THE BIG MATCH

It is getting towards crunch time for the teams on the edge of the npower Championship Play-Off race and two with top-six ambitions - Blackburn Rovers and Leeds United - meet at Ewood Park on Saturday.

Rovers start the day in 11th on 44 points, seven adrift of Middlesbrough in sixth, while their visitors are two places and one point further on.

It is a chance for the home side to get back to the form that had seen them unbeaten in the Championship since January 19th, while also recording that memorable FA Cup success at Arsenal last Saturday, prior to losing 2-0 at Hull City on Tuesday night - only their second defeat in their last 12 matches.

Manager Michael Appleton told www.rovers.co.uk: "I said that after the first game, you learn more about yourself, players, staff and even the fans when you have a defeat and some things don't go right for you.

"The onus is now on us to go up against Leeds on Saturday in a home game and go right at them.

"I'm sure the players will be trying their socks off to do that, it is a good game to bounce back against a Leeds side that wherever they go are always well supported.

"So I'm sure the atmosphere will be red hot on Saturday and hopefully we can be on the right end of a result."

Inconsistency has been Leeds' problem since the turn of the year and after winning four matches in all competitions through January they didn't pick up their first three-pointer of February until Wednesday night.

That was a solid 2-0 victory at home to Blackpool to lift themselves back up into the top half of the table in front of Elland Road's highest Championship gate of the season.

Striker Ross McCormack told www.leedsunited.com: "We've got one game in hand and six points off the Play-Offs, anything is possible.

"I've been on the other side of it, being in the Play-Offs all season with Cardiff City and fell out on the last day so anything can happen.

"The day you stop believing is the day you shouldn't be a footballer, we've got a good group of lads that want to work hard and we believe that we can do it."

KEEP AN EYE ON

It isn't often that a division's form side is the one fifth from bottom in the table but that's the case for Barnsley and their npower Championship results over recent weeks.

The Tykes have won five and drawn one of their last six matches to climb out of the bottom three and put a two-point gap between themselves and the relegation zone.

And they are six points clear of the team in bottom place, Bristol City, who are their hosts at Ashton Gate on Saturday.

The Robins have won four of their last 10 but defeats in the other six have meant it has been a case of one step forward and two steps back for them with their latest loss coming on Tuesday night - 2-1 at Crystal Palace.

Head coach Sean O'Driscoll told www.bcfc.co.uk: "If you look at the last 10 games they are the best team in the division - which sums up the league.

"Normally when a team go on an unbeaten run they usually have five wins but they have eight in their last nine in all competitions which is a feat.

"They are either being underestimated by their opposition or David Flitcroft has got them well organised.

"Having been there as assistant manager then caretaker, he knows all of the players well and the mentality they have. They are obviously playing for him and have picked up some good results."

While life is difficult for Bristol City at the moment, Barnsley could not be more buoyant and their progress to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup takes their current run to eight wins and a draw from their last nine matches in all competitions.

Their 2-1 victory at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Tuesday night, where they had to come from behind, saw them climb out of the relegation places and drop Wolves into the bottom three.

Boss David Flitcroft told Barnsley Player: "I'm a Sean [O'Driscoll] admirer. His team will get the ball forward, they'll get it forward and there will be an energy to what they do.

"Bristol have got good players so like with all Championship teams you've got to take them for what they are and what they're about.

"But I've not looked too past how good a team we are. We are concentrating on that, we will focus on the group like you wouldn't believe. This group, they are in a good vein of form but their egos aren't going and that's important for me - that we stay level."

ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION

Not often this season have Cardiff City gone into a game on the back of a defeat but they do it on Sunday as they travel to Wolverhampton Wanderers having been beaten 2-0 at home to Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday night.

It was only the Bluebirds' second home loss of the campaign and just their seventh of 2012/13, such has been their form so far, and whatever happens on Saturday they will remain top of the table as they have a five-point advantage over second-placed Hull City.

Wolves, in contrast, know that whatever happens on Saturday they will remain in the relegation zone and could find themselves in a worse position than their current spot of third from bottom and two points adrift of the safety line.

They are yet to win under Dean Saunders and that defeat at Barnsley on Tuesday night proved costly.

Wolves are two points clear of second-bottom Peterborough United, who host 17th-placed Birmingham City on the back of that eye-catching 5-1 win at Millwall on Tuesday.

Immediately above Wolves are Huddersfield Town, who have a two-point advantage ahead of their home meeting with 18th-placed Ipswich Town, who themselves are only three points clear of the relegation zone.

Huddersfield, Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday are all locked together on 37 points with the Owls hosting fourth-placed Crystal Palace in the two teams' first meeting at Hillsborough since Palace sent Wednesday down and saved themselves on the final day of the 2009/10 season.

At the top, with Cardiff not playing until Sunday, the three teams closest to them all have the opportunity to put points on the board and edge nearer to the Welsh club.

Hull are second on 62 points with a visit to 16th-placed Bolton Wanderers their challenge on Saturday, while Watford are a place and three points further back ahead of their home game against Derby County, then come Palace in fourth.

Five points behind the Eagles in fifth are Leicester City, who travel to 15th-placed Blackpool with new Seasiders boss Paul Ince taking charge of his team at Bloomfield Road for the first time.

Middlesbrough are two points further back in sixth and a visit to Millwall to contend with, while in seventh are Brighton & Hove Albion - again two points back - who face a home game with Burnley.

Eighth are Nottingham Forest, six points shy of the top six and on the road to Charlton Athletic.

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