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A closer look at the Championship promotion race

Posted on | December 28, 2017 | No Comments

Whilst the Premier League title race is beginning to look over, as Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City go from strength-to-strength, the race to join England’s elite is gathering pace in the Championship, with a host of clubs battling to get back amongst the big time for the 2018/19 campaign, which will be on us before we know it.

For now, it is looking like Wolverhampton Wanderers will be certainly gaining promotion back to the Premier League this season, with Nuno Espirito Santo’s side storming into a healthy lead ahead of the festive period, playing an attractive brand of attacking football, whilst mixing that with some real defensive quality.

The likes of Diogo Jota, Leo Bonatini and Ivan Cavaleiro have lit up the Championship with their attacking quality, and with Ruben Neves pulling the strings from central midfield, it is hard to see any of the other 23 clubs in the division stopping Wolves going forward. In defence, Willy Boly has been a man mountain, whilst John Ruddy, who arrived at Molineux as a free agent following his release from Norwich City, has proved to be one shrewd addition.

Cardiff City are one club sat behind Wolves in the Championship table, but it is hard to imagine that Neil Warnock’s side can topple the leaders, despite surprising many by staging an unlikely promotion push. Last season, Warnock was tasked with helping the Bluebirds avoid relegation, and has now delivered on his promise of a promotion push, despite many laughing off his claims 12 months ago.

Whilst Cardiff’s push for promotion is a surprise, perhaps the biggest shock has been Bristol City’s fine form, which has the Robins challenging for promotion, as well as booking a place in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup. The Robins were many people’s favourites to be in a relegation battle, but Lee Johnson’s side have shown that they are up there with the best in the division, turning in some impressive displays during the first-half of the season.

A battling 3-3 draw with Wolves was an indication of what Bristol were all about, whilst a 2-1 victory over Cardiff in the Severnside derby was further evidence of Johnson’s side flexing their muscles in the race for promotion. Since then, the Robins have also picked up a vital three points over Sheffield United, with once again Johnson’s side taking part in a fixture with over 2.5 goals and both teams to score, just as many were predicting ahead of the fixture. Punters looking to place a bet on Championship football may want to check out Oddschecker and their tips page ahead of any potential wager.

Sheffield United have used the momentum they gained from last season’s promotion from League One to put themselves in this year’s Championship race, but a broken leg suffered by Paul Coutts in November has dealt the Blades a huge blow, with Chris Wilder’s side struggling since the midfielder’s injury.

Some of the Championship’s ‘sleeping giants’ are also in the race for promotion, with Derby County, now under the guidance of Gary Rowett, going from strength-to-strength heading into 2018. Steve Bruce is also looking to work his magic at Villa Park, with Aston Villa having aspirations of ending a brief stay in the second-tier, which has frankly become a nightmare for the club.

Villa have a talented squad but have struggled to gel, and the feeling around Villa Park is that not everyone is impressed with Bruce’s methods, despite his previous success at the likes of Birmingham City and Hull City in the past. Villa are looking to avoid a long stint outside the Premier League, and don’t have to look too far in the table to see a team that has become stuck outside the top-flight despite their magnitude, with Leeds United looking to end a 14-year wait for a return to the elite.

Leeds are well placed for a push, whilst many others will be looking to stage an assault on the top-six between now and May.

The title looks like it will be heading to Molineux in the Championship, but unlike many other divisions in the word, anything can happen below that, with plenty of clubs battling for promotion. Heading into 2018, there are eight, nine and maybe even 10 clubs that have the potential to gain promotion into the Premier League.

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