Sunday, 21 April 2013

Championship Ready for Relegation Battle

With just two rounds of matches left (3 for Blackburn, 4 for Millwall), there are still 10 teams that could mathematically join Bristol City in slipping from the 2nd tier in a fortnight's time. There are so many teams still involved that the number of 6-pointers is too many to copy out here without just recreating the fixture list. Of course realistically Ipswich are almost certainly safe, and it seems unlikely that Millwall will fail to pick up enough points in their remaining four games to avoid being a cup-run casualty. The three teams currently on 51 points are evidently in the most trouble but anyone could theoretically have an unpleasant and uncomfortable afternoon come May 4th.

More relegation woes for Wolves?
In terms of form, Wolves and Barnsley appear to be unlikely to pull themselves out of the mire. Wolves have 1 win in 4, with 3 defeats, while Barnsley's impressive recent draws against Palace, Cardiff, Derby and Forest won't count for much if they can't arrest a 5 game winless run. Peterborough on the other hand are near the top of the form table. They lost 3-1 at the weekend to Derby, but were undefeated in 10 prior to that and certainly seem like they have enough fight to avoid the drop.

Given the absolute shambles at the club currently, it is no great surprise that Blackburn are right in the mix. Two recent wins stopped a slide which saw them collect just 2 points from 21, and may prove sufficient to prevent the biggest crisis of all, another relegation. That said, I can't imagine the squad will have the same fighting spirit as their neighbours, so if they fail to pick up points from their game in hand (away at Millwall), they could yet be in serious trouble. Huddersfield have probably the easiest fixtures (Bristol City away and Barnsley home) from the teams down there but a Yorkshire derby against a battling Barnsley could easily be the crucial game to watch if Town can't get a result away at Bristol.

Jermaine Johnson - the reason
Sheff Wed will escape the drop
Then there's a whole host of teams of 55 points, needing just a win from their remaining games to secure Championship football for next season. Wednesday travel to Peterborough and then host 'Boro on the last day, Blackpool host Derby and then go to Bolton, Burnley are away at Wolves then home to Ipswich while Millwall have 4 games left, 3 of which are at the Den. Of the four teams, only Burnley seem to be in any danger realistically - they have only 1 win in 9 (against Bristol City) and face two other teams in the fight, and so could quite feasible slip back in.

Jordan Rhodes - pretty much the only
good thing about Blackburn's season
Whatever happens over the next two weeks, it is a fascinating end to the season. Last year, 41 points would have been enough to avoid the drop, and this year Bristol City are already relegated despite having that total. Last year, the final gap between 11th and 19th was 14 points, this year it's currently 4. Quite a few of the teams here could very feasibly still finish in the top half of the table. It may yet come down to goal-difference, in which case Huddersfield will be in all manner of trouble, while Sheff Wed, Blackburn and Peterborough are so close that they might end up looking at goals-scored.

In terms of the odds, bookies seem to be following the league table, with Barnsley favourites for the drop (1/2), Wolves (8/11) and Peterborough (4/5) next most likely and Huddersfield (9/2) and Blackburn (11/2) seen as the only other realistic candidates. Wednesday (25/1), Blackpool (66/1), Millwall (66/1) and Burnley (80/1) appear to be pretty safe as far as the bookies are concerned.
What's certain is that it'll be coming down to the last day, and the edges of lots of seats will be under severe stress at around 2.30pm on Saturday 4th May...

14Ipswich Town44151217?1357
18Sheffield Wednesday44151019?955
19Huddersfield Town44141218?2254
20Blackburn Rovers43131416?853
21Peterborough United4414921?951
22Wolverhampton Wanderers4414921?1151
24Bristol City (R)4411825?2041
The bottom of the table as things stand today

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