Do home bankers exist in the Championship?
When Norwich City, Leeds United and Millwall were promoted back to the Championship at the end of last season, each had a point to prove.
Norwich v Leicester
Norwich, in particular, were immediately burdened with the weight of expectation that is now foisted upon every club that go up as champions. Paul Lambert’s side were viewed by many as play-off contenders, mostly due to the recent tendency for Football League teams to take a winning mentality from one successful season into the next one at a higher level.
If the opening night’s comprehensive home defeat by then unfancied Watford grounded the Canaries, then their subsequent form has aped Lambert’s achievements last season following their infamous 7-1 trouncing at the hands of Colchester United just over a year ago.
Tonight, they face Leicester City, the club that preceded them as League One champions. A club whose success helped contribute to the confidence at Carrow Road this summer. And, more pressingly for those at the Walkers Stadium, a club whose manager Paulo Sousa, a former team-mate of Lambert at Borussia Dortmund, is under severe pressure to deliver only their second league win of the campaign.
There are no such worries at Norwich, currently lying sixth in the Championship table with a very respectable 13 points from their first eight outings.
Leeds United v Preston North End
Sitting one place above Lambert’s side is the team that finished last season one place beneath them in the division below. Leeds United have, like Norwich, recovered strongly from an opening defeat.
The current table must be qualified. Just six points separate second-placed Cardiff from Sheffield United, who are currently 18th. There is still much jostling for position and, aside from a supremely assured Queen’s Park Rangers side, there has been little between the other clubs in the division so far.
Nevertheless, Simon Grayson will view his team’s current standing as a successful work in progress. Leeds found two trips to fellow Yorkshire outfits Barnsley and Doncaster Rovers tough going, taking just one point from a possible six, but they have won their last three games at Elland Road.
The visitors tonight are Preston North End, for a game with added spice. Four years and four months ago, the two sides met in the Championship play-off semi-finals.
Both legs were hotly-contested affairs, with then Preston manager Billy Davies breaking with tradition by openly celebrating the draw his team earned at Leeds in the opening encounter. At Deepdale just days later, the visitors triumphed and headed to Wembley.
For Preston, buoyed by a fine win at Coventry at the weekend, this game presents a timely challenge. If Darren Ferguson can inspire victory at Elland Road, currently brimming with confidence, it has the potential to act as a huge springboard for North End.
QPR v Millwall
The third promoted side, Kenny Jackett’s Millwall, are also in need of a springboard following three straight defeats in all competitions, the first of which was an infamous 6-1 thrashing at home to Watford.
The Lions won their first game of the season impressively, spoiling the debut of Bristol City’s new signing David James with a 3-0 success at Ashton Gate. They followed this up by putting four goals past Hull City at the Den.
Since then, life has grown more difficult and Jackett’s men currently lie halfway down the table. They make the short trip across the capital to Loftus Road to face Neil Warnock’s rampant QPR.
Anything other than three home wins would be a surprise. In any other league.
In the Championship, though, we have grown used to expecting the unexpected.
Who’s your money on?