Middlesbrough 2nd P30 W17 D7 L6 PTS58
The season so far for Boro fans has been plain sailing until the past few weeks. They’re not favourites to win the league for no reason and they should really be in the top 2 come the end of the season. With a record of 17 wins, 7 draws and 6 losses and 58 points from 30 games they’re just about hitting the magical 2 points per game mark which is expected from promotion chasing teams. However, since their 1-0 loss to relegation candidates Bristol City on the 16th of January Middlesbrough have a record of 2 losses and 3 draws, hardly promotion form. The fact that they are still in the top 2 shows what a great season they had been having up until that point. With the January acquisition of Jordan Rhodes for an astonishing £9 million, the Boro should have enough fire power to reach the Premier League.
Odds: To win the league 6/5; To be promoted 1/4
Hull 1st P31 W18 D6 L7 PTS60
Hull are another team that have impressed all season. They still have their experienced manager Steve Bruce and much of their Premier League team such as Huddlestone, Livermore, Elmohamady and Hernández who has 17 goals so far this season. Couple this with some astute signings such as Snodgrass and Maguire and they have a team capable of promotion. Since the turn of the year Hull city have been in fine form winning 5 out of 7 including a thumping 6-0 victory over strugglers Charlton; they have only lost 1 game – 1-0 at home to Burnley. Hull are amongst the top scorers in the division with 47 in 31 games, 8 more than Middlesbrough have achieved in one game less, but it isn’t particularly down to their attack or defence that Hull are where they are at the moment – top of the Championship. The real reason is the combination of both of these factors, Hull have the best goal difference in the league with +28. Hernández aside they don’t really have an out and out goal scorer either; Hull’s second top scorers in the league are Clucas and Diamé with 5 each. Hull have 17 individual scorers in the league this season. This overall strength is what could see Hull promoted this season, they excel all over the pitch and each player chips in when needed.
Odds: To win the league 6/4; To be promoted 2/7
Burnley 4th P31 W15 D11 L5 PTS56
The second team and final relegated team from last season’s Premier League on this list (sorry QPR fans) and Burnley have been in great form recently with 5 wins from their last 8 including thumping wins over Bristol City (4-0) and MK Dons (5-0). They have also managed huge 6-point victories where it matters most – against the teams around you, they beat Derby and Hull 4-1 and 1-0 respectively. Their top scorer Andre Gray, signed from Brentford this summer for a club-record fee believed to be around £9 million, has been banging them in all season and currently has 16 goals to his name. However, there has been some criticism that he does not score enough away from home; he’s only scored 3 away from Turf Moor. Another big player for Burnley is Joey Barton who has been getting praise from Burnley fans this season. The club also kept a number of their top players from their one-season spell in the Premier League last term as key players Heaton, Ben Mee, George Boyd and Sam Vokes remained at the club as Ings departed for Liverpool. Their manager Sean Dyche is experienced in this league and the club is stable so promotion for Burnley would not be too much of a surprise.
Odds: To win the league 13/2; To be promoted 6/5; To win the playoffs 9/2
Brighton 3rd P31 W13 D12 L6 PTS57
Brighton have recently emerged from an extremely poor run of form, including a loss to strugglers Rotherham 2-0, to win 4 out of their last 5 and draw 0-0 with Hull in their most recent outing. Brighton have the lowest goal difference in the current top 6 having conceded the second most (30) and scored the joint second least (40). This suggests that they have won games by the odd goal and not convincingly at all, however it may be in part down to their horrendous form prior to their victory against Blackburn on the 16th of January when they only picked up 3 points from 7 games. Brighton went unbeaten for the longest period of any championship team this term having not lost any of their first 21 league games. This suggests that they may have what it takes to reach the heights of the automatic promotion places if Middlesbrough continue their poor run of form, they’re currently only 1 point off the promotion favourites. Brighton are another team that relies on contributions from all corners of the pitch for goals; their top scorer is Hemed with 8, followed by Zamora with 7 and Murphy with 5. Brighton’s squad is not quite as strong as Hull or Middlesbrough’s but recent signing Anthony Knockaert from Standard Liege is incredibly talented and has experience in this league. Could he be the one to propel Brighton to the Premier League?
Odds: To win the league 10/1; To be promoted 9/5; To win the playoffs 5/1
Derby 6th P31 W13 D12 L6 PTS51
Things are not looking too rosy for Derby at the moment. Paul Clement, the former PSG and Real Madrid coach, was appointed Derby manager at the start of the season and was expected to do well given his vast experience learning from the very best in the game. However, Clement was sacked on the 8th of February after a run of 7 games without a victory, including 3 defeats to Middlesbrough, Birmingham and Burnley. Things have not picked up since Clement’s departure as Derby went on to lose to strugglers MK Dons 1-0 on the 13th of February. Clement has since been replaced until the end of the season by Darren Wassall, the academy manager at Derby. Wassall has never managed a senior team in his career, aside from a short spell as Derby caretaker in 2013, so it remains to be seen whether he can guide Derby to promotion, or even the play offs this season. The doubts will be in the collective mind at Derby as memories of last year’s failure to qualify for the play offs by one point under Steve McLaren will still be fresh. This isn’t the only failure that we have seen at Derby in recent seasons, they also lost the playoff final to QPR in the 2013-2014 season. Derby have a recent history of failure and have made a habit of dropping short.
Odds: To win the league 25/1; To be promoted 7/4; To win the playoffs 5/2
Sheffield Wednesday 5th P31 W14 D11 L6 PTS53
Sheffield Wednesday are on great form. Looking at the odds, the form, and the current position in the league, Sheffield Wednesday is where my money would be going. Wednesday got new Thai owners last year and they have publicly stated that the Premier League is their ambition. 2017 was their aim but that does not mean it can’t happen sooner. Solid experience and continuity in their squad from Nuhiu, McGugan, Bennett, Semedo and Westwood has been backed up with quality flair players that add something a bit special like Forestieri and McGeady. Wednesday have won 5 of their last 7 and this includes a victory against local rivals Leeds which isn’t something to be sniffed at. Included in this run of 7 unbeaten is a 1-1 draw with fellow high flyers Burnley, who are also in great form, which shows that they can battle it out with the top teams in tough games as well. This season may be too soon for Wednesday but they look as though they will challenge again in 2016-17 if they do not break through this year.
Odds: To win the league 28/1; To be promoted 10/3; To win the playoffs 9/2
Other teams to look out for
Birmingham – 3 points off the playoffs and in great form. With only a few months left of the season form could be all it takes to sneak in through the playoffs.
Odds: To be promoted 20/1
Ipswich – An experienced manager in Mick McCarthy and a team that has experience coping with the pressure at the top of the Championship. 3 points from the playoffs.
Odds: To be promoted 9/1
Cardiff – 5 points from the playoffs is quite a distance at the top but don’t rule Cardiff out. The main issue is lack of an out and out goal scorer but Cardiff are a good team.
Odds: To be promoted 28/1