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Preview: Nottingham Forest vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers

Sports Mole looks ahead to Good Friday's Championship meeting between two playoff hopefuls as Nottingham Forest host Wolverhampton Wanderers at the City Ground.

With the Championship promotion race entering what is sure to be a thrilling final straight, two teams on the periphery will do battle on Good Friday as Nottingham Forest host Wolverhampton Wanderers at the City Ground.

Just one place separates the two playoff hopefuls in the league table, but Forest sit eight points adrift of Wolves going into the Easter weekend with just seven matches of the season remaining.



Nottingham Forest

Nottingham Forest manager Dougie Freedman during the Sky Bet Championship match against Brighton & Hove Albion on February 7, 2015© Getty Images

The hosts have seen the rise and fall of their own Messiah already this term, with club legend Stuart Pearce establishing his side as the early pacesetters before a run of just three wins in 23 matches in all competitions saw his short stint at the helm ended.

Dougie Freedman's subsequent arrival brought about a resurrection of Forest's playoff hopes as he picked up 16 points from the first 18 available, but they may have been dealt a fatal blow before the international break.

A 76th-minute Chris Burke strike was a mere consolation at Carrow Road, with Norwich City having raced into a three-goal lead inside an hour to further their own ambitions of automatic promotion to the Premier League.

While Freedman's record since taking over is still an impressive one, two wins in their last five outings is not good enough to undo the damage caused by their collapse earlier in the campaign.

Ten points separate them from the final playoff spot and, with seventh-placed Brentford and eighth-placed Wolves within two points of Ipswich Town, Forest realistically need to win all of their remaining matches and hope that other results go their way as well.

Freedman has refused to give up on the dream, and their fixture list hands them an opportunity to claw back some vital points. Including Friday's meeting with Wolves, Forest still have to play the three teams directly above them in the table. Brentford follow on Monday to cap off a crucial Easter weekend that could make or break the Tricky Trees' season.

Forest will be glad to be back amongst home comforts, with Freedman still boasting a 100% record at the City Ground having won all five of his matches there since succeeding Pearce. That run includes triumphs over high-flyers Bournemouth and Middlesbrough, so confidence will be high that they can pick up another maximum points haul on Friday.

Recent form: WLWDWL



Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wolves boss Kenny Jackett on August 10, 2014© Getty Images

Wolves can take confidence from victory over a fellow promotion hopeful too, beating Derby County 2-0 before the international break to maintain their bid for a top-six place.

Indeed, with Ipswich kicking off their Good Friday match against Bournemouth later in the day, Wolves would climb into the playoff spots temporarily should they win and Brentford slip up in their London derby against Fulham at Craven Cottage.

Kenny Jackett's side have lost just one of their last eight outings and crucially ended a three-match winless streak with back-to-back victories in the week prior to players leaving for international duty.

They have picked up just four points from the last 12 available on their travels and, with trips to Middlesbrough and a Wigan Athletic side fighting for their lives among those still to come, an improvement in away form is needed if Wolves are to bridge the gap.

Back-to-back promotions would be an impressive achievement from the Midlands outfit, but even if they do miss out on a playoff spot this term, they will be optimistic of launching an even stronger bid for a Premier League return next season.

Recent form: WLDDWW



Team News

Chuba Akpom of Arsenal in action during the Emirates Cup match between Arsenal and AS Monaco at the Emirates Stadium on August 3, 2014 © Getty Images

Nottingham Forest beat a number of Championship rivals to the loan signing of 19-year-old Arsenal striker Chuba Akpom last week, and he could be in line for his debut against Wolves, with Britt Assombalonga still a long-term absentee.

Swansea City's Modou Barrow also made the temporary switch from the Premier League during the loan window, and is expected to start again. Chris Burke, meanwhile, will be hoping for a recall to the starting XI following his goalscoring cameo last time out, but Akpom's arrival could see him left on the bench once more.

At the other end of the field, goalkeeper Carl Ikeme is nearing a return from his broken foot and could play some part over the Easter weekend.

Forest will be hoping that Akpom can have a similar impact to that of fellow Arsenal alumnus Benik Afobe, who has eight goals in 14 matches since moving to Wolves in January. He will likely lead the line again with support from Bakary Sako and Nouha Dicko, who themselves have 22 league goals between them this season.

The importance of the game means that Jackett is unlikely to make too many changes to his preferred starting XI, despite having another match against a playoff rival just three days later. However, Rajiv van La Parra could be in line for a recall after he apologised for storming off when subbed against Sheffield Wednesday.

Dave Edwards is also pushing for a start, but Kevin Doyle is expected to be on the bench once again following the announcement that he will be joining MLS side Colorado Rapids at the end of the season.

Nottingham Forest possible starting lineup
Darlow; Mancienne, Lascelles, Wilson, Lichaj; Barrow, Lansbury, Gardner, Osborn, Antonio; Akpom

Wolves possible starting lineup
Kuszczak; Doherty, Batth, Stearman, Golbourne; Van la Parra, McDonald, Edwards, Sako; Afobe, Dicko



Head To Head

Assombalonga, Matty Fryatt and Henri Lansbury were all on the scoresheet in a 3-0 victory for Forest at Molineux in November - the third game in a five-match losing streak for Wolves and just a second win in 12 for Forest.

That was the third win in a row in this fixture for Forest, while Wolves have only won one of their last 10 games at the City Ground, losing four.

There have been 31 goals in the last 10 meetings between the two sides, with the most recent goalless draw coming in September 2000 at the City Ground.



Video Preview

Hit play below to see what the Sports Mole Sofa had to say about this encounter:



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We say: Forest 2-2 Wolves

Both sides have been in the goals of late and, with plenty riding on the match, should go all out to pick up the three points. A high-scoring affair is expected, but the two teams could cancel each other out in that regard so we're going for a 2-2 draw.



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Wolves manager Kenny Jackett looks on prior to the Pre Season Friendly match between Oxford United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Kassam Stadium on July 29, 2014
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