Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Who’s heading for promotion to the Premier League?

With the football season fast drawing to a conclusion, there’s plenty at stake at every level with promotion and relegation at stake for a number of teams and whilst nothing can be taken away from achieving promotion from any division, the step between The Championship and Premier League is as big a prize as you can get in football given the financial rewards at stake and in such a competitive league, the battle to achieve one of three places in next season’s top flight is as fierce as ever and we take a look at those sides in the battle.

Queens Park Rangers are currently eight points clear at the top of The Championship and look absolute bankers to win the league title, particularly in light of their current form, having not lost a league game since Norwich beat them on New Year’s Day. In the twelve league games played in 2011, Rangers have only conceded 6 goals and only two in their last seven, which illustrates perfectly the reason why they simply cannot be opposed as the league champions thus returning to the top flight for the first time since 1996 and the bookmakers odds reflect as much with the R's now an un-backable 1/4 just to win the title or 1/12 to get promoted.

The main battle for promotion therefore will be for the second automatic place where only five points separate the next five teams. Swansea currently leads this race but is just a point clear of rivals, Cardiff, with Norwich a further point back. Swansea had put together a very good run of four consecutive wins last month, but lost at struggling Scunthorpe last weekend and have a number of difficult fixtures coming up, namely against Nottingham Forest, Norwich and Burnley.

Cardiff, who was unlucky last season, losing in the play-off final against Blackpool, will not want to have to endure that torture again this time around. The big problem for Cardiff however is their lack of consistency, particularly since November, during which time they have failed to put a sustained sequence of positive results together. Unless they address this problem immediately it will be another play-off lottery for the Bluebirds.

With only one league defeat since 4th December, Norwich has maintained a strong challenge for promotion under highly regarded boss, Paul Lambert and look primed to sustain that challenge in to May.

Following their great run from December to early February, Nottingham Forest have got themselves into the promotion hunt for the second season running and like Cardiff, they will not want to suffer like they did last year in the play-offs, having also been defeat by Blackpool but in the semi finals. Forest has dropped nine points from their last four games though and unless they halt that slide, it could seriously dent their automatic promotion chances.

Leeds United are in sixth place but have been stuttering of late, especially away from Elland Road. If they maintain their good form at home and reduce the number of defeats on the road, a play off place looks on the cards but second spot looks a big ask.

Although four points adrift of Leeds, Burnley in seventh place are not out of it completely, particularly as they have two games in hand over all top six clubs. They are enjoying life under new boss, Eddie Howe, losing only twice in the ten games that he has been in charge. A strong finish to their campaign could see them push themselves into the play-offs as they did under Owen Coyle, before eventually getting promoted in 2009. Their final two games of the season are away at Leeds and then home to Cardiff, the results of which could prove crucial to all three clubs.

As it stands, the only predictable outcome in The Championship is that Queens Park Rangers will be playing in the Premier League next season, the remaining two spots are open and it would be no surprise to see any of the mentioned teams achieve promotion but Cardiff look best equipped to secure second place whilst Burnley’s experience and extra quality could prove beneficial in the play off race and make plenty of appeal to be promoted at the current odds of 6/1 with SkyBet.

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