THE BIG MATCH

Brentford have been flying up the npower League 1 table over recent weeks and head into the Christmas period second in the table - with a home game against sixth-placed Stevenage starting things off.

Uwe Rosler's Bees have not lost a League 1 fixture since October 20th, and with seven wins from nine in that time, have thrust themselves right up amongst the contenders at the top of the table.

It's been a remarkable run for the West Londoners and with plenty of points up for grabs over Christmas they will look to keep pushing on - starting first with a side also eyeing promotion.

A bumper 9,000-plus crowd is expected at Griffin Park with boss Rosler telling the Hounslow Chronicle: "It will be fantastic for the team to play in front of a packed Griffin Park. I hope everyone who bought a ticket turns up and gives the lads the support we need after Tuesday night [the FA Cup second round replay win over Bradford City].

"The crowd can give the players a massive lift and be our 12th man. It's a crucial game and hopefully they can help us continue our run."

Stevenage's form has slipped of late with only two wins in their last eight matches, four of which have been defeats - though their excellent start means they have maintained their challenge.

They start the Christmas period holding the final Play-Off spot with a one-point advantage over seventh-placed Swindon Town.

And despite their poor recent run, they have still only lost five times all season having made an excellent start.

Winger Robin Shroot told www.stevenagefc.com: "We need to carry on our away form at a side who are very much in and around the Play-Offs. We went there last year and I know we won and got a great result but it's always a challenging place to go to.

"We've shown in this league that we can do things against those teams that are fighting for Play-Offs and there's no reason why we can't have a fantastic week and put in a great performance."

KEEP AN EYE ON

Whatever happens over the weekend before Christmas, the Boxing Day encounter between Sheffield United and Scunthorpe United will see one side in the thick of the promotion race and another one fighting at the wrong end of the npower League 1 table go head-to-head.

The Blades are at home and depending on how results progress on Saturday, they could find themselves top of the table by the time they tuck into their turkey before welcoming the Iron to Bramall Lane.

United begin the busy run of fixtures over Christmas sitting third in the table on 40 points from their 22 games, a solitary point behind Brentford and Tranmere Rovers who occupy the automatic promotion places.

Danny Wilson's men travel to Crawley Town on Saturday and that will be their first priority before they turn their attentions to taking on Scunthorpe.

The Blades and the Iron have only met 20 times over the years, all at levels two, three and four of the English football system, and the record is remarkably tight with United having won seven of those matches, Scunthorpe six, and six draws.

The corresponding fixture last season ended 2-1 to Wilson's side with a 1-1 draw at Glanford Park, which was also the outcome when the two teams met in September.

Scunthorpe face a home game against Carlisle United on Saturday to kick-off their run of Christmas fixtures and it's a game that could see them drag themselves out of the bottom four.

The Iron find themselves 22nd at the moment, one point behind Portsmouth, who are immediately above them, and two points adrift of Shrewsbury Town, who occupy the first safety spot.

Scunthorpe also have the joint second worst defensive record in League 1 at the moment and know they have to improve on that.

They lost on their last visit to Bramall Lane in February this year, going down 2-1 having taken the lead and then had a man sent off, but they did win there twice in 2010 - 1-0 in March and 4-0 in September, although the 2010/11 season did see both sides relegated from the Championship.

The Iron are without a victory in a Boxing Day fixture since 2008, when they beat Hartlepool United 3-0, while you have to go back to 2004 for the Blades' last three-pointer on December 26th - a 2-1 success at Coventry City.

ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION

The run of Christmas fixtures in npower League 1 kicks off on Friday night with four teams looking to get a head start on their rivals going into a hectic period.

Bury host Shrewsbury Town with both teams at the wrong end of the table. The Shakers currently sit second from bottom, on 19 points from 22 games, and they are three adrift of the side fifth from bottom - Shrewsbury.

Friday's other game concerns two teams at top as leaders Tranmere Rovers travel to seventh-placed Swindon Town.

A win for Tranmere would see them go three points clear of Brentford at the summit ahead of the Saturday games, and extend their superior goal difference, while avoiding defeat will see Swindon move up into the Play-Off places and put pressure on their rivals.

Saturday sees fourth-placed Doncaster Rovers at home to Milton Keynes Dons, who are fifth and a point further behind the Yorkshire club.

It's tight at the top with five points separating fifth from 10th. Eighth-placed Notts County are at home to Leyton Orient, Bournemouth in ninth travel to Crewe Alexandra, and Crawley Town in 10th are at home to third-placed Sheffield United.

Saturday's remaining fixtures see Coventry City host Preston North End, Hartlepool United up against Portsmouth, Yeovil Town facing Oldham Athletic, Walsall welcoming Colchester United, and Scunthorpe United at home to Carlisle United.

On Boxing Day Tranmere and Brentford, the current top two, will be hoping to end the day in those positions with Rovers at home to Crewe and the Bees travelling to Colchester.

Sheffield United host Scunthorpe, while there are plenty of other teams in the mix looking to take advantage of any slips and keep on racking up the points themselves.

MK Dons are at home to Walsall, Doncaster go on the road to Oldham, Stevenage host Coventry and Swindon are at Leyton Orient.

There are big games too for the teams currently facing Christmas at the other end of the table.

Hartlepool will be bottom at Christmas, no results can change that, and on Boxing Day they are away to Carlisle.

Only a freak set of results on Saturday would see Bury exit the bottom four ready for December 26th, when they make the journey to Preston, while Scunthorpe and Portsmouth could get themselves out of the relegation zone on Saturday.

The Iron travel to Sheffield United in a match already covered, while Portsmouth welcome Crawley to Fratton Park for the first time ever.

Shrewsbury at home to Notts County and Bournemouth hosting Yeovil Town are the remaining Boxing Day fixtures in npower League 1.

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