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.

Sheffield United have waited 12 years to be back in the Premier League, but one of their new top-flight rivals is already mocking them.

Thursday's release of the fixtures for the 2019-20 Premier League season saw the Blades revel in their return to the big time.

But unfortunately for their social media team, the graphic they used to list the fixtures, which has now been taken down, included a mistake in their first home game.

Sheffield United are set to welcome the Eagles to Bramall Lane on August 17, who were listed as 'Crsytal Palace' in the fixtures.

"It's 'Crystal Palace'," the Selhurst Park club pointed out on Twitter. "Welcome to the Premier League."

Chris Wilder's side are away to Bournemouth on the opening weekend of the season.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says he "can't wait" to see Axel Tuanzebe return to Manchester United from his loan at Aston Villa.

Tuanzebe, 21, has enjoyed an encouraging loan spell in the Championship in 2018-19, making 26 appearances for Dean Smith's side.

The defender could yet help his side secure a return to the Premier League, with Villa holding a 2-1 lead over West Brom in the play-off semi-final after the first leg last Saturday.

Regardless of Villa's promotion push, Solskjaer seems eager to make sure Tuanzebe is given a chance in the top flight next season, with United in need of improved strength in depth at the back following a hugely disappointing campaign.

"Hopefully, now Axel can get to the play-off final and play well," the United manager told the club's media channels.

"Obviously, he's had a couple of injuries, but he's a boy I can't wait to see in pre-season for us."

Solskjaer is also monitoring the progress of Dean Henderson, who helped Sheffield United secure automatic promotion to the Premier League.

He suggested the England Under-21 international could benefit from a return to Bramall Lane for the season to come.

"Next year, let's see what we do with Dean," Solskjaer said.

"He's obviously won promotion with Sheffield United and that's been fantastic for him. If he plays a year in the Premier League for them, it might be the best thing."

Kyle Walker believes next season's Premier League title race could be even tougher as Manchester City and Liverpool prepare to take the fight to the final day.

City lead by just a point with two games of 2018-19 remaining and anything but a Reds defeat at Newcastle United on Saturday will ensure silverware is still on the line as the campaign concludes next week.

Both sides have maintained an extraordinary pace, leaving the rest of the top six in their wake, yet Walker expects a response next season.

And with City and Liverpool continuing to improve while Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United try to make up ground, the England defender expects the task to only become more difficult.

"It is credit to both teams and both managers that there is a determination to go out every week and keep getting these wins," Walker told The Sun.

"It might take 98 points to win the Premier League. I think Leicester won it with 81 [in 2015-16]. It's crazy.

"I think next year it could be even harder. People will have to step up and try to match what us and Liverpool have done this year."

Walker will also come up against boyhood club Sheffield United next season following their promotion from the Championship and the right-back has reiterated his desire to end his career at Bramall Lane.

"I started there so I'd like to finish there," he said. "I don't know if they would want me or not, but we will see.

"Even if I just do a year there and hopefully pass on my knowledge of football to the youngsters coming through.

"I'm 29 at the end of this month but still feel fit. I played my 400th league game a few weeks ago, so I've racked up the numbers. Touch wood, I can play for many more years."

Chris Wilder quit a job in the construction industry to lay the foundations for a successful career in management with concerns over what daily sausage sandwiches would do to his waistline. 

Eighteen years later he has built something special at Sheffield United, cementing his status as a Blades legend by guiding his boyhood club into the Premier League. 

Wilder has masterminded two promotions in three years since taking charge at Bramall Lane, on the back of winning the League Two title with Northampton Town. 

The wily Sheffield native took a path less trodden to earn his place among the elite. 

He was appointed by Alfreton Town in the Northern Counties East Premier Division at the age of 34, after getting a taste for management at Sunday League side Bradway in the twilight of his playing days 

Wilder won a quadruple in his first season at the helm and was installed as Halifax Town boss after only 27 weeks at the Derbyshire club. 

After learning his trade in non-league football, the 51-year-old worked his way up with Oxford United and Northampton before being charged with the task of getting the Blades out of League One. 

Wilder may not have been enjoying the fruits of his labour had Alfreton chairman Wayne Bradley not taken a chance on the full-back in 2001. 

"This [Alfreton] was a part-time outfit in every sense of the word and he made himself full-time," Bradley told Omnisport. 

"Chris was in the transition at the end of a playing career to what happens next and he got himself a job in a building firm. 

"I remember him turning to me and saying, 'Nothing against anyone that I work with, nothing against anyone who does this, but I can't have a sausage cob break every morning - my waistline won't cope with it and I just can't get my head around the fact this is the way of life I'm going to go on to have. 

"'Weekdays I'm going to throw myself into this role, at no extra cost to you, and I'll get involved in anything and everything you'll let me do, beyond simply shaping a team'.  

"There were other roles given to Chris, one being going along to the kit manufacturer and talking to them about what he wanted." 

Having downed tools in his previous industry, Wilder was still prepared to get his hands dirty at Alfreton. 

Bradley added: "I remember we had a manager's office, come store room, come whatever else you can fit in it. On one particular day he came armed with brush, shovel and the rest of it and cleaned that office out. 

"Within a few days he had shaped that into a professional environment where he could invite prospective players. Chris did that all by himself and started to invite people to have a coffee with him at the end of the day. Not just potential new players, he would invite anybody and everybody - be it somebody operating the turnstiles or whoever. 

"He made himself very popular very quickly. Professionalism may be daunting for some, but the manner of his professionalism and making himself available to anyone... quite frankly, he would probably have been voted in as chairman if there was a public vote! 

"He also helped the groundsman, because he wanted a better playing surface. While he had no qualifications to make grass grow better than the next guy, he wanted to learn how that happened. He wanted to work with the volunteers who would have made sure the changing rooms were painted and in tip-top condition. 

"He got involved in anything and everything that he felt could influence success and I believe he's still doing that." 

Wilder may no longer be partaking in sausage cobs, but he has certainly brought home the bacon with a huge appetite for success. 

Marcelo Bielsa thinks it was in keeping with the spirit of English football for Leeds United to allow Aston Villa to score in Sunday's 1-1 Championship draw.

The home side were held at Elland Road, a result that means Sheffield United join Norwich City in securing automatic promotion to the Premier League.

Leeds would have mathematically had a chance of pipping Chris Wilder's side to second place in the table with a win, and it looked as though three points were on the cards when Mateusz Klich broke the deadlock 72 minutes in after the hosts refused to put the ball out of play and allow Jonathan Kodjia treatment.

A bust-up on the pitch ensued, with Anwar El Ghazi sent off for a clash with Patrick Bamford, but Bielsa then ordered his players to allow Albert Adomah to equalise following the restart.

Explaining his decision to Sky Sports, Leeds boss Bielsa said: "We just gave the goal back. Everyone saw the facts. We expressed our interpretation of the facts by doing what we did.

"English football is known for this [sportsmanship]. I don't have to comment on this kind of thing, which is common in England."

Villa boss Dean Smith praised Bielsa and Leeds for their actions after admitting he had asked his opposite number to allow them the chance to score.

"I asked him, and he went, 'No, I agree'. I think they all agreed," said Smith. "He was apologising, so I said they should let us walk a goal in. They had a talk about it and said 'okay'. I'm full of respect for them for that.

"Klich's just apologised to me after the game. He said, 'I shouldn't have done that, it's wrong'. But every credit to Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa for giving us the opportunity to put that right."

Smith also confirmed Villa will appeal against El Ghazi's red card, which was rewarded after Bamford reacted theatrically when the Dutchman swung an arm in his direction.

"I've seen it back and I think everyone else has, so I'll be absolutely amazed if that's not rescinded. We will certainly appeal that," he said.

Sheffield United's promotion to the Premier League was rubber-stamped on Sunday after Leeds United drew 1-1 at home to Aston Villa, with Marcelo Bielsa seemingly ordering his side to allow the visitors to walk in their equalising goal.

Leeds' own hopes of climbing out of the Championship after 15 years away from the top flight had realistically slipped away thanks to successive defeats at the hands of Wigan Athletic and Brentford.

A bad-tempered first half saw both sides trade blows at Elland Road, Stuart Dallas going close with a long-range strike and John McGinn failing to make the most of a good headed chance, while Bielsa was booked for protesting to referee Stuart Attwell.

Villa, on a run of 10 straight league wins, should have taken the lead in the 53rd minute when Jonathan Kodjia blasted a great chance over the Leeds crossbar.

But the game exploded in the 72nd minute when Mateusz Klich curled in the opener, Villa feeling the ball should have been kicked out with Kodjia lying injured on the turf after a challenge in the build-up.

A mass brawl saw Attwell lose control, before he sent off Anwar El Ghazi for a clash with Leeds striker Patrick Bamford, who appeared to exaggerate any contact.

In response, Bielsa could be seen furiously gesticulating at his team, with Albert Adomah allowed to run through unopposed and slot in, although defender Pontus Jansson appeared to ignore his manager's message by trying to stop the winger.

Leeds needed a late winner to make Sheffield United wait, Tyler Roberts having an effort cleared off the line in added time, but a play-off final reunion against Villa - whose goalkeeper Jed Steer was struggling with injury late on - is now quite possible.

Sheffield United all but sealed promotion to the Premier League with a 2-0 win over relegated Ipswich Town on Saturday.

The result means the Blades have a six-point advantage over third-placed Leeds United, who host Aston Villa at Elland Road in their game in hand on Sunday.

Scott Hogan turned home Jack O'Connell's cross in the 24th minute to put the Blades on course for victory at Bramall Lane, though they had to be patient in their pursuit of a second goal.

Oliver Norwood's free-kick was kept out by the post, while David McGoldrick and John Egan spurned headed opportunities after the interval.

However, United's dominance saw Ipswich's resistance eventually broken in the 71st minute, O'Connell nodding in John Fleck's corner from close range.

Leeds need to win both their remaining Championship fixtures and United to slip up on the final day at Stoke City to finish above their Yorkshire rivals, though Chris Wilder's side also have the added cushion of a superior goal difference.

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.

Sheffield United bounced back from successive draws by moving up to second place in the Championship with a 2-0 home win against 10-man Nottingham Forest on Good Friday.

Mark Duffy scored the opening goal with a brilliant long-range effort following Yohan Benalouane's red card, which contributed to Martin O'Neill's side succumbing to a fourth straight league loss, with Enda Stevens' late strike making sure for the hosts.

Jack Colback's 15th yellow card of the season was among the few notable moments in a flat first half at Bramall Lane, the Forest captain cautioned for simulation after going down too easily in the Blades box.

But there was an explosive start to the second period as Forest were reduced to 10 men shortly after the restart, Benalouane dismissed after bringing down David McGoldrick when through on goal.

Chris Wilder's men needed fewer than four minutes to make their man advantage count, Duffy sending a wonderful strike into the top corner.

And five minutes from time the Blades crucially doubled their lead, McGoldrick leading a break through a depleted defence and teeing up full-back Stevens on the overlap to drill a fine finish across Forest goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon.

Sheffield United move back above Leeds United on goal difference as the promotion race continues, with Marcelo Bielsa's men at home to relegation-threatened Wigan Athletic later in the day.

Sheffield United failed to put maximum pressure on Leeds United in the Championship promotion race with a dramatic 1-1 home draw against Millwall, while Ipswich Town were relegated to League One.

With Leeds in action later in the day against Sheffield Wednesday at Elland Road, the Blades had a chance to go two points ahead of Marcelo Bielsa's men and Gary Madine's goal seemed to have earned them victory.

Ben Marshall missed a late penalty for Millwall after John Egan was sent off, but Jake Cooper struck deep in added time for the relegation-threatened visitors.

Aston Villa's home win against Bristol City tightened the race for the top six, with West Brom, Middlesbrough and Derby County all collecting three points too, but Ipswich's time in the second tier is over.

 

BLADES LACK CUTTING EDGE

Sheffield United have lost form at a bad time of the season, with Chris Wilder's side having won only one of their past four Championship matches to hand the advantage to Leeds.

Madine's third league goal since joining on loan from Cardiff City in the January transfer window looked to have put his side clear of Leeds, at least temporarily.

But nerves struck in the closing stages and, after Egan was dismissed for handball having blocked a header from Tom Elliott, Marshall missed the resulting penalty.

Millwall punished the 10 men, however, with Cooper's diving header in the fifth minute of added time pushing the Lions two points clear of the relegation zone.


READING BOOSTED, IPSWICH DROP

Yakou Meite hit a priceless double for Reading in a 2-1 home win over Brentford that moved the Royals four points clear of the bottom three.

Meite struck twice in the first 15 minutes and, although Neal Maupay replied for the Bees with his 22nd Championship goal of the season, Jose Gomes' side held on.

Survival hopes are over for Ipswich, though, with Paul Lambert's side relegated despite Gwion Edwards' equaliser earning a 1-1 draw at home to Birmingham City, who are now six points above the danger zone.

Rotherham United came from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Stoke City, Michael Smith and Matt Crooks scoring in the second half to move the Millers within a point of safety.

QPR recorded their first win under caretaker boss John Eustace by thrashing mid-table Swansea City 4-0 at Loftus Road, Tomer Hemed with a double that sees Rangers pull eight points clear of Rotherham.

Bolton Wanderers, meanwhile, are likely to follow Ipswich through the trap door. Their 4-0 loss at Derby was their fifth defeat in six Championship matches and they are nine points adrift of 21st-placed Wigan Athletic, with the visit of leaders Norwich City to come on Sunday.


VILLA ON THE CHARGE

Bolton's next game is at home to Villa, with Dean Smith's men making it eight wins in a row courtesy of a 2-1 victory over top-six rivals Bristol City.

Goals from Tammy Abraham and Conor Hourihane set up Villa's win, although Famara Diedhiou hit back for Bristol City, who had been unbeaten in their last five games.

Middlesbrough continue to improve after a six-game losing streak seemed to have ended their play-off hopes, with a 1-0 win over Hull City secured thanks to Britt Assombalonga's first-half goal.

But slim top-six hopes are fading fast for Nottingham Forest and Preston North End. Forest lost 2-1 at home to Blackburn Rovers, their third straight defeat, while it is four reverses in a row for Preston after they went down 4-1 at West Brom.

Dwight Gayle fired in a hat-trick for James Shan's Baggies, who are close to guaranteeing a play-off place and are only six points behind Sheffield United.

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.

Leeds United moved up to second place in the Championship table by capitalising on Sheffield United's slip-up at home to Bristol City. 

With leaders Norwich City in action away to Middlesbrough later on Saturday, there was a chance for the Yorkshire rivals to stake their promotion claims. 

While an Andreas Weimann treble earned Bristol City a surprise victory, Pablo Hernandez struck a brace to help Leeds see off Millwall at Elland Road. 

Derby County thrashed Rotherham United 6-1 to climb into the play-off places while there was a big win at the other end of the table for Bolton Wanderers.

 

HERNANDEZ THE HERO

Leeds supporters were put through a heart-stopping match as Marcelo Bielsa's side twice came from behind to beat Millwall 3-2 and leapfrog Sheffield United in the process.

The hosts looked as panicky as the crowd when Ben Thompson headed Millwall in front after 10 minutes and their nerves were not helped when Patrick Bamford had a penalty saved by David Martin in the 19th minute.

Leeds came to life just after the half-hour mark when Hernandez finished a sweeping passing move with a neat finish, but Liam Cooper brought down Ben Marshall 10 minutes into the second half and the Lions winger converted the ensuing penalty himself.

Substitute Barry Douglas crossed for Luke Ayling to pop up with a superb headed goal and Bielsa's commitment to attacking football paid off as his side poured forward in search of a winner that arrived, Tyler Roberts cutting the ball back for Hernandez to hammer home.


BLADES BLUNTED

Chris Wilder's men had won eight in a row at home in the league, not even conceding in front of their own fans in 2019, so few would have expected Bristol City to take the points at Bramall Lane. 

Billy Sharp's 23rd Championship goal of the season put Sheffield United in front in the sixth minute and Scott Hogan also scored for the hosts, though Weimann twice equalised to bring his side level. 

And the former Aston Villa forward completed his treble in the 83rd minute to end a five-game winless run in the league for Lee Johnson's men, who move up to eighth place with their play-off hopes revived. 

Aston Villa's 2-1 triumph at home to Blackburn Rovers, their fifth Championship win in a row, leaves Dean Smith's team fifth. Derby are just behind after Martyn Waghorn's hat-trick helped thrash Rotherham, although Middlesbrough can move back into the top six by avoiding defeat against Norwich. 

Nottingham Forest's 2-1 win against Swansea City, a comeback victory at the City Ground secured thanks to late Daryl Murphy and Molla Wague goals, also keeps Martin O'Neill's men in the hunt for a play-off place but Sheffield Wednesday's top-six charge was dented by a 0-0 draw at Stoke City.


HOPE FOR BOLTON

Off the field issues continue to make the headlines for Bolton Wanderers, but Phil Parkinson's side moved within five points of safety with a 2-1 victory at Queens Park Rangers. 

Goals from Will Buckley and Callum Connolly set up their second win in four Championship games, although a late reply from Nahki Wells made for a nervy finish at Loftus Road.

QPR are now winless in five Championship games and pressure is growing on former England manager Steve McClaren, while Reading are four points clear of the drop zone after a 2-1 triumph over Preston North End. 

Wigan Athletic also edged up to 40 points by virtue of a goalless draw at home to Brentford, but Ipswich Town's fate is close to being sealed with a 2-0 home loss to Hull City leaving the Tractor Boys 13 points adrift with only seven games to play.

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