MX23RW : Thursday, February 21 14:40:13

Preview: Bristol City vs. Nottingham Forest

The Championship returns after a week off on Friday night and Sports Mole provides the lowdown on Nottingham Forest's trip to Bristol City.

Championship football returns after the international break with a Friday-night affair at Ashton Gate between two out-of-form sides, Bristol City and Nottingham Forest.

The hosts are bottom of the table with just one win since promotion from League One earlier this year, while Forest have dropped into the bottom half of late.

Bristol City

Jonathan Kodjia of Bristol City celebrates his sides first goal with Bobby Reid of Bristol City during the Sky Bet Championship match between Bristol City and MK Dons at Ashton Gate on October 3, 2015© Getty Images

The newly-promoted sides have all struggled to adapt to life in the Championship. Ahead of the last round of fixtures they occupied all three relegation spots and City remain bottom with one win in 10 all season, which was a surprise away triumph at promotion favourites Middlesbrough.

To throw a positive light on it, they have lost only one of their last four and while the draw at Ipswich Town impressed, the other two stalemates were against the other promoted sides and failing to beat either Preston North End or MK Dons is concerning.

Last season in League One, City won more points than anyone else at home, but this term they have the worst record with just two points at Ashton Gate, conceding 11 goals in five matches. It looked as if they would edge past MK last time out, but let in a 94th-minute leveller to stay rooted to the foot of the table.

Plenty needs to improve, then, and Robins boss Steve Cotterill has bolstered his squad over the international break with the loan signings of Elliott Bennett from Norwich City and Reading's Simon Cox, who have both joined on three-month deals.

With the duo's arrival, some of Cotterill's players will be wary of losing their place, but one man who should be safe is Jonathan Kodjia.

Strikers new to these shores like Tomer Hemed at Brighton & Hove Albion and Orlando Sa at Reading have impressed for sides who are enjoying strong starts to the season, but it is City frontman Kodjia who is the highest-scoring in the Championship among those who have never played in the league before.

The Frenchman, with six league goals, is behind only Charlie Austin, Nick Blackman and Jordan Rhodes in the scoring charts and has netted five in his last six.

Recent form: LLDLDD

Nottingham Forest

Matt Mills of Nottingam Forest battles with Simon Makienok of Charlton Athletic during the Sky Bet Championship match between Nottingham Forest and Charlton Athletic at City Ground on August 18, 2015© Getty Images

Dougie Freedman's side are down to 14th in the table after collecting just one point from a possible nine before the international break.

A 1-1 draw at Huddersfield Town was sandwiched by home defeats to top-six outfits Middlesbrough and Hull City after Forest had seemingly kickstarted their campaign with impressive away wins at Queens Park Rangers and Nottingham Forest.

Those triumphs came after the first international break of the season, and Freedman will hope that his players can return to that level of performance again this time around. He will be without centre-back Matt Mills, though, who is suspended for three matches after his red card in the 1-0 defeat to Hull.

The defender's absence will see Freedman make use of his squad, but that is something he is used to given that Forest have used 26 players so far this season - the most in the Championship.

It is still early days, but a particularly good or bad run of form could see the Tricky Trees soar high or plummet low given that they are six points behind third but only five above their rockbottom opponents on Friday.

Like the Robins, Forest have struggled at home this season and have won just once at the City Ground, but they are unbeaten in their last four away matches, winning two, to possess the sixth-best away record.

Recent form: LWWLDL

Team News

Simon Cox of Reading celebrates after scoring his team's first goal of the game during the Sky Bet Championship match between Reading and Huddersfield Town at Madejski Stadium on August 19, 2014© Getty Images

Of the two new Robins, striker Cox is perhaps more likely to play and could take Aaron Wilbraham's place partnering Kodjia in attack.

Bennett could make his debut from the bench, but Cotterill is unlikely to make many changes for what will be his 100th match in charge of the club.

As for the visitors, Mills will be absent for Forest's next three games after his straight red against Hull, while Eric Lichaj is also suspended for one match after reaching five bookings in 10 games; he accrued just 10 yellows in his previous two full seasons with the Tricky Trees.

Michael Mancienne could drop into the defence with Mills suspended, meaning that Jamie Ward could be in line for a recall on the right of midfield.

City possible starting lineup:
Fielding; Little, Ayling, Flint, Baker, Bryan; Reid, Pack, Freeman; Cox, Kodjia

Forest possible starting lineup:
De Vries; Mancienne, Wilson, Hobbs, Pinillos; Ward, Lansbury, Vaughan, Mendes; O'Grady, Oliveira

Head To Head

The Robins have won only one of their last 12 home league games against Forest, but that victory did come in their most recent meeting in February 2013 as they ran out 2-0 winners.

Goals have been hard to come by in recent encounters and Forest have found the net just once in their last four matches against City.

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We say: City 2-2 Forest

With Kodjia in form and Forest without Mills at the back, City will be hopeful of scoring, but they are still without a home win and confidence could be low. Forest are hardly flying, but will be aiming to take at least a point back to the Midlands given their decent away record.

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Who will win Friday night's match at Ashton Gate, Bristol City or Nottingham Forest?

Mustapha Carayol of Huddersfield Town looks to get past Jamie Ward of Nottingham Forest during the Sky Bet Championship match between Huddersfield Town and Nottingham Forest at John Smiths Stadium on September 24, 2015
Read Next:
Result: Huddersfield, Forest share the spoils

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