Race For The Premier League: The Run-In

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Race for the Premier League – The Run-In

The EFL Championship has reached its penultimate weekend and the race to secure a place in next season’s Premier League shows no signs of letting up.

With several teams still in the mix to join champions Wolves in the top tier in 2018-19, we’ve assessed the leading contenders…

The race for second place

Three teams are still in contention to secure that highly prized second place slot – Cardiff City, Fulham and Aston Villa.

P W D L F A GD Pts
2 Cardiff City 44 26 8 10 67 39 28 86
3 Fulham 44 24 13 7 76 42 34 85
4 Aston Villa 44 24 10 10 71 40 31 82

 

Cardiff City

Run-in: Hull City (A), Reading (H)
Chances of automatic promotion: 9/10
Verdict: The Bluebirds have two eminently winnable fixtures to claw themselves over the finish line. A trip to Nigel Adkins’ improved Hull City team could be a fly in the ointment but Warnock’s men should have enough in the tank to get the maximum points they will probably need.

 

Fulham

Run-in: Sunderland (H). Birmingham City (A)
Chances of automatic promotion: 8/10
Verdict:
 History seems to be repeating itself, with the Cottagers coming on strong with a late charge for the second season in a row. Have they timed it just a bit too late though? Few would expect Fulham’s last two fixtures against two of the division’s weakest sides to overly trouble them, but their fortunes may rest with a late season stumble from nearest rivals Cardiff.

 

Aston Villa

Steve Bruce

Run in: Derby County (H), Millwall (A)
Chances of automatic promotion: 5/10
Verdict: Costly defeats to QPR, Bolton and Norwich earlier this year mean Villa have done well to still be in with a chance with two games to go after picking up again in recent weeks. Their next two games against tough opponents are more likely to be handy dress rehearsals ahead of an extended Championship campaign.

 

Race for the play offs

With two of the three teams above guaranteed a play-off slot if they miss out on automatic promotion, seven teams could still realistically join them to fill the last two available places.

P W D L F A GD Pts
5 Middlesbrough 44 21 9 14 63 43 20 72
6 Derby County 44 19 14 11 65 46 19 71
7 Millwall 44 18 15 11 55 43 12 69
8 Brentford 44 18 14 12 61 49 12 68
9 Preston North End 44 17 16 11 54 45 9 67
10 Bristol City 44 17 15 12 65 55 10 66
11 Sheffield United 44 19 9 16 59 52 7 66

 

Middlesbrough

Current position: 5th
Run-in: Millwall (H), Ipswich (A)
Chances of making play offs: 9/10
Verdict: The appointment of Tony Pulis looks more and more astute by the day with Boro probably needing only one win to seal their play off spot. Few teams will fancy a war of attrition with a Pulis side in May.

 

Derby County

Current position: 6th
Run-in: Aston Villa (A), Barnsley (H)
Chances of making play offs: 5/10
Verdict: The Rams’ score would be higher, but they seem to find new and impressive ways to falter each season at the final hurdle. The recent 3-1 win against Cardiff City might be the morale booster they need at just the right time.

Derby Boro

 

Millwall

Current position: 7th
Run-in: Middlesbrough (A), Aston Villa (H)
Chances of making play offs: 4/10

Verdict: By rights, the South Londoners shouldn’t even be in this situation given their budget and pre-season expectations, but Neil Harris has performed miracles and the Lions could just scrape over the line for an unlikely shot at a second consecutive promotion.

 

Brentford

Current position: 8th
Run-in: Barnsley (A), Hull City (H)
Chances of making play offs: 4/10
Verdict: The Bees look to be this season’s candidates to be the surprise package that time their run to perfection to secure the final play off spot. Dean Smith’s men have been knocking on the door for the last few seasons, and look to have a kind run-in.

 

Preston North End

Current position: 9th
Run-in: Sheff Utd (A), Burton Albion (H)
Chances of making play offs: 2/10
Verdict: It’s been a very credible first full season at the helm for Alex Neil, who has restored his reputation at this level after a disappointing end to his stint at Norwich City. In truth though, North End have been flirting with the play offs all season without making a decisive breakthrough and it’s hard to see them making up enough ground with two to go.

 

Bristol City

Current position: 10th
Run-in: Nottingham Forest (A), Sheff Utd (H)
Chances of making play offs: 2/10
Verdict: An encouraging campaign for Lee Johnson’s side after a flirtation with relegation in 2016-17, but as the recent 5-5 home draw with Hull City demonstrates, they remain far too erratic to be genuine play-off contenders.

 

Sheffield Utd

Current position: 11th
Run-in: Preston (H), Bristol City (A)
Chances of making play offs: 1/10
Verdict: An excellent first season back at Championship level for Chris Wilder’s side despite falling away after a promising start. There’s too much traffic for them to wade through, however, for a play-off campaign this time around.

 

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All image sources from PA Images 

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