Under The Spotlight: Championship play-off race set for dramatic climax

James Mason
LiveScore
Steve Cooper's Nottingham Forest are firmly in the Championship play-off mix
Steve Cooper's Nottingham Forest are firmly in the Championship play-off mix

With Fulham already securing their return to the Premier League and Bournemouth in pole position to take second place, it is set to be a fierce battle for the teams fighting for the four play-off positions.

There is a case to be made for any club down to 11th-placed Coventry still having a sniff of sneaking into the top six.

Ahead of another exciting weekend of second-tier action, we analyse the runners and riders all with plenty to play for.

State of play

Third-placed Huddersfield will seal their play-off spot with victory against rock-bottom Barnsley tonight while Luton will all-but guarantee their top-six finish with a win at home to Blackpool.

Nottingham Forest in fifth have the benefit of still having five games left to play, which keeps them in with a slight chance of grabbing second should the Cherries slip up, especially with the two clubs meeting just four days before the final day of the season.

Sheffield United currently sit sixth hoping to keep Millwall at bay with three points at home to Cardiff, while Blackburn, Middlesbrough, QPR and Coventry are all still in the hunt to make a late dart into the top six.

The outsiders

Mark Warburton's QPR secured a 1-0 win against Derby on Easter Monday
Mark Warburton's QPR secured a 1-0 win against Derby on Easter Monday

QPR and Coventry both need help from those teams above them in order to reach the play-offs. 

The Hoops ended a torrid six-game winless run with a 1-0 victory over Derby last time out. 

And while that will have boosted their confidence, they travel to Stoke and Swansea either side of a colossal home clash with the Blades.

Coventry also have a tough end to the season, with away trips to West Brom and Stoke coming either side of a visit from high-flying Huddersfield. 

It is not implausible to suggest Mark Warburton's Rangers and Mark Robins' Sky Blues can make the top six — but it will probably take a perfect run and good fortune from elsewhere.

In the balance

Chris Wilder has overseen a major improvement at Middlesbrough
Chris Wilder has overseen a major improvement at Middlesbrough

Of the three teams directly outside of the play-offs, Boro appear to have the best chance of closing the gap.

However, the Teessiders have taken just one point from the last 12 on offer, failing to score in any of those fixtures.

Chris Wilder's men are away at Swansea next, then face back-to-back home games with Cardiff and Stoke before travelling to Preston on the final day of the season. 

That is not the hardest run-in on paper but their form is going the wrong way at a crucial stage. 

It is also hard to back Blackburn for glory with any real confidence. They have taken just two points from the last 15 and seem to lack the cohesion they have shown for much of the campaign. 

Millwall meanwhile sit just a point off sixth and face Birmingham next before going up against Peterborough, who could already be relegated by that point. 

A trip to Bournemouth on the final day is not easy on paper but Scott Parker's men should have already secured promotion by then and this should work in the Lions' favour. 

In their hands

Of the teams currently in the play-off spots, it would take a disastrous finish for Huddersfield, Luton or Forest to drop out, meaning Sheffield United are the side everyone will be trying to catch. 

The South Yorkshire side also have a difficult end to the campaign, with encounters against London sides QPR and Fulham following Saturday's clash with Steve Morison's Bluebirds.

Should Paul Heckingbottom's men hold on to their top-six berth, they will certainly have earned it.

Tags

ChampionshipNottingham ForestHuddersfield TownLuton TownSheffield UnitedMillwallBlackburnMiddlesbroughQueens Park RangersCoventry
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