The Championship is renowned for its unpredictability and we’re rarely treated to a promotion race which doesn’t go down to the wire.
But even by the division’s usual standards, this year’s promotion push is unbelievably close and exciting, with Burnley, Middlesbrough, and Brighton & Hove Albion all locked on 87 points and separated in the table by a mere three goals.
So, here at Ladbrokes News, we tried to pick out who is going up as champions, which fans will be celebrating second spot, and where that unwanted third-place spot is likely to be heading.
Brighton and Hove Albion – Third Place / 87 points / GD: +30
Chris Hughton’s Seagulls are flying high right now, and they’re in with a very real chance of swooping for the Championship title. It’s the result of an incredible resurgence, with Brighton now 6/1 to be champions, having been as long as 40/1 on January 14, following a winless run of eight games.
They’re now the division’s form team, having won their last five fixtures, scoring 15 times and conceding just three in the process. So, can anything – or anyone – stop them?
Well, their final two fixtures are decidedly tricky. Even with 18-goal Tomer Hemed in sensational form, they’ll have their work cut out trying to break down two of the stingiest defences, in the form of Derby County and Middlesbrough.
But the manner of their recent victories has been so impressive that a six-point haul from these last two games doesn’t look improbable.
Add their recent run to the fact they’ve taken two draws and a win from their previous three trips to Middlesbrough, and they may well secure promotion down at the Riverside.
Prediction: Brighton to be promoted in second place
Middlesbrough – Second Place / 87 points / GD: +32
Aitor Karanka’s Boro seemed to be strolling their way to the Premier League as recently as last Tuesday. But having conceded an injury-time goal to draw 1-1 at Turf Moor, they then failed to break down an Ipswich Town side who hadn’t won in their previous six games.
They’ve maintained the league’s meanest defence, even during the recent blip, conceding just 28 times in 44 games (that’s 0.63 goals per game, for the stats fans).
However, they head to Birmingham City on Friday without a win at St Andrews in over a decade and finish the season hosting a Brighton side who are currently on a five-game winning streak. Neither of those facts bodes well for Karanka’s men.
Boro suffered heartbreak with the late collapse of their automatic promotion bid last season, followed by play-off defeat to Norwich. Unfortunately for fans of the Teesside club, they have probably run out of steam at the wrong time again.
However, for those backing Boro to prove that prediction wrong, they’re 9/4 to lift the Championship title.
Prediction: Middlesbrough to finish in third place
Burnley – First Place / 87 points / GD: +33
Sean Dyche’s men fell through the Premier League trapdoor last season after a dismal April, but they’re in pole position to head straight back after a much happier spring in 2016.
Currently on an astonishing 21-game unbeaten run in the Championship, they have the league’s hottest striker in ex-Brentford man Andre Gray, who leads the charts with 24 strikes.
Their remaining two games are at home to a QPR side locked in mid-table and without a win in their last five visits to Turf Moor. The final day sees the Clarets travel to already-relegated Charlton, who at present have taken two points from their last five games.
Dyche guided Burnley to promotion with a second-place finish in 2014. Facing two of what should be their simplest games of the season, it’s hard to see Dyche or talented former promotion-winners like Sam Vokes and Joey Barton failing to get six points.
And for those who agree, you can back Burnley to win the Championship at 4/7.
Prediction: Burnley to win the Championship