Nottingham Forest vs Swansea Preview: Now or never for the playoff hopefuls
0-0 earlier in the campaign, neither side can afford such a result this weekend (photo: Getty Images)

Nottingham Forest vs Swansea Preview: Now or never for the playoff hopefuls

Both sides will still have hopes of breaking into the top six but are in desperate need of three points if they are going to maintain a playoff challenge.

Chris Lincoln

Just seven points separate 5th and 12th as the Championship prepares for a grandstand finish at either end of the table.

Nottingham Forest are one of the sides posing a playoff challenge, whilst a win for Swansea City could propel their distant dreams back into life.

As Championship football returns following the international break, this is a huge game for both sides.

Poor recent form

Only a month ago, Forest gave themselves real hope of breaking into the top six, following a stunning victory over arch rivals Derby County in front of a buoyant fanbase.

Yet the former European Cup winners have failed to kick on from that position, picking up just four points in as many matches.

Form has also been an issue for Swansea. They have spent the vast majority of the season in and around the mid-table places but with teams above them slipping up as the pressure mounts, better results in recent weeks could have strengthened their playoff charge.

Three defeats in their last four has left them probably too far away to hit the top six mark, although they do have two games in hand. And stranger things have happened in the Championship at this stage of the season...

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The curse of O'Neil and March vs The spirit of 2011

Forest have a strong home record (unbeaten in seven) against Swansea, although the Welsh side have netted six times in the last three competitive meetings between the two clubs. Including a 0-0 draw back in September, you have to go back five matches since Forest last ran out victorious.

With playoff places on the line, Swansea will have positive memories of the last two fixtures between the sides before this season. A strike from club legend Leon Britton set the Swans on their way to a 3-1 aggregate victory in the 2011 playoff semi-final before defeating Reading 4-2 in the final to secure their place in the Premier League.

If Swansea are to produce a similar climax to their season eight years on, they will have to put to bed two separate curses that could haunt them on Saturday. The visitors have never defeated Forest manager Martin O'Neil in five league matches and have also picked up just one point in their last seven fixtures during the month of March.

Cash and McBurnie return, as could Grabban

There will be a clash of styles at the City Ground with a physical Forest unit bolstered by the return of giant defender Alexander Milosevic in the back four.

Winger Matty Cash is expected to play and bring some flair but a host of important players such as Sam Byram and Michael Dawson  are unavailable. Yet Forest could be boosted by the return of top goalscorer Lewis Grabban who has missed the last five outings.

The patient, passing style of play has been a symbol of Swansea City for the past decade, impressing again in their most recent outing when they almost thwarted the quadruple hopes of Man City.

The visitors will be delighted to welcome back striker Oli McBurnie, having dropped 14 points in the six league matches he has not played this season. Only Joe Rodon and Leroy Fer are expected to be sidelined, whilst Daniel James will be looking to ride a wave of confidence after netting for Wales in his first competitive start just a few days ago.