by JAMES LING
With the international break now over, normal service can now be resumed as we enter the final stretch of what has been a pulsating SkyBet Championship season.
With only a handful of games to go, promotion to the Premier League and all it’s riches is still all to play for.
Burnley currently sit four points clear at the top, and are the form team in the division right now. Sean Dyche’s side have hit form at the right time, after spending most of the season in and around the playoff picture.
With seven win in their last 10, many wouldn’t bet against the Clarets making a return to the top flight at the first time of asking. The test for Burnley will be whether they can continue that form following the international break, with promotion rivals Brighton up next. This will be arguably Burnley’s biggest game of the season and a win will put Dyche’s men in firm control at the top of the league.
Burnley top goal scorer Andre Gray stroking home a penalty earlier this month. (Image credit: http//www.dailymail.co.uk)
Brighton will however prove a stern test for the league leaders, especially at the Amex.
The Seagulls spent the first half of the season sitting top of the tree, going undefeated until December which surprised many.
The early pace setters have seemed to have recaptured that form and are currently on a run of six games without a loss. The team, coaches and fans will all hope striker Tomer Hemed can continue to score the goals as they dream of reaching the Premier League for the first time in their history.
Just below the automatic promotion places are both Middlesbrough and Hull. Boro have had a tough time of late after occupying the top two spots for long periods of the season. Many had them down as favourites to finally return to the Premier League after a seven year absence.
Manager Aitor Karanka refused to manage the side and threatened to resign following a training ground bust up last month. As a result, the form of the pre-season favourites dipped, with the team losing three of their last five.
All seems to have been forgiven now though and Karanka’s side are still only one point off the top two, so promotion is still very much on for them.
Hull are another team struggling for wins right now. Steve Bruce’s side haven’t managed a win since the latter half of February, and only mustered up three draws and two defeats in March. The automatic spots may not be on the cards, but the Tigers look a certainty to be in the playoffs this year.
The last two spots are currently occupied by Derby and Sheffield Wednesday, and both are under pressure from the chasing pack behind them with six points separating fifth from eighth. Derby started the season well, but a poor run of form saw them sack manager Paul Clement and now their spot in the top six is under threat.
Sheffield Wednesday should intent in January with the signings of Aiden McGeady (loan) and Gary Hooper, and will be a force to reckon with in this final games of the season.
Cardiff, Ipswich and Birmingham are still with a shout of grasping one of the last two spots. All these clubs mentioned above have crucial fixtures against each other over the next few weeks, starting on Saturday at the Welsh capital, as Cardiff host Derby.
One thing’s for sure. The Championship is back, there will be celebration for some and heartbreak for others. But expect many twist and turns between now and the end of the season.