Heading into the last few encounters of the 2020-21 season in the English Championship, the battle for promotion couldn’t be more finely poised.
The 2021 Premier League Dream looks on for Norwich and Watford
The excellent form of Norwich City has perched the Canaries at the top of the table, followed by Watford in the second of two automatic promotion spots, with the Hornets having shown plenty of sting recently.
Norwich and Watford are almost guaranteed promotion back to the Premier League. Although, amongst the chasing pack, the battle to finish in the playoff zone is far from over. Realistically, five teams are currently in the fight to clinch one of the four available playoff berths.
The Battle for Play-Offs Spots
Brentford are the side in third place after 40 games played. They will be hoping to reach the English top-flight for the first time in the club’s history.
1️⃣4️⃣ away league wins in a season.— Norwich City FC (@NorwichCityFC) April 10, 2021
A club record! 👏 pic.twitter.com/RpgGmIsPl4
Swansea City, Barnsley, and Bournemouth all follow hot on the tail of Brentford, while Reading remain firmly in the hunt. For any team to catch those five will be a tall order now, as we head into the last four or five games of an exhausting Championship campaign. In eighth and ninth positions respectively, Cardiff and Millwall can still mathematically reach the playoff zone. Although the gap in points is practically insurmountable.
Of the five teams involved in this last-gasp battle to cement their place in the playoffs, Brentford are the 11/10 Championship betting favourites, consistently picking up points through March and April. Recent form has improved significantly, following a brief dip with three consecutive defeats in February. Nevertheless, the recent 0-5 win away at Preston underlines their intentions.
Swansea City regarded themselves as genuine contenders for automatic promotion, earlier in the season. However, after making an excellent start to the campaign, the second half of the season has been a constant struggle for the Swans. That became clear with four defeats on the trot. Before finally getting back to winning form against Millwall recently, clinching three vital points with a 0-3 victory at The Den.
Can surprise package Barnsley pull off the Impossible Dream?
Arguably the biggest surprise package in the Championship during the 2020-21 campaign, Barnsley narrowly avoided relegation to League One last season, having only just bounced back up from the third tier. Gerhard Struber was dismissed as manager by early October. Then Valerien Ismael steadied the ship, before turning his unfancied team into a genuine force. Since mid-February this year, Barnsley have only lost one game under the French coach.
The lads! 😍 pic.twitter.com/N0EiXgJoU4— Barnsley FC (@BarnsleyFC) April 10, 2021
Tipped as one of the favourites to secure an immediate return to the Premier League, things haven’t quite gone to plan for Bournemouth. When the results failed to materialise for manager Jason Tindall, he was fired in February this year and replaced by Jonathan Woodgate. The former England international has improved performances, albeit not enough to push for automatic promotion. They must now look ahead to the lottery of the playoffs.
Finally, the one other team who can jostle for a playoff spot is Reading. After making a flying start to the season, winning seven, and drawing one of their opening eight games, the Royals then hit a dreadful run of form, losing four on the bounce in October and November. If they are to make it into the playoff mix, Reading will need to improve their consistency. This ahead of a tough final run, which includes encounters with Swansea and Norwich.