In Focus: The Championship promotion race

Matthew Storey
LiveScore
Bournemouth still have work to do to secure their Premier League spot
Bournemouth still have work to do to secure their Premier League spot

The Championship continues to provide twists and turns like no other league in the world as the season draws to a close.

Down at the bottom, the relegation places are nearly settled but it is a different story at the top.

Fulham can earn promotion tonight but the play-off spots are far from settled and there may even be a twist or two.

Clear champions

Fulham’s recent yo-yo existence will continue with the Cottagers on the verge of confirming promotion.

Marco Silva’s side will be up if they beat Preston tonight and with a six-point lead over Bournemouth, will likely be champions too.

Back-to-back defeats to Coventry and Derby should only serve to delay their coronation despite their last four games all coming against teams in the top six. 

Aleksandar Mitrovic's 38 goals have fired Fulham to the verge of promotion
Aleksandar Mitrovic's 38 goals have fired Fulham to the verge of promotion

Bournemouth’s return

They should be joined by Bournemouth — although that is not the certainty it once was.

The Cherries have a four-point cushion to Huddersfield in third and six to Luton in fourth, as well as having played two fewer games than those sides, but it is Nottingham Forest seven back who have the Cherries concerned.

Despite a damaging defeat to the Hatters on Good Friday, Forest will feel a push for the automatics is still on.

Bournemouth face Fulham this weekend knowing they can ill afford to drop points, while the two will meet just four days before the season’s finale on May 3.

If Forest can string together three wins before then, and Scott Parker’s side slip up, they may well head to the Vitality Stadium knowing victory there would set up some final-day drama.

Nearly there

The battle to finish in the top six has been tight all season, yet it now looks like three of those spots are taken with Forest unlikely to drop out.

Three victories in four games, including beating Luton and Middlesbrough, mean Huddersfield are eight points clear of Millwall in seventh.

They could even confirm their spot this weekend, allowing time to rest players ahead of the end-of-season lottery. 

And after a three-game winless run threatened to derail their fairytale crack at the play-offs, Luton were one of only two sides in the Championship to win both matches over the Easter weekend. 

That means they have a six-point cushion and with home games against Blackpool and Reading to come either side of a trip to Fulham, the Hatters know one more victory will all but secure a top-six finish.

Luton are the unlikely contenders in this season's play-offs
Luton are the unlikely contenders in this season's play-offs

Three into one

Six clubs will still harbour ambitions of making that sixth spot their own, though only three of them look realistic.

Sheffield United have only won once in their past five games, yet they currently sit above the dotted line.

Cardiff visit Bramall Lane on Saturday before a trip to QPR and a meeting with champions-elect Fulham on the final day — a difficult end to the season for Paul Heckingbottom’s men.

Middlesbrough looked to be on a never-ending upward trajectory following Chris Wilder’s appointment in November but just two wins in eight games have stopped them in their tracks.

Boro are ninth, three points behind the Blades, but have a game in hand on the Steel City outfit.

Crucially for Wilder’s men, a kind fixture list has pitted them against four sides with absolutely nothing to play for.

At the start of February, nobody was considering a play-off spot for Millwall but they are now right in the mix.

Without the pressure that Boro and the Blades face from their expectant fans, Gary Rowett’s men have stormed up the table.

They have two winnable games against Birmingham and Peterborough to come, before a potentially huge clash with Bournemouth on the final day.

The outsiders

Ben Brereton Diaz's injury in February derailed Blackburn's promotion push
Ben Brereton Diaz's injury in February derailed Blackburn's promotion push

Anything can happen in the Championship and Blackburn and QPR both sit just three points behind the Blades in sixth, with Coventry one further back.

Both Rovers and Rangers were in the automatic mix but horrific runs of form over the past couple of months have seen them drop right down the league.

The Sky Blues, meanwhile, are performing above expectations and recent wins at Fulham and Birmingham put them back in contention, only for them to trip up against Bourmemouth yesterday.

All three will know that a strong end to the campaign could see them sneak in.

Whoever does make it, drama is guaranteed over the coming weeks in both the regular season and the play-offs.

Tags

ChampionshipFulhamBournemouthHuddersfield TownLuton TownNottingham ForestSheffield UnitedBlackburnQueens Park RangersMiddlesbroughCoventry
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