Which teams are going to get promoted from the Championship in 2014/15 season?
Having just renegotiated TV deal worth £5.4bn the Premier League is the richest division in world football.
Currently there is a real battle, with seven games to go, for the two automatic promotion spots from the Championship.
Just six points separates top-of-the-table Bournemouth from Ipswich Town in the final play-off place. loveaflutter takes a look at which clubs would be good bets to make it up when the season ends in May.
Having finished in a respectable 10th place in their first season back in the Championship in 2013/14, Bournemouth were much-fancied by those betting on the football markets at the start of the season. They have been the most consistent side at the top of the table, with them only dropping out of the automatic promotion spots once since the turn of the year. The South Coast club had a wobble during February with one win from seven games, but have started to hit form again at the right time.
They have got goals in their side as convincing victories over Middlesbrough (3-0), Blackpool (4-0) and Fulham (5-1) have proved recently. Eddie Howe’s team also have an easy run in. They only face one side, Ipswich, who are currently in the top six. Other games against Sheffield Wednesday, Bolton, Reading, Brighton, Birmingham and Charlton are against teams with little left to play for the season. I expect Bournemouth to be in the top two at the end of the season.
Watford have been very much been the surprise package this season. They were one of the betting favourites at the start at around 10/1 but, having changed their manager three times in the first three months of the season, it is surprising to see them still there. Slaviša Jokanović has been in charge of the Hornets since October and he has catapulted them back into the automatic promotion spots with five wins from their last seven. In Troy Deeney and Matěj Vydra they have players capable of getting them the wins they need in the final weeks of the campaign. However, Watford face promotion-chasing Derby and Middlesborough in the next two weeks before travelling to Millwall who are fighting for their lives to stay up. If, and it is a big if, they can continue their current form through those three games then they are in with a good shout.
Middlesbrough under Aitor Karanka are defensively solid, something which is always a plus at this time of year when nerves start to get the better of players. They have let in just 30 goals all season, which is 10 fewer than their nearest challengers, Bournemouth and Sheffield Wednesday, in terms of defensive records. As a result they are likely to pick up points between now and the end of the season if they can maintain their resolve at the back. However, their run in looks tricky and a trip to Norwich on April 17 could end up proving a real six-pointer for the North East side.
This is because Norwich, on the back of a great run, have really come into the reckoning. At 11/1 at the start of the season they were one of the betting favourites to go up. However, in manager Neil Adams, they never looked like they had a person in charge capable of getting them back to the Premier League at the first attempt. That all changed though when Alex Neil took over in January. Neil has won 10 of his 15 games, drawing three and losing the other two. In contrast his former club Hamilton Academicals, in Scotland, haven’t won a game yet since he departed. Norwich always had the players, in the likes of Jonny Howson, Cameron Jerome and Lewis Grabban, to get promoted this season. Now they have got the right man in charge they look as though they might achieve that. They along with, Bournemouth, would be my bet for the two automatic promotion places.
However, it would be wrong of me to rule out the four others sides; Derby, Ipswich, Wolves and Brentford completely. They are all in with a shout of an automatic places still. However, Derby have wobbled badly of late. They have picked up just two points from their last six games and they have home games against Watford and Brentford, in the first two weekends of April, that they just have to win if they are to get back in the hunt.
Ipswich have the league’s top scorer in Darryl Murphy, but as Leeds United found out last season, with Ross McCormick, that is no guarantee of promotion. A play-off place doesn’t look beyond the Tractor Boys, but with a top-of-the-table Bournemouth to play next and automatic promotion place might be by Easter Sunday.
Brentford were up to third in the table at the start of Deptember and looked a good bet to make back-to-back promotions from League One to the Premier League. However, speculation surrounding manager Mark Warbuton’s future led the club to announce that he would be leaving at the end of the campaign. Warburton has been linked with various jobs in recent weeks in the managerial markets, including Queen’s Park Rangers, which won’t be helping the players focus for a busy run-in.
Wolves, under experienced Championship manager, Kenny Jackett were always going to be a strong bet for the play-offs this season. However, they are currently seven-points adrift of the automatic promotion spots and will need good results from difficult away trips to Nottingham Forest and Birmingham City in the next few weeks if they are going to bridge that gap.