There are many reasons why the Championship is often regarded as the toughest league in football.
And this season is proving no different. With just three games remaining there are 11 sides still harbouring promotion or play-off hopes.
Of those, Wolverhampton Wanderers are already up. Cardiff City and Fulham are already assured of at least the play-offs, and are fighting for second. And Aston Villa can’t finish lower than fourth.
So that leaves seven sides battling for the two remaining spots in the top six. And just four points separate the lot of them.
Middlesbrough / Top 6 odds – 2/5
On paper Middlesbrough should be in the top two with the squad at their disposal. But after a slow start the Teessiders are making up for lost time and they now sit fifth.
Tony Pulis’ side have lost only three of their last 13 games, but they face a tricky run-in with trips to Derby County and Ipswich either side of a home game with Millwall.
Millwall / Top 6 odds – 11/10
Nobody wants to play Millwall right now. The Lions are unbeaten in 17 games, climbing from 17th to sixth in the process.
Neil Harris’ side will need to use all of that momentum in their final three games, as they couldn’t be much trickier.
The South Londoners must play Fulham, then Middlesbrough, before a final day home game against Aston Villa.
Derby County / Top 6 odds – 8/13
Derby County are again struggling to get over the promotion line.
The Rams sat second across Christmas and the New Year but have since slipped out of both the automatic and play-off positions.
Defeats to Wolves and Burton Albion have hindered their chances, but they can move back into the top six if they avoid defeat from their game in hand.
But of their four remaining games, three see County play Middlesbrough, Cardiff and Villa. Tough.
Preston North End / Top 6 odds – 5/1
Behind Derby there’s a two-point gap to Preston and Sheffield United.
But given that Middlesbrough, Millwall and Derby have fiendishly tough games to come (and must drop points by virtue of playing each other), the play-off door is still wide open.
Preston were in the top four earlier this season, and have been in and around the top 10 throughout the campaign.
A three-game losing streak earlier this month hurt the Lancashire outfit, but with home games against Norwich City and Burton plus a trip to Sheffield United, Alex Neil’s North End could yet be in the picture come May.
Sheffield United / Top 6 odds – 8/1
Sheffield United topped the table in late October, but the Blades have stumbled along ever since.
But there’s still a chance Chris Wilder’s men can finish in the top six.
It won’t be easy though as United have to visit relegation-battling Birmingham City, then host fellow play-off chasing Preston, before a final day trip to Bristol City.
Brentford / Top 6 odds – 8/1
Brentford are coming up fast at just the right time. The Bees have yet to spend a single gameweek inside the top eight, but on current form they’ll be eyeing up a play-off spot.
The Griffin Park outfit are four points off the pace, so they have work to do. But they’re unbeaten in six and have possibly the easiest run-in of any play-off chasing side.
Dean Smith’s side host Queens Park Rangers and Hull City, in addition to an away game at Barnsley. They’re all winnable and nine points would put Brentford firmly in contention.
Bristol City / Top 6 odds – 12/1
Bristol City’s season is very much a story of two halves. The Robins flew through the opening months, losing only three of their opening 24 matches.
But it’s been a different story since the turn of the year, and City’s play-off hopes have faded.
They aren’t out of it yet however, and like Brentford have a reasonable end to the year with home games against Hull and Sheffield United, plus a trip to Nottingham Forest.
All Odds and Markets correct as of date of Publication