The Championship promotion contenders - which sides are bound for the Premier League?
We chart the hopes of the sides chasing the Holy Grail of the Premier League - and assess how they might do if they make it
Thursday 21 March 2013
With both the Championship and Premier League taking a break this weekend due to the international fixtures, we have an opportunity to take stock and analyse the teams chasing promotion to the top flight.
Will Cardiff bottle it? Are Watford the favourites for automatic promotion? Do Leeds have any chance of making the play-offs?
Here's our guide to the 10 sides aiming to be among the three promoted to the Premier League...
Cardiff (75 points)
Form: Top of the table since November, Malky Mackay's side have emerged from their recent wobble perfectly poised to clinch automatic promotion. Frazier Campbell's arrival in January has given the Bluebirds extra thrust up front meaning their 51-year wait for a return to the top flight could soon be over.
Remaining fixtures: Peterborough (Mar 30), Blackburn (Apr 1), Watford (April 6), Barnsley (Apr 9), Nottingham Forest (Apr 13), Charlton (Apr 16), Burnley (Apr 20), Bolton (Apr 27), Hull (May 4)
Premier League prospects: To achieve promotion this season, Mackay has assembled an impressive group of players who also have significant Premier League experience; of the eleven that started last weekend's 2-0 victory at Sheffield Wednesday, seven have played in the top division. Nevertheless, their fortunes next season will be heavily dependent on the level of investment from their billionaire Malaysian owner Vincent Tan.
Hull (68 points)
Form: Three defeats in five games has stalled the Tigers' progress, but a relatively straight-forward run-in should work to their benefit. Manager Steve Bruce has two promotions on his CV from his Birmingham days and his experience may prove pivotal.
Remaining fixtures: Huddersfield (Mar 30), Watford (Apr 2), Middlesbrough (Apr 6), Ipswich (Apr 13), Wolves (Apr 16), Bristol City (Apr 19), Barnsley (Apr 27), Cardiff (May 4)
Premier League prospects: The club's two-year spell in the Premier League under Phil Brown should mean they will not be overawed by the top flight. From the side that was relegated in 2010, only a handful of players remain but the likes of George Boyd and Republic of Ireland international Robbie Brady will be eager to showcase their abilities at a higher level.
Watford (68 points)
Form: Gianfranco Zola's men have been one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the npower Championship this season, boosted by the goals of Udinese loanee Matej Vydra. The top scorers in the league, also boasting the best away record, the Hornets have played some of the best football seen at Vicarage Road in years, but back-to-back defeats suggest their free-flowing style may just have run out of steam at the wrong time.
Remaining fixtures: Burnley (Mar 29), Hull (Apr 2), Cardiff (Apr 6), Peterborough (Apr 13), Millwall (Apr 16), Blackburn (Apr 20), Leicester (Apr 26), Leeds (May 4)
Premier League prospects: The transfer embargo placed upon the club will severely hamper any plans they may wish to make should they get over the finish line. Holding on to the majority of their foreign contingent and the manager will be imperative.
Crystal Palace (65 points)
Form: Only time will tell whether the crushing 3-0 derby loss at Brighton will have a psychological effect on the Eagles. With the Championship's leading goalscorer Glenn Murray and Manchester United-bound Wilfried Zaha in their ranks, Ian Holloway's squad is full of quality. But recent FA charges for improper conduct for Holloway and Zaha suggest that, although they have been in the top six since October, the pressure is beginning to mount.
Remaining fixtures: Birmingham (Mar 29), Blackpool (Apr 1), Barnsley (Apr 6), Ipswich (Apr 16), Leicester (Apr 20), Blackburn (Apr 27), Millwall (Apr 30), Peterborough (May 4)
Premier League prospects: Zaha's absence will leave Holloway with a significant hole to fill and 29-year-old Murray is unproven at the top level. The Palace boss will have learned a lot from his experience at Blackpool and will be desperate for a second chance to cut his managerial teeth in the Premier League.
Nottingham Forest (60 points):
Form: Off the pace for the majority of the season, Billy Davies' side are now the division's in-form team. Six wins on the bounce has catapulted Forest up to fifth place and their 2-1 victory at Hull has issued a warning to the rest of the promotion hopefuls that Davies' men are real contenders.
Remaining fixtures: Brighton (Mar 30), Burnley (Apr 1), Blackpool (Apr 6), Cardiff (Apr 13), Middlesbrough (Apr 16), Barnsley (Apr 20), Millwall (Apr 27), Leicester (May 4)
Premier League prospects: The Kuwaiti Al-Hasawi family will need to give Davies funds to bolster the squad should Forest achieve promotion. In Simon Cox, Henri Lansbury and Darius Henderson they have the players to get into the Premier League but may struggle to stay up.
Leicester (59 points):
Form: With one win in nine league games, the Foxes have lost impetus at just the wrong moment. Nigel Pearson's side boast the meanest defence in the division but will need to improve their goalscoring form if they are to earn a top-six finish.
Remaining fixtures: Millwall (Mar 29), Barnsley (Apr 1), Brighton (Apr 6), Birmingham (Apr 12) Bolton (Apr 16), Crystal Palace (Apr 20), Watford (Apr 26), Nottingham Forest (May 4)
Premier League prospects: Their ambitious Thai owners will be keen to make a foray into the Premier League a permanent one. Expect big changes at the King Power Stadium in the summer in the event of a Wembley win.
Brighton (59 points):
Form: The early pace setters fell away in October, but five wins in their last nine games combined with Leicester's poor run has kept Gus Poyet's men in the reckoning. Their victory against Crystal Palace could spark a late-season surge.
Remaining fixtures: Nottingham Forest (Mar 30), Charlton (Apr 2), Leicester (Apr 6), Middlesbrough (April 13), Peterborough (Apr 16), Blackpool (Apr 20), Leeds (April 27), Wolves (May 4)
Premier League prospects: In Liam Bridcutt the Seagulls have one of the best young talents in the division. Poyet's multi-national squad would be favourites for an immediate return to the Championship but as an unknown quantity, could pull a few surprises.
Bolton (54 points):
Form: A recent run of five consecutive victories has given the Trotters an outside chance of making it back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. In 20th place at the start of February, Dougie Freedman's side may just have left it too late.
Remaining fixtures: Charlton (Mar 30), Huddersfield (Apr 2), Wolves (Apr 6), Bristol City (Apr 13), Leicester (Apr 16), Middlesbrough (Apr 20), Cardiff (Apr 27), Blackpool (May 4)
Premier League prospects: Bolton have managed to keep almost all their squad in tact following last season's relegation but a side not good enough to stay up in 2012 is unlikely to fare better two years later.
Middlesbrough (54 points):
Form: Four wins in 2013 have all but confirmed Middlesbrough will be spending another season in the Championship. Top of the table in November, Boro's major downfall has been their away form which has seen them pick up just five away league victories all season.
Remaining fixtures: Wolves (Mar 30), Peterborough (Apr 2), Hull (Apr 6), Brighton (Apr 13), Nottingham Forest (Apr 16), Bolton (Apr 20), Charlton (Apr 27), Sheff Wed (May 4)
Premier League prospects: Should Tony Mowbray's team somehow manage to engineer a remarkable turnaround in fortunes, maintaining their Premier League status next year would be an even more incredible feat.
Leeds (52 points):
Form: still too early to write off Neil Warnock's side, it would take a miracle for the Yorkshire club to force their way into the play-off places. Leeds have spent just one week in the top six all year, in most part due to their dismal away form, and would need to win all eight of their remaining league games to have a conceivable chance of promotion.
Remaining fixtures: Ipswich (Mar 30), Derby (Apr 1), Charlton (Apr 6), Sheff Wed (Apr 13), Burnley (Apr 16), Birmingham (Apr 20), Brighton (Apr 27), Watford (May 4)
Premier League prospects: Promotion would come as much of a surprise to Neil Warnock as anyone else, with the current boss revealing he has already been in discussions to select his successor. Returning to the Premier League for the first time in a decade would be a dream for Leeds' supporters which would require serious investment to maintain.
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