Bristol City vs Nottingham Forest Preview: Fifth meets sixth at Ashton Gate 
Sabri Lamouchii, Nottingham Forest manager.  (Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

As things stand only goal difference separates Bristol City in sixth and the visitors Nottingham Forest in fifth, with both sides now being considered as serious promotion contenders.

At the beginning of the season many tipped City to be in and around the play-off picture and the Robins are living up to expectations so far.

Forest however, have been somewhat a surprise package, with new manager Sabri Lamouchi taking to the Sky Bet Championship with apparent ease.

Current Form

The home side have stumbled through recent fixtures to come out unbeaten in their last four games. Their undefeated spell however consists of underwhelming draws against Championship strugglers Barnsley and Wigan Athletic. Before that, they fell 3-0 to Luton Town, another side who are lingering in the bottom half of the division.

The Robins however look solid at home, boasting just one defeat at Ashton Gate, with that coming on the opening day of the season against Leeds United.

Forest come into this fixture on the back of a victory against bitter rivals Derby County. Lewis Grabban scored the only goal of the came which saw Forest record back to back victories after two disappointing defeats.

The Reds have been one of the divisions strongest away sides, picking up fifteen points from a possible twenty-four, losing just one game away from the City Ground.

Forest currently sit fifth in the table but hold a game in hand on the teams around them. Three points from their extra game would see the midlands side sit level points with Preston North End in second place, illustrating just how strong Lamouchi has made this Forest side.

What to Expect

City are the fourth highest scorers in the division with twenty-five goals, five more than Saturday’s opposition. However, their potent attack is weakened by defensive frailties. Conceding twenty-one goals from sixteen games, the Robins have the worst defensive record in the top half of the league other than Queens Park Rangers.

In contrast, Forest come to Ashton Gate possessing the second best defence in the division, conceding just thirteen times so far this campaign.

Lamouchi has adopted defence as the best form off attack, opting to allow the opposition to dominate the ball. His side averages around 45% possession per game, the fourth lowest in the division.

Lee Johnson should be wary of Forest’s defensive stance. The Robins have conceded four goals from counter attacks this season, more than nay other side in the division, and with Forest set up without the ball Lamouchi’s side will look to hit Bristol City on the break.

Star Men

In the absence of Bailey Wright, Josh Brownhill has taken the captains armband and has so far been the stand-out player for City. Last time out Brownhill scored a stunning solo strike to give the Robins a 1-0 victory against Cardiff City in the Severnside Derby. The goal was his third of the season from centre midfield and illustrated his ability to lead by example.

With a pass accuracy of 78% and two tackles per game, Brownhill controls the game in both halves of the pitch, with much of City’s play coming straight through their fill in skipper.

For Forest, there defensive strengths are clear and the performances of Matty Cash at right back and Brice Samba in goal have been highly significant in their achievements this season. However, to win games Lewis Grabban is the key player for Forest.

Since joining in 2018 Grabban has scored twenty-three in fifty-four appearances, including seven in fifteen this season. The striker averages two shots per-game and is the epitome of a Championship poacher. If Bristol City are to find victory on Saturday, they must shut-out any opportunities for Grabban.

The winner of Saturdays match will strengthen their play-off credentials going into a busy winter period, whereas the loser could drop out of the top six and fall victim to the constantly competitive Championship campaign.