45 games down and just one to go means the season has almost reached its climax – but for four teams the campaign will go on that bit longer.
Hull City, Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday will be joined by the unfortunate team who comes up short in the all or nothing game between Middlesbrough and Brighton at the Riverside Stadium.
The Play-Offs continues to be one of football’s greatest lottery, but heading into it Derby County look like the team most primed to finally end their stay in England’s second tier.
Now firmly over their mid-season wobble, new manager Darren Wassall has turned their fortunes around and the Rams are unbeaten since early April. Their squad has always had the potential and that strength in depth could be key in their assault for promotion.
The fact that both Andreas Weimann and Jacob Butterfield came off the bench at Brighton on Monday broadcasts just how powerful and capable their squad is, even with current injuries.
The return of Will Hughes is also timely as the young English star looks to get back on where he left off after being injured for eight months.
It was his delicate chip which set up his teammate for Derby’s opening goal on Monday and he worked tirelessly in central midfield.
Derby also dismantled Play-off rivals and likely semi-final opponents Hull City 4-0 in their own back yard a few weeks ago, which shall fill them with confidence heading into that tussle.
Sixth placed Sheffield Wednesday have been impressive this season but may lack this kind of experience.
Derby, along with Hull and Brighton have all experienced play-off drama over the last few seasons and will be better for the exposure.
Whilst it is often the case that the third place team, often viewed as best of the rest who didn’t get promotion, would go on to capture it through the play-offs.
However due to the titanic nature of the game this weekend it could be the case that failure at the first time of asking to win promotion, may be a tough hurdle to get over in such a short space of time.
It would be admirable if the loser can pick themselves back up for the Play-Offs but I think that might be a bridge to far.
For all these reason I would make the men from the iPro Stadium my favourites for promotion.
They came so close two years ago and then collapsed last season.
Third time lucky as they say and with the form and talent they have coming into crunch time, I think they could be set for another tilt at the top flight.