Play-off hopefuls Bristol City face a tough task to stop their free-fall down the Championship table post-restart, as they travel to The City Ground to play high-flying Nottingham Forest in Matchday 40.
Forest have continued to climb the table picking up 4 points since the restart, mustering a 1-1 draw against Sheffield Wednesday before a convincing 3-1 victory over Huddersfield last time out. The results have seen Sabri Lamouchi’s team reach 4th place, with a strong seven-point gap over Preston in 7th outside of the play-off positions.
Meanwhile, City had been in with a shout of play-offs before the enforced break, but disappointing losses to Blackburn (3-1) and Sheffield Wednesday (2-1) have seen them slip to 12th in the division, five points off Cardiff in 6th.
The game is very much a tale of two dugouts, with Lamouchi hailed as a hero for the improvement The Reds have made this season, while Lee Johnson in the opposite technical area faces extreme pressure - and not for the first time in his City career.
Johnson, former City player and son of the club’s managerial legend Gary Johnson, faced heated criticism from fans on Sunday. He came under fire for playing several senior players out of position, and for leaving fan favourite attacking midfielder Kasey Palmer on the bench while his team trailed in the closing stages, instead opting to bring on 23-year-old substitute right-back Zak Vyner as the final roll of the dice.
Lewis Grabban (19) - The third highest scorer in the entire division, Grabban was on top form last time out when he netted both of the opening goals in their stylish win over Huddersfield. Having had just 32 shots on target all season, only 13 of those haven’t hit the back of the net - that’s exactly the kind of clinical finishing a play-off elect requires.
Famara Diedhou (10) - A Senegalese international with goals against the likes of Brazil, the big-man up top for The Robins has netted 10 times in the league this season and was the club’s top scorer last term too, when he reached 13. Technically speaking, a Bristol City player has actually scored more Championship goals this season - January acquisition Nakhi Wells has 16, although 13 of those came in QPR colours.
Player to Watch
Joe Worrall (Forest) - While it would be easy to pick goal-machines Grabban or Wells, I actually want to highlight another player who I think has been exceptional.
The 23-year-old centre back Worrall has broken into the first team for Forest following last season’s loan spell getting Europa League experience at Rangers, and as well as playing every single minute of this season (potentially their highest finishing league position since ‘09/10), he’s even contributed at the other end of the pitch too with one goal and four assists.
6”4 Worrall was responsible for the opener on Sunday as it was his cross that found Grabban to convert, and although he gave away the penalty for a silly shove in the 96th minute, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt as it looked a harsh decision.
Forest should have more than enough talent to unlock City’s recently struggling defence, but the key will be stopping the wealth of attacking options at Johnson’s disposal.
Match Preview written by Alfie House/