The race for the Premier League title may not be as pulsating as you would hope with Chelsea looking a certainty for the title at this early stage but the race to join the elite in the Premier League is as unpredictable and exciting as ever. Eight teams are currently in with a shout of either getting automatic promotion or snatching a play off place, 10 points separates 1st and 8th with just 8 games to go.
Table as it stands
6. Brentford 65
Battle for automatic places
The automatic promotion places are naturally the most sought after, if at all possible teams want to avoid the daunting task of the play-offs and gain a somewhat easy route to the Premier League. The two places are currently occupied by Watford and Middlesbrough, both level on points, separated by just one goal. Two points further back is Bournemouth, Eddie Howe’s side have been the pace setters in the Championship for the majority of the season but a draw at Cardiff has seen them fall out of the top two.
Three points further back are Norwich and Derby, despite being so close it is fair to assume that the automatic places are going to be fought out between the current top three with the others main priority being to stay in the top six.
Watford currently set the pace after a 2-0 win away to Wigan, two goals from Troy Deeney were enough to see off a struggling Wigan and put them in pole position to maybe win the Championship. Manager Slavisa Jokanovic will be hopeful that this can be Watford’s year after so many years of flirting with promotion. A Patrick Bamford inspired Middlesbrough saw off Derby on Tuesday night as they leapfrogged Bournemouth into second, Chelsea loanee Bamford has now scored 3 in his last two games and could be a key figure in Aitor Karanka’s team’s push to get back to the Premier League for the first time since 2009.
Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth could only draw 1-1 away to Cardiff seeing them drop out of the top two that they have occupied for such long periods this season. Bournemouth have been the most consistent team in the Championship up until recently having occupied the top spot on five occasions, more than any other side. Matt Ritchie, who just got a Scotland call-up, and Callum Wilson have been two pivotal figures in what has been a remarkable season thus far for The Cherries. Games against Middlesbrough and Ipswich in the coming weeks could define their season as they bid to secure a place in England’s top flight.
The play off battle
The battle to secure a place in the top six is beginning to hot up in the Championship with just five points separating 4th placed Norwich and 8th place Wolves. The aforementioned top three look to have nailed down the first play-off place but that still leaves three places up for grabs and five teams fighting for them.
4th place Norwich drew their second game in a row at Huddersfield, denting their hopes of gaining an automatic promotion place. A run of six wins in a row had propelled them into contention but that now looks a real tough task after their two draws. Alex Neil’s side still look well placed to hold onto their play-off spot however and possibly go straight back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. Level on points with them is Steve Mclaren’s out of form Derby side whose loss at home to Middlesbrough made it just two wins in ten. Without top-scorer Chris Martin they have struggled and with a trip to Wolves next Derby could begin to fall down the table very quickly unless they can re-find their early season form.
Brentford occupy the fourth and final play-off place and themselves will be hopeful they can fight off both Ipswich and Wolves to hold onto that place. Mark Warburton’s side overcame Blackburn Tuesday night to hold onto their 6th spot. Ipswich are hot on the heels of Brentford just one point behind. McCarthy’s side have been struggling as of late but a 1-0 win over Bolton was their first in five and keeps them in touch with the play-off places. Wolves have snuck up as somewhat dark horses in the race for promotion and are now in touching distance of Brentford in 6th. Jackett’s side have lost just one in the last seven and host Derby on Friday in a huge game.
With eight games to go in the the Championship there is plenty of time for things to change and there is sure to be some twists in the tale, but without a doubt it will be a pulsating finish to a brilliant season.
photo credit: ABC Bournemouth v Blackburn Rovers via photopin (license)
photo credit: 140405 Watford v Burnley-83 via photopin (license)