Championship play-off race: Boro and Leeds could be top-six bolters

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With 12 rounds of games to go, there are a number of Championship teams still in with a chance of a play-off place come May.

Wolverhampton Wanderers and Cardiff City are the current top two, with the latter four points ahead of third place.

Aston Villa (1/25), Derby County (1/7), and Fulham (1/6) are all in very strong positions for a top-six spot, and could yet challenge the top-two.

However, Bristol City (6/4) look particularly vulnerable in sixth right now.

The Ashton Gate outfit are two points ahead of Middlesbrough in seventh, with Leeds United down in 11th just five points behind the Robins now.

We take a look at the challengers for that final play-off spot…

Middlesbrough – 9/5

Since Tony Pulis took charge at the Riverside, Boro have won five, lost four, and drew two.

There’s been no particular pattern to the results. Pulis’s outfit have won and lost on the road in nearly equal measure.

The Welshman has a talented squad at his disposal, though, and has promotion experience with Stoke City. If he can harness the extravagant talents of Adama Traore on a consistent basis, Boro could easily overtake Bristol City.

Sheffield United – 2/1

After a superb opening few months to the season, newly-promoted Sheffield United have hit a downward curve.

The Blades are level on points with Boro, just two short of the top-six. They are still winning games, but they’re not as consistent as they were before Christmas.

Chris Wilder has bemoaned the lack of funds in the January transfer window and has been downbeat about their promotion chances.

The sounds from Bramall Lane aren’t great. But they’re still in with a great chance. They need to get their heads up as quickly as possible.

Brentford – 4/1

Dean Smith continues to do a superb job at Brentford. The Bees have lost a number of major talents over the last couple of seasons, but his squad keep on producing the goods.

Smith’s brand of attacking football means the West London outfit will be there or thereabouts.

But there just may not be enough quality in the squad to sustain a push ahead of the other teams.

Preston North End – 5/1

Alex Neil has done a good job since taking over Preston last summer. The former Norwich City boss has made a solid outfit of this PNE squad.

The Lilywhites were on a run of just one defeat in 17 league games until a 1-0 defeat at home to Ipswich Town.

North End will need to be more than solid in the final 12 games to make the top-six, though. Young Irish striker Sean Maguire is due back in the fold after three months out. And he could make a difference.

But, unless there’s a surge in points over the next couple of months, Preston are likely to fall just short.

Leeds United – 16/1

Every other season, there tends to be a bolter from the pack in the final few months that make the play-offs from nowhere.

Just five points behind Bristol City, that team could be Leeds this term. There’s been a slow turnaround in results since Paul Heckingbottom took over. But it looks like it’s slowly coming together at Elland Road for the ex-Barnsley boss.

The Whites are undefeated in three, including two draws and a win to Derby, Bristol City, and Brentford. That’s a decent points haul from three difficult games.

If the Yorkshire outfit can turn it on against the lower sides, Leeds could be right in the mix come May.

Click here for the latest Championship 2017/18 markets.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing 

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Cian Carroll

Starting life as a football columnist for his local paper in Dundalk, Cian has written for a number of media outlets with pieces published in The Birmingham Mail and Spain’s El Mundo Deportivo. A lover of football, GAA, boxing, rugby and MMA, he’s a big Aston Villa and Dundalk fan. He can be regularly spotted on various mountain tops.