Promotion contenders Nottingham Forest have warmed up for their trip to derby with back-to-back home wins

The Championship season is reaching its business end, with six rounds of matches remaining before the play-offs.

A south-east London derby kicks off the weekend’s action, with Charlton Athletic hosting Millwall on Friday evening (19:45 BST).

The Addicks, who haven’t beaten Millwall since 1996, are looking for points to move away from danger at the bottom, while the Lions will be aiming to revive their fading play-off hopes.

Yet Saturday could bring plenty of drama at both ends of the table. Here’s what to look out for in the second tier.

Red-hot Rams host rivals Forest

Former England captain Wayne Rooney has led Derby to five straight league wins either side of the coronavirus-enforced suspension of the season to climb into play-off contention

Derby County are one of only three Championship clubs to have won all three games since the restart, and the Rams have registered five consecutive victories stretching back to February.

After bouncing around the lower half of the table for most of the campaign, that winning run has catapulted Phillip Cocu’s side to the brink of the play-off places, putting them one point behind sixth-placed Cardiff heading into the weekend.

So what better time for Derby to entertain their biggest rivals?

Nottingham Forest have been almost ever-presents in the top six since September, and Sabri Lamouchi has got Reds fans dreaming their 21-year absence from the Premier League could finally come to an end.

The encounter with Forest starts a run of matches against five of the current top six for Derby, who will have to be at their very best to sneak into the play-offs.

Forest are the current holders of the Brian Clough Trophy, and would love nothing more than to retain it while also denting the Rams’ promotion aspirations.

Something has to give at Griffin Park

Wigan have not conceded a goal in their past seven games, last letting one in on 15 February

The two other clubs to have recorded three straight wins meet at Griffin Park.

Hosts Brentford began the resumption by defeating automatic promotion rivals Fulham and West Brom to rise to third in the table – putting the Bees five points away from the Baggies.

A space in the top two is not beyond the west Londoners, who have not played in the top flight since 1946-47 and move to a new stadium at Lionel Road this summer.

Wigan are on a nine-match unbeaten run – and have kept seven consecutive clean sheets – which has lifted them well clear of the relegation zone, but they have a renewed desperation for points.

The Latics went into administration on Wednesday and are set to be deducted 12 points by the English Football League. But the punishment will only be implemented this season if the club finish outside of the relegation zone.

As it stands Wigan are seven points above the bottom three. The equation is simple – Paul Cook needs to get his side 13 points clear of 22nd place to guarantee their spot in the Championship for next season.

Key clash in relegation battle

Stoke City are the only club in the bottom six yet to taste victory since the restart.

The Potters have taken one point from their three games back, and defeats by rivals Wigan and Middlesbrough have seen the club slip to 22nd and into the drop zone following Hull’s late win over Boro on Thursday.

Saturday’s visitors Barnsley have enjoyed a resurgence following lockdown.

Gerhard Struber’s men were bottom and seven points adrift of safety when the season was suspended, but two wins and a draw mean the Tykes travel to the Bet365 Stadium two points behind Stoke.

With bottom club Luton Town unbeaten in six and hosting a Reading side who are three without a win, the scrap to avoid relegation is certainly hotting up.

How about the top two?

Elsewhere, Leeds United have the opportunity to move four points clear of second-placed West Brom when they travel to Blackburn on Saturday.

Marcelo Bielsa’s side were held to a 1-1 draw by Luton on Tuesday, failing to take advantage of 75% possession and 23 attempts on the Hatters’ goal.

Rovers are five points off the top six, but have lost their past two.

Leeds have amassed 75 points from 40 league games, and only three of the past 24 clubs to reach that tally have failed to win promotion to the top flight. Unfortunately, the Whites became one of that select bunch last season, slipping out of the top two and being beaten in the play-off semi-finals by Derby.

The Baggies will play catch-up, or have a chance to go top should the Whites slip up, when they host strugglers Hull City on Sunday.

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