Neil Warnock believes West Brom, Fulham, Sheffield United and AFC Bournemouth will all finish in the Championship promotion places this season.
The Middlesbrough boss has witnessed his side get off to a slow start to the campaign, yielding nine points from their first eight games.
Boro have won only one of their last six games, and will be keen to return to winning ways as they travel to Reading this afternoon.
Warnock has acknowledged that a club of Boro’s size should be fighting for a place in the play-offs, and is hoping they will be there or thereabouts come the end of the campaign.
But speaking to Teesside Live, Boro will have to scramble for one of two places, as in his eyes, West Brom, Fulham, Sheffield United and Bournemouth will take up four of the six promotion spots.
He said: “Teams like Middlesbrough, we should be in the play-offs. When you look at the points we’ve chucked away, we should be up there now.
“The four teams – the three relegated teams and Bournemouth – two will go up automatically, then it’s up to the rest of the league to get two more in.
“I put Coventry in the group scrambling around for the two places. The three that came down and Bournemouth, the two will come from them.
“But the likes of Fulham, they lost to Reading last week, Blackpool a couple of weeks before, West Brom have drawn a few. It’s not easy for anybody, it’s only 11-a-side. The money side doesn’t change everything.”
West Brom, Bournemouth and Fulham currently sit first, third and fourth respectively, whilst Sheffield United are gathering momentum and currently sit 14th.
I think Fulham and West Brom are certainly favourites to win automatic promotion and their parachute payments have definitely helped them in that respect.
But it is a long season and you need to be so consistent if you want to keep on mounting a push for promotion this league.
Boro have got off to a poor start, but they have the squad who can mount a promotion push, and if they steer clear of injuries, then who knows what may happen.