Huddersfield Town sit 19th in the Championship table, just two points above the relegation zone. It was not so long ago that Bolton were in a similar position, but the Trotters went on a winning run and now occupy the eighth spot in the table, just six points off a playoff position. While we are well into the business end of the season, seven matches remain, plenty of time for either side to make a big move, or fade into oblivion.
The international break may have given Championship clubs a rare opportunity for some rest and relaxation, but that is in the rear-view mirror now, and the fixtures are once again coming thick and fast. Bolton will play six matches in the next 25 days, and these six matches will play a large part in deciding the fate of the club (and many of its players) over the next several years. Maybe Bolton need promotion, or maybe they don't. Either way, it is a club in transition, and big changes are coming this summer.
The loss to Charlton on Saturday was heartbreaking, and the Whites will have to regroup fast for this Tuesday night fixture. Unfortunately, the effects of that 3-2 loss will still be felt on the field. Both Sam Ricketts and Craig Davies will miss this match through suspension. Neither has been pulling up trees lately. In fact, Dougie Freedman brought in a right back and a forward on deadline day last week, so it could be argued that the game at The Valley was the last chance for both to earn time on the pitch. They failed, miserably. That said, the stability of the back four the past two months has been credited with Bolton's (moderate) defensive improvement. Loanee Danny Butterfield is the most likely replacement for Ricketts at right back.
The big question is will Freedman make other changes. Given the coming fixture congestion, at least some squad rotation is needed. Chung-Yong Lee had a poor match, although that could be put down to jet lag. Don't be surprised if he gets a rest though. That most likely would see Chris Eagles return to the starting XI. He would probably play on the left side of midfield. Dougie's problem area is on the right though.
I liked the Marvin Sordell-David Ngog partnership, and I think the manager will stick with it. Here is the problem; Playng two strikers and three central midfielders leaves a huge hole on the right side. Darren Pratley has had a good season overall, but to ask him to be a de facto right winger is putting him in a position to fail. It is a tactical puzzle.
The good news? The match is at the Reebok. Bolton have earned 38 points at home this season, compared to only 16 on their travels. In an almost exact flip, they have conceded only 17 goals in Horwich, while allowing 36 away from the parkway. Huddersfield are a struggling club near the bottom of the table, poor overall but retched defensively, especially away from home. On paper, this should be an easy three points for the Mighty Wanderers. If those points fail to materialize, blaming the referees is not going to cut it. Dougie Freedman will have some serious questions to answer, and the playoffs will be all but out of reach.