Sky Bet Championship: The Race for Promotion

The race for promotion to the Premier League is hotting up with only eight games remaining of the regular Sky Bet Championship campaign starting this Saturday.

It’s a three-horse race for the automatic promotion spots with Norwich City, Sheffield United and Leeds United all battling it out for the top two spots in the division.

Leeds and Norwich have been the top two for most of the campaign this year, however, Leeds fell down to third prior to the international break following a 1-0 home defeat to Sheffield United which leaves Marcelo Bielsa’s side one point off the Blades heading into the final eight games of the regular season.

Here I analyse each of the teams chances of automatic promotion this season

Norwich City
The Canaries currently sit five points clear at the top of the table following the win over relegation threatened Rotherham United prior to the break.

Daniel Farke’s worked tremendously well throughout the campaign with a squad which finished 14th in the table last season and he lost key players from that season in the likes of James Maddison, Wes Hoolahan, Josh Murphy and Russell Martin who all played a big part.

Coming into the club is Finland striker Teemu Pukki, signed on a free from Danish outfit Brøndby on a three-year deal, Pukki has really took to life in the Championship scoring 25 goals in the division this season and for me if Norwich are to gain automatic promotion from the Championship the Finnish striker needs to find his scoring boots again towards the end of the campaign.

Remaining Games
30/3 Middlesbrough (A)
6/4 QPR (H)
10/4 Reading (H)
14/4 Wigan (A)
19/4 Sheffield Wednesday (H)
22/4 Stoke City (A)
27/4 Blackburn Rovers (H)
5/5 Aston Villa (A)

Out of their remaining fixtures I believe if Teemu Pukki finds his goalscoring boots and Norwich win four or more they’ve secured automatic promotion.

Sheffield United
The Blades are currently in second spot behind Norwich City and one point above Leeds United in the table so far following a surprise 1-0 triumph over Leeds United at Elland Road prior to the internationals.

Chris Wilder has got his side well-drilled and organised this season and the Blades have impressed me quite a lot this season when I’ve seen them, however, I still feel that they lack quality in the midfield and parts of that showed against Leeds prior to the international break.

A number of players have played really well and Wilder has worked his magic as his side finished 14th last season and are now in a three-way battle for automatic promotion.

Wilder has brough in some good players in the summer and January transfer windows including Oliver Norwood and John Egan, however, I believe that Billy Sharp is the Blades key man this season.

The former Doncaster and Leeds striker has netted on 22 occasions this season and has worked brilliantly with either David McGoldrick or Gary Madine alongside him in attack this season.

Remaining Games
30/3 Bristol City (H)
6/4 Preston (A)
10/4 Birmingham (A)
13/4 Millwall (H)
19/4 Nottingham Forest (H)
22/4 Hull City (A)
27/4 Ipswich (H)
5/5 Stoke City (A)

I believe Sheffield United have a chance of promotion, they need to match Leeds United’s results if they have any chance of promotion from the division.

Leeds United
The Whites are currently one point behind Sheffield United in third in the table so far following a surprise 1-0 defeat against Sheffield United at Elland Road prior to the internationals.

Marcelo Bielsa has got his side play high intensity football and this season it seems to have helped the players who were already at the club from last year and he’s worked tiredlessly to get them playing with the high pressing game for the full 90 minutes.

Bielsa’s sides are known for burning out, however, the Whites don’t seem to be showing this yet this season and it would normally start to show at this point of the season with his previous clubs.

Out of the squad that Bielsa has only Macedonian International Gjanni Alioski has played every minute of games that the club has played in and he’s still going right to the last minute for both club and country this season.

The player of the year so far at Leeds United, for me, is Kalvin Phillips. Phillips is dubbed as the “Yorkshire Pirlo” amongst the Elland Road faithful and has been impressive in his performances in defensive midfield or at centre back in which Bielsa has transformed him into this season.

The Whites have struggled with injuries this campaign otherwise I firmly believe they would be already in the automatic promotion spots heading into the final eight games.

Remaining Games
30/3 Millwall (H)
6/4 Birmingham (A)
9/4 Preston (A)
13/4 Sheffield Wednesday (H)
19/4 Wigan (H)
22/4 Brentford (A)
27/4 Aston Villa (H)
5/5 Ipswich (A)

I believe that Leeds will just pip Sheffield United to second spot in the table and go up automatically.

Automatic Promotion Predictions: Norwich City and Leeds United
Play-Off Winner Prediction: Sheffield United

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