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The race for the Promised Land: Assessing the Championship’s promotion battle

The Championship’s promotion race looks set to go down to the wire as second-tier sides scrap it out for a place in the Premier League next season.

There’s been a runaway leader at the summit in the Championship this season, but it’s a rather congested chasing pack behind and there remains a large number of teams pushing for the play-offs.

As the season pauses for the international break, we assess the Championship’s promotion race.

Fulham

  • Positon: 1st
  • Games played: 37
  • Points: 77
  • Last season: 18th – Premier League
  • Odds for promotion: 1/2000

Fulham are within touching distance of an instant return to the Premier League, having opened up a huge 14-point gap to third-place, with a game in hand.

The west Londoners saw Scott Parker depart last summer with Marco Silva arriving as his replacement and the Portuguese coach has enjoyed an impressive season, turning Fulham into a free-scoring side.

Harry Wilson’s arrival has been an inspired signing with the Wales international leading the Championship on 13 assists, having provided the creative quality for Aleksandar Mitrovic’s record-breaking season.

Mitrovic has scored a divisional record of 35 goals from 35 games and Fulham will soon start to turn their attentions to building a side capable of Premier League survival after a yo-yo existence in recent campaigns.

Bournemouth

  • Position: 2nd
  • Games played: 36
  • Points: 69
  • Last season: 6th
  • Odds for promotion: 1/14

Scott Parker could follow former side Fulham into the Premier League with Bournemouth second at present, six points clear in the second automatic promotion place with two games in hand.

Bournemouth began the season with a 15-game unbeaten run before wobbling, but backed Parker in the January transfer window with a series of eye-catching arrivals that included Nathaniel Phillips and Todd Cantwell.

Dominic Solanke has led the club’s promotion push with 23 league goals, the forward having found his feet at Bournemouth after a challenging period in the Premier League.

Luton

  • Position: 3rd
  • Games played: 38
  • Points: 63
  • Last season: 12th
  • Odds for promotion: 9/2

Luton are dreaming of a return to the top flight for the first time since relegation in 1991/92, dropping into the second tier in the final pre-Premier League campaign.

Nathan Jones has sought to ease the pressure by insisting his overachieving side can finish the season without expectation, but a run of 11 wins from 16 games since Christmas has catapulted Luton into contention.

The international break has come at a good time for Luton given the club’s defensive injury crisis and Jones will hope to have some of his compliment restored ahead of the clash with Millwall on April 3.

The financial woes that saw Luton suffer three successive relegations to drop out of the Football League just over a decade ago are now a distant memory as The Hatters eye Premier League football.

Huddersfield

  • Position: 4th
  • Games played: 39
  • Points: 63
  • Last season: 20th
  • Odds for promotion: 8/1

Back-to-back defeats have halted Huddersfield’s promotion challenge, having been carried into the play-offs on the back of a 17-game unbeaten run – a record for the Terriers in the second tier.

Carlos Corberán’s side have bounced from a difficult season last term to challenge at the top and are well-placed for a top-six finish and play-off campaign.

Huddersfield’s travel to Hull on April 1 before three fixtures that will define their season, facing fellow contenders Luton, QPR and Middlesbrough in succession.

Sheffield United

  • Position: 5th
  • Games played: 38
  • Points: 61
  • Last season: 20th – Premier League
  • Odds for promotion: 9/4

Sheffield United endured one of the worst cases of second-season syndrome in Premier League history last term, finishing bottom of the division after a ninth-place finish in 2019/20.

The Blades began the Championship campaign among the favourites to go up but got off to an inauspicious start under Slaviša Jokanović, the Serb sacked and replaced with Paul Heckingbottom who has since overseen an upturn in fortunes.

Sheffield United have lost just three of 16 league fixtures in 2022 to rise to fifth and have the experience needed to sustain their promotion challenge.

Billy Sharp has again proven his worth at this level with the 36-year-old the club’s leading scorer on 14 goals.

Blackburn Rovers

  • Position: 6th
  • Games played: 39
  • Points: 61
  • Last season: 15th
  • Odds for promotion: 9/1

Blackburn are fading fast after threatening the automatic promotion places earlier in the season, sitting 19th in the Championship’s form table across the last eight games.

Tony Mowbray’s men have won just two of their last 11 and a promising season is in danger of unraveling. Ben Brereton Díaz’s absence has been a major blow with the 20-goal forward sidelined with an ankle issue, with Blackburn having failed to score in four of their last five games.

Rovers need a revival and quickly if they are to avoid falling out of the promotion picture.

Middlesbrough

  • Position: 7th
  • Games played: 37
  • Points: 59
  • Last season: 10th
  • Odds for promotion: 7/2

Middlesbrough’s giant-killing in this season’s FA Cup has whetted the appetite for the club’s supporters, having seen their side dump out Manchester United and Tottenham before defeat to Chelsea in the quarter-finals.

Chris Wilder has done a fine job at the Riverside so far and Boro are sitting just outside the top six, whilst the club face several six-pointers across their remaining games including an Easter double-header against Bournemouth and Huddersfield.

Middlesbrough also host Fulham on April 6, but their final run-in looks promising with Swansea (a), Cardiff (h), Stoke (h) and Preston (a) all sides who will seemingly have little to play for.

QPR

    • Position: 8th
    • Games played: 38
    • Points: 59
    • Last season: 9th
    • Odds for promotion: 25/1

QPR have won just two of their last 10 league matches, whilst a run of four defeats in five has contributed to the club falling from automatic promotion contenders to play-off outsiders.

Mark Warburton’s side remain just two points outside the top six, but lack the momentum of teams such as Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough as they bid to gatecrash the top six.

Defeat to relegation-threatened Peterborough last time out was another blow and their form has seen the likes of 12th-placed West Brom (16/1) and Milwall in 10th (16/1) priced at shorter odds for promotion.

Nottingham Forest

  • Position: 9th
  • Games played: 36
  • Points: 58
  • Last season: 17th
  • Odds for promot: 4/1

Nottingham Forest are one of the form teams in the Championship, with no team in the division having taken more than their 21 points from their last 10 league fixtures.

Steve Coopers has transformed a side that was bottom of the division upon his arrival in September, losing just four of his 28 league fixtures in charge.

The likes of Brennan Johnson and Djed Spence have flourished under the new manager, with Forest having also reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup before testing Liverpool in defeat at the City Ground.

Cooper’s arrival came too late for an automatic push for promotion, but few will fancy taking on an in-form Forest should the club ride their current momentum into the play-offs.

Read – Ranking the fastest players in the Premier League this season

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