As the season draws close to 2017, more and more Championship teams are trying to grab all points possible to achieve a top 6 finish. With Newcastle virtually defeating the league already and Brighton not following far behind, the only other way to achieve promotion; play-offs. In this article we look at some of the teams trying to get involved in a close top 6 finish.
Currently sitting in 6th place, Sheffield Wednesday looked like a strong force for pursuing an automatic promotion place, after just falling at the last hurdle in the previous season, losing in the Play-Off Final vs Hull, 1-0. After managing to keep most of their strongest players and securing signings such as Adam Reach, Urby Emanuelson and Steven Fletcher. Currently on a 4-match unbeaten run, the owls are looking strong for climbing the table after some unmemorable losses earlier in the season such as a 3-1 loss to Burton and 2-0 loss to Leeds. With a few more goals from Steven Fletcher, the Owls are one of the favourites for a playoff spot at the end of the season.
Reading have had a few un-memorable seasons in the past, but after a summer of decent transfers, bringing in centre back Liam Moore, Man Utd youth product Tyler Blackett and England Under midfielder John Swift, it seems to have worked for Jaap Stam. Gareth McCleary has proved to be key in their promotion hopes. This may be due to their excellent run during October-November, racking up 17 points in 18 games. However, Reading fans will be urging for consistency after a woeful 5-0 loss to Fulham, and must continue to perform consistently to ensure a spot in the Play-Offs.
Nelson Oliveira, Robby Brady, Timm Klose, Alex Pritchard, Steven Naismith. With all of these Premier League quality players and more in the squad, many might wonder why The Canaries are bobbing in 10th place in the league. Having lost 5 in a row against teams such as Preston, Leeds and Q.P.R, this may have been the reason why we aren’t seeing Norwich thriving in the title race. With fans growing impatient with current manager Alex Neil, some are thinking of possible replacements with the current manager hanging on by a thread, After bringing in ex-Brentford wingers Sergi Canos and Alex Pritchard, pundits are predicting more goals in the oppositions net in weeks to come, though they face tough competition in Reading and Derby County.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the title race this year, Huddersfield Town supporters will be delighted with their current position in the league so far [4th] After an amazing start to the season, they found themselves sitting in 1st position for a while, after starting the season unbeaten in the first 6 games. Current manager David Wagner has impressed in his first season at the John Smith Stadium, and has been attracting the attention of big European teams recently, having just turned down an opportunity to move to Wolfsburg. Key player Nakhi Wells will be looking to put some more goals in the back of the net, after claiming 18 goals last season.
Birmingham City were looking strong the majority of last season and carried that on to this season too, however after a recent victory against Ipswich, manager Gary Rowett was sacked by the Blues, and swiftly replaced by Italian ex-Watford manager Gianfranco Zola. Many of the fans were left annoyed by this decision however some pundits believe Zola’s success with Watford could lead to the Blues to a more realistic top-6 finish this season. New signing Ryan Shotton has proved to be solid at the heart of the Birmingham defence, as Clayton Donaldson continues to consistently score goals. After a 2-1 home defeat against Brighton, the Blues may realise that it may take one more season to really push for a solid promotion place.
One of the biggest teams in the league, fans have been left disappointed in recent years with no significant finishes in recent times, however this year Leeds have had a great first half to the season, currently sitting in 5th position with 12 wins from 22 games. Leeds were promised a better season before it started, by hiring Garry Monk, who dipped into the transfer market for promised goal-scorer Kemar Roofe. After a pretty average season last season for Chris Wood, he has really stepped his game up since August, banging in 11 goals in 21 games. Their good position may be due to some unexpected wins throughout the course of the season, like a 2-0 win away at Sheffield Wednesday, beating Cardiff 2-0 in Wales and thrashing Norwich 3-2 at Carrow Road. If they continue to pick up the points and continue to defend well, they could be looking at a promising end to the season.
Obviously a team in the league, who have more recent success in history, yet have struggled in the Championship since being relegated a few seasons back. Slavisa Jokanovic however has brought a lot more success to the London team. Having beat league favourites Newcastle on the first game of the season, the remainder of the season looked bright for Jokanovic and his team. Key player Sone Aluko has had a great season so far, contributing 4 goals and 4 assists to his side in 21 matches. Scottish midfielder Kevin McDonald has also impressed, chipping in 3 goals and assists and maintaining a sturdy 88% pass completion rate. Fans will be hoping to finish higher than the 9th they show now.
The last 3 seasons have been nothing but perfect for the Bees fans, getting promoted from League One, finishing 5th in their first season in the Championship and consolidating a solid 9th place in the league last year. However, the constant loss of key players, including last season such as James Tarkowski, Sergi Canos and David Button will have hurt them, as shows in a weak 14th place position. 3rd top scorer in the league, Scott Hogan, has been scoring goals for fun at the Bees, scoring 13 goals 22. To ensure that Brentford are still in with a chance of finishing top-6, Dean Smith must rely on snatching 3 points where he can, and also keep his best players, Scott Hogan and Alan Judge during the January transfer market. Some additions made to central midfield and wing areas may give a boost to the Bees in the league and end up in another play-off place.
Last but not least, Derby County. Another team with a new, experienced manager Nigel Pearson. Odds set as 1/12, Derby were expected a pretty high finish at the beginning of August, and has proved right, currently 1-point off the play-off zone. Averaging only one goal per game, the Rams are looking to bring in more attacking threats in the new year, previously being linked with a 9 million pound move for Brentford’s Scott Hogan. England Under 21’s star Will Hughes has been vital in the last 3 seasons for Derby, consistently putting in good performances with his precise touch and vision. Tom Ince is another key player for the Rams so far, with 8 goals and 3 assists. With some attacking additions the Rams are certain to be fighting for a place in the premier league.
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