All football fans will know that the second tier of English football has the tendency to throw up all sorts of excitement. Following the trials and tribulations of the opening 30 games or so, the league table is starting to shape up and clubs are beginning to dream of top flight football more convincingly. The supporters of the teams battling in the upper echelons of the division are certainly in for an exciting finish, although nerves will be rife as neither team wants to miss out.
Prior to the season commencing back in August, Middlesbrough, Hull City and Burnley were tipped to make a return to the Premier League and they are all in a very promising position as it stands. The latter are sitting pretty at the top of the division but Aitor Karanka and Steve Bruce will be confident that their teams can earn themselves a winners’ medal.
Both sides are only a single point shy of the 65 that Burnley have amassed, and with The Tigers and Boro having 1 and 2 games in hand respectively, it promises to be a tightly contested finale. For any neutrals it’s absolutely sensational entertainment, however, fans of those clubs will be confident and undeniably nervous in equal measure.
Despite the trio of teams mentioned being in more favourable positions, the chasing pack will be determined to fulfil their own ambitions and they’ll be itching to creep into the top two. Brighton, Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday all occupy the remaining play-off berths and they remain firmly in the hunt. Of course, you then have Cardiff City, Birmingham City and Ipswich Town just on the fringes of the top six. Either of those clubs could yet propel themselves into the frame. It really is unpredictable, but I’m going to air my views anyway. Here are the three sides I believe will gain promotion.
Sean Dyche’s men are really stamping their authority on the division and The Clarets are edging towards an immediate return to the Premier League. They may have a few sides breathing down their necks, but they are in sensational form themselves and if that continues they will be unlucky to miss out.
Their last defeat came in the form of a 3-0 dismantling by rivals Hull back on Boxing Day. Since then, they have picked up 30 points from a possible 36 including victories over Middlesbrough, Hull and Derby. Being the division’s top scorers will also stand them in good stead and in Andre Gray they have, in my opinion, the best striker outside of the top flight. The former Brentford man has notched 20 Championship goals already and he’s on course to claim several personal accolades.
With their recent run of results and ability to score goals in mind, I think Dyche will be managing in the top tier again next season. From what I’ve seen of Burnley, they are an excellent footballing side and they deserve every success. Whether or not they’ll survive back in the Premier League is another matter, but I think their supporters will be planning trips to Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and Anfield in the not so distant future.
Verdict – Automatic Promotion
Boro are the second side that I think will book their place amongst the country’s elite for next term. I think every football fan has been impressed by the way in which the Teesside club have conducted themselves, and Karanka’s footballing philosophy has certainly put smiles on faces of those at The Riverside Stadium.
Unlike Burnley, Middlesbrough’s key attribute is the ability to defend. Remarkably, they have only shipped 17 goals in their 32 games so far and this has allowed them to pick up points consistently throughout the season. Karanka has certainly cemented an aura of organisation amongst the players and this should be advantageous should they secure Premiership status.
They aren’t quite producing in the same vein as Burnley recently but they are very capable. Some vital fixtures still remain, none more so than the meetings with Hull and Burnley. Any points taken from those games could prove vital in maintaining the push for automatic promotion, but I believe they will celebrating a long awaited return to the top come May.
Verdict – Automatic Promotion
Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton are the final team that I am tipping for promotion and after a sensational start to the season whereby they went 22 games unbeaten, supporters will be disappointed that they couldn’t continue that feat. After their first taste of defeat on the 19th of December versus Middlesbrough, they suffered a sequence of 5 matches without a win.
However, Chris Hughton has galvanised his side and they have subsequently started to push forward once more. They now sit in 4th position, only 5 points away from the summit of The Championship. Scoring goals has been a habit for The Seagulls and they have found the net on 45 occasions, but they have also conceded 34.
Despite their defensive susceptibilities, I really fancy them to go up this season. In the play-offs I would have them down as favourites simply due to their ability to not lose games. Of course, in the context of such important fixtures anybody can beat anybody, but I have had a feeling about Chris Hughton’s side for a while now.
Verdict – Play-Off Winners
*all stats and figures correct at time of writing.