have a real fight on your hands."

KEEP AN EYE ON

It's getting towards crunch time in the npower Championship's promotion race and relegation battle, so Saturday's clash between Peterborough United and Burnley has importance at both ends of the table.

Peterborough, despite three wins from their last six matches, remain deep in trouble at the foot and start the weekend six points adrift of a safety spot.

That has given them a bit of a boost, along with a good 1-1 draw at home to Hull City in their last outing, and manager Darren Ferguson is looking forward to this game - particularly as Posh suffered a 5-2 humbling at Turf Moor in the reverse fixture last September.

Ferguson told www.theposh.com: "It is a game that we are looking forward to. When I look back at the game at Turf Moor, there were not many positives to take from the display, so it is important that we focus on the job in hand.

"Burnley have had a decent campaign and in Charlie Austin they have a player that has scored a lot of goals, but they are far from a one-man team.

"I don't know who made that phrase up anyway, every team have a lot of good players and Burnley are no different."

Burnley have been quietly creeping up the table under manager Sean Dyche and begin February in eighth, five points adrift of a Play-Off spot.

The 2009 Play-Off winners have won four of their last six games in the Championship to slip a little under the radar when it comes to the pundits assessing the teams likely to challenge for promotion.

That will suit them just nicely and Dyche is only focusing on what the Clarets do themselves.

He told Clarets Player: "It's another good challenge for us going away from us, and also a team that are fighting and want to do better.

"But we've got to concentrate on ourselves. We're going well, there's a nice feel about the group, there's a nice energy about what we do and there's some really good quality. We've got to take that into the game on Saturday, for sure.

"It's our chance to keep knocking on the door and make sure that we are part of that group [in and around the Play-Offs] that keeps changing. Each week the league looks different.

"We're in good shape overall and want to keep challenging ourselves to do better."

ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION

The weekend's npower Championship fixtures actually kicked off on Thursday night with Leicester City beating Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1 at the King Power Stadium.

That result was enough for Leicester to secure second spot outright, three points clear of Hull City, who they had previously been ahead of on goal difference.

So now it's down to Hull and the other teams currently in the Play-Off positions to use their matches on Saturday to put the pressure on the Foxes again.

Hull's task sees them travel to South London for a visit to ninth-placed Millwall and they know that a victory there would see them go level on points again with Leicester, albeit with an inferior goal difference that is currently 19 worse off than the Midlands club.

Another South London team currently in the Play-Offs is Crystal Palace, who face a derby day on Saturday when they welcome to Charlton Athletic at Selhurst Park.

Palace are fifth, two points behind Hull after a disappointing run of late with only two wins since the end of November, so they will be keen to spark a bit of form again.

Charlton are 12th with three wins from four in January and look to be finding their feet again after going through December without a victory.

In fourth are Watford, one point behind Hull and one ahead of Palace, with Gianfranco Zola's Hornets at home to Dougie Freedman's Bolton Wanderers, who find themselves 17th with 34 points to their name - six clear of the bottom three.

So tight is the Play-Off picture that Hull have 50 points, Watford 49, Palace 48, and Middlesbrough in sixth have 47 with a visit to fourth-bottom Ipswich Town their excursion for Saturday.

Behind Boro in seventh are Brighton and Hove Albion who, with 42 points - ahead of Burnley on goal difference - are a little further back ahead of their visit to fifth-bottom Sheffield Wednesday.

Nottingham Forest are sandwiched in 10th by Millwall and Leeds United as one of three teams on 41 points with a visit to Birmingham City to look forward to - boss Alex McLeish's first return as a manager to Birmingham, the club he guided to promotion and a League Cup triumph.

Bristol City start the weekend second from bottom in the table on 28 points, level with third-bottom Barnsley but behind on goal difference, with the Robins heading to Blackburn Rovers and the Tykes on the road to Blackpool.

That defeat at Leicester on Thursday left Wolves 18th, five clear of the bottom three, but with the teams below them all in action that situation could be a whole lot tighter by Saturday evening.

Derby County, in 13th, seek only their second Championship win of the year in Saturday's remaining game when they host Huddersfield Town, who are 16th and boosted by their midweek victory over Crystal Palace.

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