Championship title race and promotion picture set for final day drama
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | April 24, 2016
If you think Tottenham’s attempt to chase Leicester City down at the top of the Premier League is exciting, then it’s not a patch on the Championship title race.
With two games to go, Middlesbrough, Burnley and Brighton and Hove Albion are all tied on 87 points. To make things even tenser, Chris Hughton takes his Seagulls to Teesside on the final day.
Down to the wire
Going to a fortress like the Riverside where Aitor Karanka’s Boro have been so forbidding to opposition this term means Brighton are made 13/2 title outsiders by Coral.
Middlesbrough are 9/4 chances to lift the trophy en route to a top-flight return, but it’s Sean Dyche and the Clarets who are fancied to bounce straight back into the Premier League because they face a couple of nothing games to end their campaign.
Burnley (8/15 to be Championship champions) host mid-table QPR on May Day Bank Holiday and already relegated Charlton Athletic on the final day.
Dyche knows his destiny, and that of the Turf Moor team, is entirely in his own hands. If the Clarets win both their remaining matches, then neither of Boro and the Seagulls cannot overhaul them in an automatic promotion place.
Play-off pain could loom for one of top three
What coaching counterparts Karanka and Hughton are facing, however, is a loser of their game against one another settling for the lethal lottery of the Championship play-offs.
Before they do battle, however, both will face Midlands opposition as Middlesbrough go to Birmingham City, while Brighton play host to Derby County (13/5 for promotion) – a club that will enter the end of season competition for the second time in three seasons.
If Burnley slip up, then it could also be them going into a semi-final against Sheffield Wednesday (5/1 to go up), who can confirm their own top six finish by holding closest challengers Cardiff City at Hillsborough in their penultimate regular season outing.
The Rams and Hull City, meanwhile, can finish no higher than fourth, and it’s Steve Bruce and his Tigers that hold an advantage here as they have a home game in hand against mid-table Brentford.
Tigers will not be tame in lethal lottery
Hull, 5/2 promotion chances, follow that up with a trip to rock-bottom Bolton Wanderers and go into the play-offs off the back of a Yorkshire derby with Rotherham United, made safe in this division by wily veteran coach Neil Warnock.
The Rams, under interim head coach Darren Wassall and the advice of Harry Redknapp, are in-form with five wins in seven, but Bruce has kept the bulk of his Tigers squad from their Premier League stint together.
Predicting anything in this league is very tough, yet previous and recent play-offs failures could prey on the minds of some Brighton and Derby players.
The Owls are almost assured of their first end of season campaign in over a decade, but lack experience of this as a result, so it could be 2008 Championship play-off winners Hull that are worth a punt for promotion.
Check out more Championship content ahead of what promises to be a thrilling finale to the 2015/16 season.