Norwich City will have no fear heading to Anfield to take on Liverpool in their first Premier League fixture of the season, according to Daniel Farke.

Farke led Norwich back to the top flight as Championship winners in 2018-19 and the Canaries' opening top-flight outing will come against Liverpool.

Jurgen Klopp's side finished a close second behind Manchester City last term, before going on to win the Champions League with a 2-0 defeat of Tottenham in the final.

But Farke, who like Klopp left Borussia Dortmund - albeit the Bundesliga club's reserve team - to manage in England, is relishing the test, insisting his side will be unfazed by the prospect of facing Liverpool.

"It's an exciting game for our supporters and the whole club," Farke told Norwich's official website.

"We are not naive. We know it's probably the toughest fixture you can get on your first game. They have an unbelievable stadium with world-class players and a world-class manager and they'll be desperate to get their party started.

"But we are not scared. We want to play against the best teams. We've worked extremely hard for this opportunity to be competitive against the top teams in the country and we will be greedy to bring our football onto the pitch.

"We don't want to just enjoy the moments against the top teams, we want to reward our supporters with good football and good results. We are focused on the job."

Norwich also face Chelsea and City in their opening five games, but Farke has full confidence in his side's ability to go toe-to-toe with the Premier League heavyweights.

"I don't want to analyse the fixtures too much. You never know when is the best moment to play each team," he added.

"We have a tough start against some of the best teams in Europe and it's a big task for my young team, but they are greedy to succeed.

"We want to win points against the best and I think we will learn a lot from our first few games."

Sergio Aguero could set a new Premier League record for goals on the opening weekend of a season in 2019-20.

Manchester City start their title defence at West Ham, where a hat-trick would make the Argentina attacker the most prolific opening-weekend goalscorer in the competition's history.

City's bid for a third consecutive title will likely be challenged strongly by European champions Liverpool again and Jurgen Klopp's side open their season at home to Norwich City, a favourite victim of the Reds.

Here, with the help of Opta, we look at two key facts for each of the opening-day fixtures.

 

Liverpool v Norwich City

- This will be the first time that Liverpool and Norwich have met since a nine-goal thriller at Carrow Road in January 2016, in which the Reds prevailed 5-4.

- Norwich City have only lost more Premier League games against Manchester United (12) than they have against Liverpool (11), but they have conceded more goals in the Premier League against the Reds than any other side (45).

Bournemouth v Sheffield United

- Sheffield United have won each of their past eight competitive meetings with Bournemouth.

- On the only previous occasion that Bournemouth and Sheffield United played one another on the opening matchday of a league season, the Blades were relegated from the second tier that campaign (1987-88).

Burnley v Southampton

- This is the second successive Premier League season that Burnley and Southampton have met one another on the opening matchday. Southampton hosted Burnley last season on the opening weekend and they drew 0-0.

- The last five Premier League meetings between Burnley and Southampton have produced just six goals (four for Burnley, two for Southampton).

Crystal Palace v Everton

- Everton are unbeaten in their most recent nine Premier League meetings with Crystal Palace, winning four and drawing five. 

- On the only previous occasion that Crystal Palace and Everton played each other on the opening matchday of a league season, Crystal Palace won 2-1 at Goodison Park but ended the season bottom of the league (Premier League 1997-98).

Leicester City v Wolves

- Leicester City's first home game and Wolves' first away game in the Premier League last season was in this fixture at the King Power Stadium on matchday two. The Foxes won 2-0.

- In their 4-3 victory over Leicester in January, Diogo Jota became the first Wolves player to score a top-flight hat-trick since John Richards in October 1977 (also against Leicester City). He also became the second Portuguese player to score a Premier League hat-trick, after Cristiano Ronaldo.

Tottenham v Aston Villa

- Spurs will start a league season at home for the first time since 2010, following eight successive seasons with an away match to start their league campaign.

- Harry Kane has scored four goals in five Premier League appearances against Aston Villa, including two goals in their last such meeting: a 2-0 win for Spurs at Villa Park in March 2016.

Watford v Brighton and Hove Albion

- This is the second successive season Watford have hosted Brighton on matchday one. Last term, Watford beat the Seagulls 2-0 at Vicarage Road last August thanks to a Roberto Pereyra double.

- Brighton have won just one of their opening league fixtures to a top-flight season; this was in 1980-81, against Wolves.

West Ham v Manchester City

- Manchester City have won their past seven competitive matches against West Ham with a combined score line of 23-3 in their favour.

- Sergio Aguero has scored six goals on matchday one of previous Premier League seasons, more than any player still playing in the competition. Players with more matchday-one goals in Premier League history are Wayne Rooney, Alan Shearer, Frank Lampard (all eight) and Teddy Sheringham (seven).

Newcastle United v Arsenal 

- Newcastle have not won their opening league game of a season since 2012-13, when the Magpies recorded a 2-1 victory at home to Tottenham.

- Arsenal have won 12 of their most recent 13 competitive fixtures against Newcastle, losing only once in this run: 2-1 at St James' Park in April 2018.

Manchester United v Chelsea

- This will be the first meeting between these Manchester United and Chelsea on matchday one of a league season since 2004-05, when Jose Mourinho took charge of his first Premier League match. Chelsea won 1-0 thanks to an Eidur Gudjohnsen goal and went on to win the league title that season.

- Manchester United have lost more Premier League games (18) and conceded more Premier League goals (71) against Chelsea than they have against any other team.

Liverpool host Norwich City in the first game of the 2019-20 Premier League season on August 9, with Manchester United against Chelsea at Old Trafford the pick of the opening weekend.

Defending champions Manchester City, seeking a third consecutive Premier League title under Pep Guardiola, open their season away to West Ham on August 10.

Championship winners Norwich face a daunting trip to Anfield to take on the European champions while fellow promoted sides Sheffield United and Aston Villa are away to Bournemouth and Tottenham respectively.

Graham Potter's first game in charge of Brighton and Hove Albion is away to Watford, while Newcastle United versus Arsenal is one of two fixtures scheduled for August 11.

The first weekend of the new Premier League season will end with United hosting Chelsea, who are expected to have a new head coach should Maurizio Sarri join Juventus.

A Midlands meeting between Leicester City and Wolves is also scheduled for the first Saturday of the new season.

Premier League 2019-20 opening matches: 

August 9, Liverpool v Norwich City (20:00)
August 10, West Ham v Manchester City (12:30)
August 10, Bournemouth v Sheffield United (15:00)
August 10, Burnley v Southampton (15:00)
August 10, Crystal Palace v Everton (15:00)
August 10, Leicester City v Wolves (15:00)
August 10, Watford v Brighton and Hove Albion (15:00)
August 10, Tottenham v Aston Villa (17:30)
August 11, Newcastle United v Arsenal (14:00)
August 11, Manchester United v Chelsea (16:30)

Tim Krul has vowed to get to grips with "unfinished business" in the Premier League after signing a new deal with Norwich City.

The Dutch goalkeeper built up top-flight experience during his 11-year career at Newcastle United, before spending a frustrating season at Brighton and Hove Albion in 2017-18.

He was limited to cup appearances with the Seagulls but has reignited his career since joining Norwich last July, proving a mainstay of the side that lifted the Championship title last month.

Krul's new three-year contract with the promoted Canaries was announced on Monday, and he said: "I'm over the moon to be extending my journey at Norwich City. The club gave me the opportunity to play week in week out and to play every second last season was amazing."

He called winning silverware "one of the proudest moments of my career", but Krul is determined it should be the start of something big, rather than the height of his and the club's ambitions.

After signing up until the end of the 2021-22 season, he said: "It's the most exciting league in the world. I feel like I have unfinished business there and I'm just really excited to face these big teams again."

Krul, 31, added to Norwich's official website: "There's going to be big challenges because we are going into the best league there is. My biggest message to everyone is to take the opportunity with both hands and don't be fazed by big teams and big players."

Former England goalkeeper Rob Green has announced his retirement from football at the age of 39.

Green was part of the Chelsea squad that celebrated winning the Europa League final against Arsenal in Baku this week.

The goalkeeper started the 2010 World Cup as England's first choice between the posts but was dropped after making an error against the United States in the Three Lions' tournament opener.

Green joined Chelsea on a free transfer last year after leaving Huddersfield Town but did not make a competitive appearance for the Blues.

"Following an incredible evening in Baku on Wednesday and after a 23-year career spanning three decades, I've decided that now is the right time to announce my retirement from professional football," Green said in a statement posted on Chelsea's website.

"Being part of the group and celebrations with such a special squad of players after winning the Europa League seems a fitting way to end what's been an amazing journey for me in the game.

"I've loved every moment and feel privileged to have enjoyed the career I have. I've played with, and against, some of best players in the world and have experienced so much that professional football has to offer.

"I've had the joy of representing some fantastic clubs, all of whom have helped to shape me in their own varying way. Thank you to all of the fans and everybody connected with Norwich City, West Ham, QPR, Leeds United, Huddersfield Town and Chelsea.

"Representing my country will always be one of my proudest achievements and I feel honoured to have played for England.

"Thank you to all of the managers, coaches and staff I've worked with and thank you to all of the team-mates that I've shared a dressing room with over the years.

"Collectively we've shared some amazing times and I leave the game with memories that I'll always treasure."

Patrick Roberts has signed a new contract with Manchester City until 2022 and will spend next season on loan at Norwich City.

The winger previously spent two-and-a-half years on loan with Celtic and was with LaLiga club Girona last term.

Roberts has committed his long-term future to City, but is headed to Carrow Road for the 2019-20 campaign with newly promoted Norwich.

"Everyone at Manchester City would like to take the opportunity to wish Patrick all the best on his move to Norwich and we look forward to seeing his development continue at close quarters," said a City statement.

Roberts becomes Norwich's first new signing since they sealed a Premier League return by topping the Championship table.

"The back four [last season] was very young so that gives me the same belief that the manager [Daniel Farke] has given those players," Roberts told Norwich's official website.

"It's crucial for me being so young that I'm playing and enjoying playing under someone who's willing to play young players and give them opportunities to flourish in their careers.

"I think it's important we keep the same way of playing and I'm sure the manager will do that. I'm sure he'll get the boys right for the Premier League.

"It's just about playing with freedom and confidence and seeing where that takes you. I cannot wait to get started. It should be fun. I'm looking forward to meeting the boys getting around the place and the city of Norwich."

Norwich City lifted the Championship trophy after a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa saw them fend off the challenge of Sheffield United on a final day that also saw Derby County secure a place in the play-offs.

Derby's 3-1 win over West Brom, who ended the season in fourth, ensured Frank Lampard's men finished sixth ahead of Middlesbrough, who did all they could by beating Rotherham United 2-1.

Leeds United's place in the play-offs was already assured but a 3-2 defeat against the 10 men of already-relegated Ipswich Town left Marcelo Bielsa's men winless in four, while Bristol City, who could have secured a top-six finish if Derby and Middlesbrough slipped up, drew 1-1 at Hull City.

Second-placed Sheffield United, who drew 2-2 at Stoke City, will have the luxury of sitting back and watching while Leeds, West Brom, Villa and Derby contest the Championship play-offs.

 

LATE VRANCIC STRIKE ADDS GLOSS TO CANARIES' GLORY

Mario Vrancic scored Norwich's winner four minutes from time to send their travelling fans wild on a day when Daniel Farke's men were bidding to claim the Championship title.

In the end Sheffield United's draw at Stoke rendered the Canariers' result irrelevant, but it will not have felt that way to Farke and his players who capped a fine season with a win over one of the division's form teams.

Villa were unbeaten in 12 going into the game but they fell behind when Teemu Pukki tapped home Onel Hernandez's cross after seven minutes.

Jonathan Kodjia levelled matters seven minutes later, sweeping Conor Hourihane's low free-kick into the net, and Dean Smith's side looked the better side for spells before Vrancic rifled a shot into the bottom corner of Jed Steer's net from the edge of the box to put the sheen on a day of celebrations across Norfolk.

DERBY SECURE SIXTH AFTER DRAMA AT PRIDE PARK

Derby County clinched a place in the Championship play-offs at Middlesbrough's expense after they beat West Brom 3-1 at Pride Park.

Lampard's men took the lead when Martyn Waghorn rose to meet Jayden Bogle's first-time cross, timing his run well to shake off his marker and nod the ball down into the bottom corner of the net.

Waghorn limped off injured after 40 minutes and Stefan Johansen's equaliser for West Brom meant that Middlesbrough – who were 2-0 up at Rotherham at the time – were set to take the Rams' place in the top six.

But after Tom Lawrence's close-range shot was saved by Sam Johnstone's outstretched leg, Mason Bennett pounced on the rebound and poked it into the net to restore Derby's lead.

Lawrence then jinked his way into the area only to be felled by Kyle Bartley, and Harry Wilson buried the penalty kick in the bottom-left corner of the net before Baggies substitute Hal Robson-Kanu was sent-off for kicking out at Bradley Johnson.

LEEDS SLUMP TO THIRD DEFEAT IN FOUR

A calamitous mix-up between Leeds goalkeeper Kiko Casilla and defender Luke Ayling gifted a winning goal to Collin Quaner, who slid the ball home to earn already-relegated Ipswich a win over Bielsa's out-of-sorts side.

Flynn Downes put Town ahead when the visitors failed to clear their lines at a free-kick, but Mateusz Klich popped up with an equaliser just before the interval, slamming the ball inside the near post from 12 yards.

Andre Dozzell restored Ipswich's lead as Leeds were caught napping at the back two minutes into the second half, before Stuart Dallas equalised from close range when Kemar Roofe's shot rebounded off the crossbar.

Luke Chambers felled Roofe three minutes later and was sent off before the Leeds striker ballooned the ensuing penalty over the bar, and in the final minute the visiting fans were left in disbelief as their side slumped to a third defeat in four matches heading into the play-offs.

THREE POINTS NOT ENOUGH FOR BORO

John Obi Mikel scored his first league goal in English football for almost six years as Middlesbrough beat Rotherham, but a fifth win in six Championship matches was not enough to lift Tony Pulis' men into the play-off places.

Elsewhere, Brentford ended the season on a high as they beat Preston North End 3-0 at Griffin Park, and there were also wins for Nottingham Forest, Queens Park Rangers and Wigan Athletic, while Birmingham City drew 0-0 at Reading and Blackburn Rovers were held to a 2-2 draw by Swansea City.

Norwich City secured promotion to the Premier League with a 2-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers at Carrow Road on Saturday.

Daniel Farke's side needed only a draw to guarantee their place in the top flight next season, with third-placed Leeds United six points behind them with two games remaining.

The Canaries went one better, though, with superb goals from Marco Stiepermann and Mario Vrancic sending them back to the top of the Championship and guaranteeing they will play Premier League football next season.

Sheffield United had moved top with a 2-0 win over Ipswich Town, but Norwich looked set to overtake them once more when Stiepermann drilled a good finish beyond Jayson Leutwiler with 13 minutes played.

The party atmosphere in East Anglia increased when Vrancic sent an unstoppable strike into the top-left corner from 30 yards, although the home fans were quietened when Lewis Travis beat Tim Krul with a low effort only two minutes later.

Typically one of the division's best attacking sides, Norwich were far more prosaic in the second half as they looked to hold onto their advantage, although they still managed 24 shots to Blackburn's eight.

The final whistle was eventually greeted by rapturous cheers, as Norwich celebrated being back in the top tier for the first time since being relegated in 2015-16.

Sheffield United look almost certain to join them in automatic promotion, as the Blades hold a six-point advantage over Leeds and a goal difference of 37 compared to 24.

It means anything but a win for Marcelo Bielsa's side against in-form Aston Villa on Sunday will force them to settle for a play-off spot.

Norwich City and Leeds United dominate this season's Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) Championship Team of the Year, providing three players each.

Leaders Norwich, who are all but guaranteed to seal automatic promotion to the Premier League, have Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis included.

Norwich striker Teemu Pukki, the league's top scorer with 28 Championship goals this season, is up front alongside Sheffield United's Billy Sharp and Tammy Abraham, who has hit 25 league goals for Aston Villa in his loan spell from Chelsea.

Sheffield United, second in the table and three points clear of Leeds with two games to go, also provide Oliver Norwood among the midfielders, while Villa playmaker Jack Grealish makes the cut.

Despite an untimely loss of form seeming set to land them in the play-offs, Leeds have defensive duo Liam Cooper and Pontus Jansson both in the side, along with Pablo Hernandez.

The only player named in the PFA's XI who does not feature for one of the Championship's top three or fifth-placed Villa is the goalkeeper, Darren Randolph, who plies his trade at play-off hopefuls Middlesbrough.

West Brom strike pair Jay Rodriguez and Dwight Gayle, who have scored 21 and 23 Championship goals respectively this season, are among the players to miss out.

There was also no place for Brentford's Neal Maupay, second behind Pukki in the scoring charts, or his team-mate Said Benrahma, whose 14 Championship assists is a league-high.

Birmingham City's Che Adams was named on the three-man shortlist for Championship's Player of the Season award, which was won by Pukki, but he did not gain selection despite netting 22 league goals.


PFA Championship Team of the Year in full:

Darren Randolph (Middlesbrough); Max Aarons (Norwich), Liam Cooper (Leeds), Pontus Jansson (Leeds), Jamal Lewis (Norwich); Pablo Hernandez (Leeds), Oliver Norwood (Sheffield United), Jack Grealish (Aston Villa); Teemu Pukki (Norwich), Tammy Abraham (Aston Villa), Billy Sharp (Sheffield United).

Sheffield United claimed another big win in their bid for promotion from the Championship as they beat Hull City 3-0 to pile the pressure on Leeds United.

With Leeds facing Brentford in Monday's late fixture, the second-placed Blades moved three points clear of Marcelo Bielsa's side with a dominant display at KCOM Stadium.

Above them, Norwich City were held to a fourth successive draw, and with two games remaining, their lead has been reduced to just three points.

Play-off candidates Middlesbrough and Bristol City succumbed to defeats at Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday respectively, and Derby County took the chance to move into the top six thanks to a Harry Wilson late show against QPR.

In the early game, Aston Villa beat Millwall to claim their 10th successive win, while at the other end of the table Wigan Athletic secured safety with a 2-0 victory over Preston North End.

BLADES SHARP AS THE RUN-IN HOTS UP

Having seen off Forest on Friday, Sheffield United took full advantage of playing before Leeds by dismantling Hull in a Yorkshire derby.

Chris Wilder's side took the lead 10 minutes in – David McGoldrick heading home unmarked from John Fleck's corner – and the Blades never looked back.

McGoldrick doubled his tally 12 minutes later, curling in an excellent finish from 25 yards out, with Enda Stevens capitalising on more slack Hull defending to effectively wrap up the points before half-time.

While securing automatic promotion will be the priority, United are just three points behind Norwich with two games – against Ipswich Town and Stoke City – still to come.

CANARIES' CELEBRATIONS STILL ON HOLD

A matter of weeks ago, it looked as though Norwich's charge to the title, and the Premier League, was a mere formality.

Now, however, after yet another draw, things look a bit more complicated for Daniel Farke's side. Depending on Leeds' result against Brentford, there could suddenly be a three-way tussle for not just promotion, but the title.

Norwich dominated proceedings for much of Monday's encounter at Stoke, with Onel Hernandez beating Jack Butland in the 24th minute.

But the hosts fought back through Ashley Williams' header, and though Teemu Pukki restored Norwich's lead, Thomas Edwards drew Stoke level once more to secure a share of the spoils, and delay the Canaries' promotion celebrations.

CONTROVERSIAL PENALTY HELPS DERBY

Derby moved into the final play-off spot thanks to a dramatic 2-0 triumph over QPR, though Frank Lampard's side relied on a contentious penalty to break the deadlock.

With 94 minutes played, referee David Webb harshly deemed that Luke Freeman had fouled Jayden Bogle, and Liverpool loanee Wilson made no mistake with a composed finish.

QPR rallied, with Pawel Wszolek seeing an effort hooked off the line, but the result was settled when Derby raced clear – Wilson tucking in his second in the 101st minute.

Derby's move into the play-off spots comes at the expense of Middlesbrough, who lost 3-0 at Forest, while Barry Bannan's stunner set Sheffield Wednesday up for a 2-0 win over Bristol, who drop to eighth.

VILLA MARCH ON, WIGAN SAFE

Villa seem to be hitting top form at just the right time, as they all but guaranteed a play-off place with a 1-0 win over Millwall – Jonathan Kodjia on target for Dean Smith's side.

Millwall's defeat handed Wigan a boost ahead of their clash with Preston, who had Ryan Ledson sent off as the Latics secured the points with goals from Leon Clarke and Lee Evans.

In the process, Wigan moved onto 48 points, enough to make sure of their Championship status for another season after Rotherham United lost at home to Birmingham City.

Mario Vrancic scored a stunning 97th-minute equaliser as Championship leaders Norwich City salvaged a 2-2 draw with Sheffield Wednesday at Carrow Road.

With Sheffield United having leapfrogged Leeds United – who lost at home to 10-man Wigan Athletic – Norwich would have moved seven points clear at the top with a win on Friday.

However, Steven Fletcher's controversial effort looked to have sealed a surprise victory for Wednesday only for substitute Vrancic to curl in an exquisite free-kick with the final kick of the game.

Daniel Farke's side made a strong start and were rewarded in the 19th minute when Marco Stiepermann slotted home.

But with Teemu Pukki having squandered a chance to double Norwich's lead, the hosts were punished when Fernando Forestieri arrowed a thunderous strike in from 30 yards.

Forestieri almost netted a second in near-identical fashion six minutes after the interval, forcing a fine save out of Tim Krul, but Wednesday's turnaround was complete in contentious fashion moments later.

Having connected with Liam Palmer's left-wing cross, Fletcher reacted quickly to bundle the ball home at the second attempt, though he appeared to use his arm to do so.

Much to Norwich's chagrin, the goal stood, but just as it looked as though they would succumb to a first home league defeat of 2019, Vrancic dispatched a wonderful set-piece into the top-right corner to secure a share of the spoils, as the Canaries inched closer to a Premier League return.

 

Teemu Pukki scored a late equaliser as Norwich City dropped points for the second Championship game in a row, the leaders drawing 1-1 away to Wigan Athletic to give Leeds United and Sheffield United hope in the promotion race.

The Canaries were held to a 2-2 draw at home to Reading in midweek and they slipped up again at the DW Stadium on Sunday, where Reece James scored the opener with a contentious penalty.

Ben Godfrey was penalised for handball on the stroke of half-time, even though Sam Morsy's shot rebounded off the defender's leg on to his arm.

James beat Tim Krul with the resulting penalty to set up a potential shock, and the Norwich goalkeeper then made a superb save to deny Leon Clarke midway through the second half.

But Norwich levelled in the 81st minute when Pukki, crowned the Championship Player of the Season on Monday, was slipped through on goal by Kenny McLean to slot home his 27th league goal of 2018-19.

Norwich could not force a winner despite eight added minutes, though, and it was instead Wigan who had the ball in the net, Clarke having a header ruled out for a marginal offside during the extended injury time.

With four games to go, Daniel Farke's men are four points clear of Leeds, with Sheffield United - who drew at home to Millwall this weekend after conceding in added time - a further three back.

Norwich City missed the chance to move eight points clear at the top of the Championship after drawing 2-2 at home with Reading on Wednesday.

Daniel Farke's side are still red-hot favourites to win promotion to the Premier League, though, given that they have a seven-point lead over third-place Sheffield United, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Birmingham City.

Aston Villa cemented their place in the play-off positions with a 2-1 win away at Rotherham United, while Hull City maintained their late bid for a top-six finish with a 2-1 victory over Wigan Athletic.

Ipswich Town edged ever closer to relegation following a 2-0 defeat at Brentford, while Millwall and Queens Park Rangers played out a goalless draw.

RINOMHOTA DENIES CANARIES AT THE DEATH

Andy Rinomhota scored in the seventh minute of stoppage time to put a dent in Norwich's march towards the Championship title.

The Royals took a 30th-minute lead when Yakou Meite fired home, but a stirring late fightback looked to have sealed all three points for Farke's men.

Ben Godfrey pulled the hosts level before Christoph Zimmermann put them ahead two minutes later. Reading had the final say, however, with Rinomhota firing home late on to clinch the visitors a dramatic point.

BLADES' TOP-TWO BID SUFFERS A BLOW

Leeds United's 2-0 win over Preston North End on Tuesday cranked up the pressure on Chris Wilder's side ahead of their visit to Birmingham - and they were unable to match their promotion rivals by picking up three points on the road.

Enda Stevens scored after 38 minutes but Sheffield United’s lead lasted just four minutes, Michael Morrison prodding home from close range to ensure a share of the spoils.

The Blades are now a point behind their Yorkshire rivals in the race for second spot, while Birmingham sit six points above the drop zone.

VILLA IN SEVENTH HEAVEN

Aston Villa's superb recent form continued as they beat struggling Rotherham in a game that featured three penalties.

Tammy Abraham missed from the spot before Will Vaulks gave the hosts the lead from 12 yards after Tyrone Mings was penalised for handball – an offence that saw him shown a straight red card.

Jonathan Kodjia made no mistake from the spot shortly after the interval, setting up Jack Grealish to seal all three points in the 51st minute as he finished off a flowing move.

A seventh win in a row gives Villa a five-point lead over seventh-place Middlesbrough, while Rotherham remain two points away from safety in 22nd.

Sheffield United moved back ahead of Leeds United as the battle for the second automatic promotion spot in the Championship intensified on Saturday. 

The Blades, who had fallen behind their Yorkshire rivals last weekend, battled to a 1-0 win at Preston North End, while Leeds fell to a shock loss at Birmingham City.

Leaders Norwich City prevailed in the early kick-off, thrashing QPR, while Aston Villa's fine form continued with a dramatic win at Sheffield Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Bristol City, Derby County, Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest all dropped points in pursuit of a play-off spot.

In the fight for survival, Bolton Wanderers' misery continued with a loss to Ipswich Town, but there were big wins for Rotherham United and Millwall.

BLADES STAY SHARP TO RECLAIM SECOND

It has been a thrilling battle between the Blades and Leeds and this weekend belonged to Chris Wilder's men.

David McGoldrick's first-half goal settled matters at Deepdale, where Preston's top-six hopes took a hit.

But it was Marcelo Bielsa's men who suffered arguably the biggest shock of the day, beaten 1-0 by a Blues side who had lost five on the bounce.

Che Adams' goal proved decisive and came just after Patrick Bamford had struck the post for Leeds.

Those results came after Norwich had thrashed QPR 4-0 at Carrow Road, with Teemu Pukki on target twice as the Canaries moved seven points clear heading into the final six games.

BRUCE TASTES BITTER DEFEAT 

Wednesday boss Steve Bruce faced his former employers at Hillsborough and saw his side ship two late goals in a 3-1 loss.

It was 1-1 heading into injury time, with Albert Adomah and Tammy Abraham netting to boost Villa's promotion hopes.

Dean Smith's charges are now fifth after a sixth league win on the bounce.

As for Wednesday, their dreams of a late surge into the top six look to have been ended.

PLAY-OFF HOPEFULS STUTTER

It was not only the Owls who fluffed their lines on Saturday, with Derby held to a thrilling 3-3 draw at Brentford.

Frank Lampard's side, who led three times, remain two points behind sixth-placed Bristol City, who also had to settle for a point following Nathan Byrne's last-gasp leveller for Wigan Athletic.

Tony Pulis' Boro lost 3-1 at Swansea City, and Forest were beaten 2-1 by lowly Rotherham.

 

TENSION BUILDS IN SURVIVAL BATTLE

That win for the Millers, who occupy the final relegation spot, put them within a point of Reading.

The Royals lost 3-1 at Hull City, while Millwall moved a point clear of the danger zone thanks to a 2-0 home win over high-flying West Brom.

Ahmed Hegazi in particular had a day to forget for the Baggies, scoring an own goal and seeing red.

Bolton, whose very future hangs in the balance, could find no solace on the pitch as Collin Quaner's double saw rock-bottom Ipswich to a 2-1 win.

Elsewhere, Stoke City prevailed 1-0 at Blackburn Rovers.

Norwich City moved eight points clear at the top of the Championship with a ruthless 4-0 defeat of managerless QPR in Saturday's early game.

With second-placed Leeds United and third-placed Sheffield United not in action until later in the day, Norwich took another step towards promotion, at least temporarily striding 10 points ahead of the Blades.

QPR were playing for the first time since Steve McClaren's sacking in the week and they showed little fight at Carrow Road, with a new manager yet to be confirmed.

It took Norwich just six minutes to break the deadlock as Emiliano Buendia was left unmarked in the area to sweep home, and the second soon followed when Marco Stiepermann's low drive crept past Joe Lumley.

Further chances came and went for the dominant hosts before Luke Freeman gifted the ball to Buendia shortly before half-time and he fed Teemu Pukki to coolly add number three.

Norwich took their foot off the gas following the interval and their afternoon was marred by a red card for the excellent Buendia following a senseless lunge on Josh Scowen, but QPR never threatened a response and Pukki slammed in his second late on.

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