Championship Season Climax
Championship Season Climax: Who’s Going Up and Who’s Going Down?
For most teams, just two Championship games remain, and although there seems to be little left to decide in terms of automatic promotion, there are battles further down the table that look set to last until the bitter end.
Who is Still in the Race for Automatic Promotion?
While Norwich’s 2-2 draw at Stoke prevented the Canaries from securing promotion on Easter Monday, Daniel Farke’s men require just a point to go up from here.
Sheffield United, meanwhile, must take a minimum of four points to have any chance of clinching the title on their own terms, without relying on an inconceivable double of defensive horror-shows from Norwich.
Following their 2-0 defeat at Brentford on Easter Monday, it will take a miracle for Leeds United to sneak into the automatic promotion spots.
Sheffield United will host doomed Ipswich in their penultimate match, and given the Blades’ tendency to attack in numbers and punish defensive naivety, there is plenty of reasons for Blades fans to feel optimistic.
For their penultimate game, Leeds have the unenviably difficult task of playing host to an in-form Aston Villa side that is still fighting for home advantage in the playoffs, should a top-six finish be forthcoming.
Sheffield United are now the only team that Leeds can realistically catch, but the disparity in goal difference – in addition to the difficulty levels of their respective fixtures on the final weekend of April – makes this a very remote prospect.
Ultimately, it seems as though only a swing of at least seven or eight goals (in Leeds’ favour) on the final day can change the identity of the team that joins Norwich immediately in the top-flight.
Who is Looking to Secure Their Place in the Championship Play-Offs?
Of all the battles taking place at the top of the Championship, it is undoubtedly the battle to finish 4/5/6th that is going to be the most intriguing and unpredictable.
Very unlikely to finish any higher than the fourth spot they currently occupy, West Bromwich are already assured of a playoff place. The Baggies lead midland rivals and fellow playoff participants Aston Villa by two points in the race for fourth spot.
As ever, any team finishing third or fourth is granted home advantage in the second leg of the playoff semi-finals, which is seen by some as an important factor in such a high-stakes situation.
Thus, only the occupant of sixth place, and the final remaining playoff berth remains the big question.
In descending order, based on where they finished Easter weekend in the table, any of Derby (currently 6th with a game in hand), Middlesbrough, Bristol City, Sheffield Wednesday or Swansea can still mathematically obtain a playoff spot.
Bristol City v Derby - A Play-Off Qualifier?
Though they both have a game in hand, Derby and Bristol City play one another at the weekend, and it presents both sides with a real win-or-die situation.
For their part, Bristol City have been leaky at Ashton Gate in recent weeks, failing to keep a clean sheet in each of their last seven home league matches. Back on Good Friday, the Robins only just scraped a draw after conceding first at home to Reading, and this will provide Derby fans with some optimism.
Such optimism is vital, considering that Derby's 2-2 draw at Birmingham City (also on Good Friday) marked an eighth consecutive away game without victory for Frank Lampard's men. The Rams will also travel to Ashton Gate having kept just two clean sheets across 21 Championship away games to date.
Middlesbrough Ready to Capitalise on Any Slipups
A draw at Ashton Gate would enable Middlesbrough to capitalise at home to a rejuvenated Reading side that all but clinched safety on Easter Monday.
Tony Pulis' men endured a rough spell earlier in the spring, and infamously fell out of the top-six after a long spell in that hallowed region.
Overall, Middlesbrough's run-in is relatively easier in comparison, but any win over Reading (which would end Sheffield Wednesday’s interest in the playoffs) is likely to be a difficult watch all the same.
The latter stages in particular are likely to be fraught with tension – and a lot of interest in the Total Goal Minutes football spread betting market – as nearly two-thirds of Middlesbrough’s conceded league goals at the Riverside Stadium have flown in after the break.
Who is at Risk of Being Relegated from the Championship?
Bolton and Ipswich are already doomed, and the final relegation spot is going to be filled by either Rotherham or Millwall.
Rotherham look particularly vulnerable at present. This weekend sees them travel to a West Brom side that is full of goalscoring potential, and no shortage of motivation with a new managerial regime incoming.
Armed with a game in hand, back-to-back home games and a much better goal difference than Rotherham, Millwall look to be in the driving seat, even though the Lions’ Monday defeat at Villa Park marked a fourth game without victory.
What can be Decided in the Championship This Weekend?
In summary, Norwich can clinch the title if they better Sheffield United’s result. United themselves can guarantee at least second place if they better Leeds’ result.
West Bromwich can guarantee home advantage in the second leg of the playoffs if they win and Aston Villa don't.
At the bottom end of the table, Rotherham will find themselves joining Bolton and Ipswich in League One if Millwall better their result.
With lots still to be decided in the race for promotion and the battle to stay in the Championship, why not check out the latest football spread betting markets ahead of the penultimate weekend in the Championship.