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All The Championship Promotion Contenders Assessed

We are now well and truly in the business end of the EFL Championship season and it has been another cracking season. The table is as tight as ever entering the last couple of months of the campaign and a lot looks like it will once again be decided in the last few games.

However, at this moment in time, the title looks like it will be Fulham’s with the London club in firm control at the top of the table. But we all know how quickly things can change in England’s second-tier and you can bet that any slip-ups from the Cottagers will be punished by Bournemouth and others in the chasing pack.

As always, the playoffs is where the box office entertainment can be found with every team in the top half and beyond with a chance of finishing in a top-six spot. Here we examine the chances of every club that has the opportunity to gain promotion to the promised land this season…

Automatic Places

Fulham

After going out with a whimper in 18th place and 28 points (some 11 shy of safety) there wasn’t much to shout about for Cottagers fans as they were relegated back down to the Championship. This term though, Fulham have been on fire as they currently sit six points clear at the top of the second tier.

They look certain to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking, with recent form, in particular, seeing them batter anyone they play. That’s reflected in their +52 goal difference, which is far superior to anyone else in the league and more than double second-place Bournemouth.

This is in no small part thanks to the form of Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, who is once again proving he is far too good for the Championship. The former Newcastle man has a record-breaking 31 goals so far this term. With plenty of football still to be played, you wouldn’t bet against him reaching 40+ goals this season as Fulham look to secure the top spot, which should only be a matter of time. 

Bournemouth

Following relegation back in 2019/20, the Cherries finished 6th last year and failed to bounce back at the first time of asking in the playoffs. This season however, under the management of former Fulham boss Scott Parker, they look in much better shape to return to the Premier League, currently sitting second in the table.

Brimming with talent like Dominic Solanke, Ryan Christie and Nat Phillips, the South coast club are in a great position to not just go up but compete in the top tier again. Bournemouth are currently ahead of third-place Blackburn and have two games in hand on their Lancashire based promotion rivals, so it’s looking promising that they will take the second automatic spot.

However, there are still a lot of matches to go between now and the end of the season, and Bournemouth have been prone to go on bad runs this campaign. Fans will be hoping that doesn’t happen again between now and the end of the season, as it would seriously hamper their automatic promotion chances and leave them in the playoff lottery.

Blackburn

Tony Mowbray has finally got Blackburn competing at the right end of the league again, after years of the club drifting in the bottom half of the Championship. Rovers have endured some low ebbs in recent years after relegation to the third division 5 years ago back in 2016/17.

Although they returned at the first time of asking, they have struggled to even get close to the top half, let alone the playoffs positions in the seasons that followed. But now a long-awaited Premier League promotion looks within sight, as Mowbray appears to have cracked it, with Rovers defying expectations this season.

Englishman turned Chilean, Ben Brereton-Diaz has been the star man this term, with his 20 league goals in 30 games firing Rovers to within a whisker of the top two. However, they can’t afford any more slip-ups in their pursuit of automatic promotion, as they are behind their rivals Fulham and Bournemouth. It looks a really tough ask at this point, and it looks as though they will end up in the playoffs, but ask any Rovers fan – they would have been delighted with that at the start of the campaign, no question.

QPR

Much like Blackburn, QPR have had a torrid time in the Championship in recent years, with the Rangers struggling to get near the top end of the table. Again though, they look like they are going in the right direction again with a strong season so far seeing them in fourth place and in with a chance of automatic.

Although it’s much more likely they will end up in the playoffs this season, it’s been a much-improved campaign from Mark Warburton’s side. The experience of Championship veterans like Albert Adomah and goalkeeper David Marshall should prove invaluable for the run-in.

QPR’s form has been patchy recently though as they have struggled to string together successive wins, but they stand as good a chance as anyone around them in the playoffs, which seems their most likely route back to the top flight come the end of the season.

See all the latest odds on who will clinch a place in the top two and get £50 in free bets when you sign up with Bet365.

Playoff Contenders  

Huddersfield

Another club that seems to have turned the ship around this season, Huddersfield Town have gone from a 20th placed finish last campaign to 5th position in the table as we approach the business end of proceedings. In fact, they have already beaten last season’s points total, which signifies what a fine job Carlos Corberán has done in his second season at the helm.

It would be some achievement if he can get the club back into the Premier League – however, it wasn’t so long ago that David Wagner was leading them to playoff glory, and the Terriers will view this season as the perfect opportunity to repeat that recent triumphant moment in the clubs’ long history.

Currently, they are in prime position to finish in the playoffs, but others behind them like Middlesbrough, West Brom and Sheffield United all have much stronger squads on paper, so despite current league positions, they face a huge task to hold their nerve and stay in 5th.

Middlesbrough

Appointing Chris Wider back in November looks to have been a masterstroke by long time Boro Owner and Chairman Steve Gibson. The former Sheffield United boss was looking for a new challenge after his disappointing end to a brilliant stint with the Blades, and Teesside seems to be a great fit for him.

He wasted no time in turning the club’s form on its head – Boro went from mid/ lower table plodders to serious playoff contenders. Wilder was also active in January, bringing in Flo Balogun and Aaron Connolly (amongst others) from Arsenal and Brighton respectively.

Fans will be hoping they can add the extra bit of quality to what is already a solid Championship squad, that they need to secure a playoff place. But Boro fans have not had a pleasant time in the playoffs in recent years with a couple of heartbreaks in 2014/15 and 2017/18. Wilder though is a man with vast experience in promotions though and could prove the perfect man to buck the trend and win at Wembley.

Nottingham Forest

Of all the clubs on this list, none will want a return to the Premier League as much as Nottingham Forest. Their last top-flight campaign came all the way back in 1998-99 when they were relegated to the Championship and had a three-season stint in League One, that’s where they have stayed.

It’s been tough for Forest fans with the club only reaching the playoffs twice since 2008/09 and both obviously ending in failure. However, after a poor 17th placed finish last term, Steve Cooper’s side finds themselves right in amongst the playoff battle and fresh from an amazing 4-1 victory in the FA cup over Leicester City.

Fans will not be holding their breath though, as they have been here many times before and those failures will still be fresh in the memory. While Cooper has a decent squad at his disposal, Forest have lost key players to bigger teams over the last few years (like Matty Cash to Aston Villa) which hasn’t helped in any promotion push situation. Could they defy the odds and reach the promised land again?

West Brom

The Baggie’s have dropped well off the pace after looking certain to finish in the top two earlier in the season. Valerien Ismael (who was only appointed last summer) paid the price as he was replaced by Steve Bruce after less than one season in charge.

Bruce, of course, is a promotion veteran after successes with Hull and Birmingham in the past and Baggies’ fans will be hoping he can provide the spark that will relight their faltering campaign. The Geordie manager has a huge job on his hands though but will be desperate to repair his reputation after what turned out to be a toxic spell at his boyhood club Newcastle, which culminated in him leaving last October.

Albion are still well within touching distance of the playoffs, however, despite automatic promotion now looking like an impossibility. Time and games are running out though, so they will need to turn things around sharpish to bag a top-six spot.   

Sheffield United

The Blades have found life back in the Championship tougher than they perhaps expected since relegation last season. Looking back though, it’s not too surprising they have struggled given the dismal way they limped out of the Premier League, finishing bottom gaining just 23 points all season. That sort of form is not easy to turn around, no matter what division you’re in.

But as the current campaign has worn on, they seem to have got better with time especially lately, with four wins from five showing promotion form. If they can carry on in this ruthless vein, then you wouldn’t bet against them forcing their way into the top six.

After all, the squad is mostly the same as the one which was giving the Premier League big boys a huge headache only two seasons ago. Paul Heckingbottom’s appointment as permanent coach back in November (where he took over from Slaviša Jokanović) looks like it was the correct decision. The question now is, can he maintain this current form and take them back up at the first time of asking?  

To find out all the latest Championship playoff odds and to get £50 in free bets, sign up to Bet365 here.

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