With a mere eleven games to go until the end of the season, FLW reporter Liam Grace predicts who will occupy the two automatic promotion and four play-off spots in the Sky Bet Championship.
It has been a turbulent yet successful season for Watford so far this season with four different managers at the helm but they still find themselves in third place with eleven games to go. The Hornets are oozing with attacking talent with the likes of Troy Deeney, Matej Vydra and Odion Ighalo. However, they don’t seem to perform well against teams in the top six and they are still to play Ipswich, Derby and Middlesbrough. I think they will have a bit of a wobble in April but will still occupy the last play-off spot.
The Tractor Boys narrowly missed out on the play-offs last season and will be desperate to finish in the top six. Mick McCarthy’s men are notorious for choking in the run-in and have only picked up one win in their last five matches. However, they will be looking to shake off this tag once and for all and will be trying to make it as hard as possible for arch-rivals Norwich to go up. Their home game against play-off rivals Brentford on Saturday will be by no means easy, but it will be the perfect opportunity to get back to winning ways as they look to secure a play-off spot.
After being relegated from the Premier League last season, Norwich fans may be disappointed that they don’t find themselves in the top two at this stage of the season. Nonetheless, they have slowly crept up the league since the appointment of Alex Neil in January and are playing much better football with the likes of Callum Jerome and Lewis Grabban stepping up. The Canaries will be desperate to finish above arch-rivals Ipswich and I think they will just about edge them to finish fourth.
Bournemouth fans must be in paradise at the moment as they look to secure their most successful season in their 125 year history. The previous record was only last season, when they finished tenth in the Championship. Eddie Howe’s men have been praised for playing some of the best football in the league, and there’s no doubt they are hungry for success but I think inevitably inexperience will get the better of them and they will finish just outside the top two. If they don’t win the play-offs, I’m tipping them for automatic promotion next season.
They may be the current league leaders, but securing automatic promotion has to be the main objective for Middlesbrough. This month is going to define their season as they face a tricky fixture list; firstly coming up against in-from Nottingham Forrest, then playing play-off hopefuls Ipswich and then travelling consecutively to their two biggest automatic promotion rivals – Derby and Bournemouth. Nonetheless, with the best defence in the league I think they will just about secure second place.
Despite two defeats in their last two games, I’m still tipping Derby to be crowned Champions this season. The Rams will be looking to bounce back when they host Birmingham on Saturday and enter a good run of form for the end of the season, which they should do with a healthy mix of Premier League quality players such as Darren Bent and Tom Ince as well as hungry young players such as Will Hughes. They will be desperate to avoid the play-offs after heartbreak in the final last season and I think that will inspire them to glory.