The current Sky Bet Championship season is now nearing its end. It has been a season full of surprises as well as the usual goals, classic games and controversy. At the end of it all though, some teams have to move on, either to the heights of the Premier League, or the uncertainty of League One.
For the majority of the season, the top two places of the Sky Bet Championship have been occupied by the same teams. Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion have been running away with the league all season.
Brighton’s recent wobble has given Newcastle the driving seat in the charge for the title. They’ve failed to win six of their 13 games this calendar year, with their major slip-up coming last Tuesday against Newcastle.
The Magpies went to the Amex Stadium one point behind their opponents. Things looked like they were going to get worse too when Glenn Murray’s 17th goal of the season put the Seagulls ahead. However, late goals from Mohamed Diamé and Ayoze Pérez sent the three points back to Tyneside and put Newcastle top of the league again.
The closest challengers to these two are Huddersfield who have 65 points. However, despite the Terriers’ amazing season, the gap may already be too big to close.
Just like the automatic places of the Sky Bet Championship, the play-off places look as though they are virtually decided.
Huddersfield, Leeds, Reading and Sheffield Wednesday occupy third, fourth, fifth and sixth respectively. The top three of these teams have upset all of the odds with their performances this season.
David Wagner has turned Huddersfield from a team fighting relegation to a team competing for promotion within the space of a year. Garry Monk, who took over at Leeds in the summer, has firmly instilled his philosophy at the club, powering them up the league and becoming a major contender for the playoffs. Reading have surprised many too, especially given their poor campaign last season. Sheffield Wednesday look like a solid team under Carlos Carvalhal, and made the play-offs last season in the position they are now.
However, these four should be wary of the teams behind them. Fulham have looked a new team this season after coming close to relegation last year. Despite losing Moussa Dembélé to Celtic, they have managed to keep scoring through the likes of Chris Martin and Stefan Johansen.
If the teams behind Fulham, such as Norwich, Preston and Barnsley, can put a final good run of form together, they may also be able to pip Wednesday to the final playoff spot.
With most teams only having 12 games left, there is little time to continue collecting points. One team who have struggled to do that all season in Rotherham United.
The Millers are rock-bottom of the Sky Bet Championship with just 17 points. That’s 14 adrift of nearest team Wigan and 16 points from safety. While they still have 36 points to play for, their form suggests that they will be the first to be succumbed to League One next season.
Above them, just two points separate Wigan from Blackburn Rovers and Bristol City. The Latics have struggled since their return to the second tier, and so has their main man Will Grigg. The striker has just five goals this season, which is poor compared to last year’s tally of 24 in League One.
Avoiding the Drop
Bristol City are also in trouble, despite Tammy Abraham being one of the division’s leading scorers. They may be out of the relegation zone, but only on goal difference, being level on points with Blackburn. The former Premier League side have been languishing towards the bottom for a number of seasons now and, despite Sam Gallagher performing well up front for them, his efforts have not been matched by a lacklustre defence.
Another recently former Premier League side in trouble is Wolves. Many tipped them for promotion at the start of the season after an influx of foreign talent. However, they have failed to perform to the required standard, as have the rest of the squad. This resulted in the sacking of Walter Zenga midway through the season. Burton Albion and Nottingham Forest are also in the mix, and by no means safe. They are currently just three (Burton) and four (Forest) points above the drop zone.
The Championship is living up to its billing as one of the most exciting leagues. Teams from across the division could still, rather realistically, end up anywhere in the table. The excitement is certainly building. It is now up to the teams to give it their final push.