With the Championship season reaching a pulsating climax with nine games left to play, the question on everyone’s lips is who will secure a placed in the ever-lucrative Premier League.
I look at the front runners for promotion via the showdown of a nail biting play-off elimination. With Cardiff and Wolves looking almost out of sight for the automatics, who will fight it out come May for the ultimate prize? Based on current form it would be hard to look past Fulham for promotion.
You’ve always thought at one stage or another Steve Bruce would guide Aston Villa to some sort of revival in a charge towards the big time.
The squad depth is one that most teams envy, marshalled well by the colossus leadership of John Terry. Albert Adomah has been a revelation with 14 goals from the wide position, helped by the influential Conor Hourihane who has sparkled with the form that saw him earn his move from Barnsley.
The Villans aren’t short of goals throughout the team, Lewis Grabban has filled the void to full effect. The blend of youth with Josh Onomah and Jack Grealish showing glimpses of the quality that was touted of them.
Play-off rating 7/10
A meteoric rise is an understatement, at a club that sat 16th in November. Slavisa Jokanovic has done nothing short of a remarkable job with the Cottagers which sees them fourth and a point behind Villa.
Troubles off the field looked to stunt the growth of this exciting team, with signings being driven by stats and numbers. With captain Tom Cairney back at his best, and the stark improvement of Tim Ream, the once leaky defence looks stable and able to mount assaults on the counter.
Arguably the biggest factor in the improvement was deadline day signing Aleksandar Mitrovic. Seven goals in five games has given the team that focal point it was always lacking. Many are beginning to fear this team, so don’t be surprised for them to be outside favourites to go up, with 15 games unbeaten.
Play off rating 8/10
When Tony Pulis took the reins at the club, there were question marks as to whether he was an unknown quality to take a team up. After a shaky start, whilst modifying his team, results have started to come.
Adama Traore is arguably the best ball carrier in the league, with sheer pace and athleticism. Patrick Bamford has found his scoring touch again, which was mimicked by a hat-trick against Leeds and two goals since. With Brit Assombalonga back to fitness, he will always be a threat and a good second option for Boro.
Play off rating 6/10
Lastly, another success story from a promotion is cloud nine Millwall. Neil Harris has done an immense job to get his team where they are and playing for each other. Their last defeat coming on New Year’s Day, highlighting how far this team has come, sitting six points outside the play offs. With a winnable run coming up, they could still fancy themselves.
When I went to visit the club to have a chat with winger Jed Wallace, there was a vibe around the place that they could just sneak it, no pressure on the squad could help them here.
Play off rating: 6/10
MY FINAL PREDICTIONS:
Millwall/Brentford vs Fulham
Middlesbrough vs Aston Villa
Fulham vs Middlesbrough