The Championship resumes following some EFL Cup action in midweek and game 9 for each club looks to feature some highly interesting and important clashes. With the 10 game mark a relatively important milestone each club will be looking to be on track according to their relevant expectations. As ever though, there will always be winners and losers, sides that go beyond expectations and ones that simply fail to deliver. In what is always a fantastic competition, I look at the three most intriguing matches this weekend.
Derby County vs Blackburn Rovers
This type of fixture should usually not feature in such articles but the nature of Derby County's start means it is a match of real interest. Nigel Pearson has got off to a torrid start with his side slumping and failing to both perform and score goals that the fans are accustomed to. With the side he has there at his disposal the Rams should be looking to set a charge near the top of the league with foundations being built over time that should make them ready to challenge. However they go into this fixture with an awful lot of pressure when they face 23rd place Blackburn.
Rovers themselves might fancy this is an opportunity following a win in their last league game and some improvements following a dismal start as well. Late summer signings means Owen Coyle has options to at least work with now and they could provide a threat to Derby who are known for being sloppy at the back.
The interest here should come from the way the game is expected to play out. The home side should dominate the ball but with them failing to break teams down this season, this could again play into Blackburn's hands. It will be up to Derby to show some character but more importantly the quality to win a game they will be heavily expected to win. The arrival of Matej Vydra and Ikechi Anya will again show if they can add another dimension to the side but Blackburn themselves will be focused on keeping it tight and then with the likes of Ben Marshall, they will need to have their own threat going forwards, with Derby vulnerable it will be fascinating to see how adventurous they are themselves. A bad result and it doesn't look good for Pearson and the club while for Blackburn relegation rivals will be picking up points so plenty to think about for both sides.
A very important game towards the bottom of the Championship. The Millers will need to pick up points in this type of game to once again defy the odds of staying up, while Cardiff who challenged for the play-offs last season are bottom and have a worrying season ahead if the start is anything to go by.
For this reason you might suspect it to be quite a tentative affair with both clubs hoping not to concede the all important first goal. That being said Rotherham are no strangers to high scoring games at times with their inability to keep clean sheets and protect leads a real thorn in their side. This is why their nature might provide an unpredictable game. The Bluebirds have leaked goals although they should still be the more resolute side of the two while Rotherham might fancy outscoring a Cardiff City side that don't strike you as a team full of goals.
A win for the away side would be a massive lift while the same outcome for Rotherham will equally be a huge three points following a crucial defeat to Blackburn last week. With Cardiff's start a loss could cause concerns that a relegation fight may be on the cards even if it is early on in the season, so this is without doubt one to watch with interest involving the foot of the table.
A game that is hard to ignore, both of the relegated sides go head-to-head in the evening kick off with what is sure to be a captivating encounter. The Magpies already have seven more points on the board at this stage and while in this league, you should never get ahead of yourself, Villa could do with an inspirational win to ignite their season. Newcastle themselves would know about getting ahead of themselves, having previously won five on the bounce, there was probably an air of arrogance that the club would stroll this division, Wolves then gave a gentle reminder to the Toon army with a 2-0 win in their last league match.
Both clubs have an array of talent at their disposal in what will feature two of the strongest squad's and managers. I personally wouldn't say Newcastle's side is superior to Aston Villa's particularly when looking at the late summer moves that Di Matteo has made. While Newcastle can make yet another statement with a win, there is a bit of pressure on the home side with a defeat likely to raise questions with a six point gap already between getting into the play-offs. I'd suspect both managers to play this one relatively cautiously with both sides making sure there shape is spot on. Then with bags of money being spent on proven talent, a number of players will be wanting to be the match winner. That is surely what both managers will be demanding, keep it compact and then win the game with the individual quality of the forwards.
I think this is a fine chance for Newcastle to show what they are all about, with Villa at home and expected to have a go, Benitez can mould his side to absorb the pressure and take advantages of space left at the back. The first goal here really is vital in my opinion although with a number of match winners on the pitch, anything can happen.
Is Aston Villa vs Newcastle the standout match? Are there any other games that are more interesting than these ones? Let us know in the comments below!