npower Championship Title Race
With a quarter of the English league season to go, Cardiff City were firmly trending towards securing themselves a Championship title and a return to the Premier League. It has been a very good season for the Welsh club and they have been the ones to take firm control of the title race. However, behind them, the big fight for the second automatic spot and the securing of a play off place was pretty hot. The Championship play off final is regarded as the most lucrative match in English football, simply because the financial rewards of playing up in the top flight are massive. It is the one match which produces a massive pay off the following season, a straight shoot out at the end of the season to play the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool. Securing automatic promotion of course is the less nerve-wracking way to go, as it is the reward for a consistent season.
But the play offs are a crap shoot. Nothing more. What could be more heartbreaking than finishing third in the Championship, missing out on automatic promotion and not making it through the play offs? That fate could befall either Watford or Hull City as with just a quarter of the season to go, they were locked on even points behind Cardiff for that second automatic spot. With Watford trending very well since the turn of the new year through January and February, they are the ones being fancied to join Cardiff in booking straight passage to the top flight, reflected in their odds of 4/6 to reach the Championship play offs. In fact Cardiff, Watford, Hull and Crystal Palace were all looking fairly certain to at least end up in the play offs in a worst case scenario deal on missing out on automatic promotion.
However, things were not looking so certain for Leicester and Brighton. Both have play off potential but neither looking quite strong enough to really push for that second automatic promotion spot. Leicester were looking the more secure of the two sides to land a top six finish in the Championship, trading well with games in hand over other play off rivals. Brighton meanwhile appear to be more on the cusp and in danger of being overtaken by one of the fringe teams. So there is looking to be a clear separation between the top four and the rest of the challengers trying to get into a play off spot. So there is going to perhaps be more value to be sought out in those hovering around just outside of the play off picture with three quarters of the season gone. It wouldn’t take that much to mount a late surge to put themselves in the picture.
Middlesbrough could well be the most disappointed side at the end of the season. After a wonderfully profitable October and start to November in the Championship, the Riverside crew were tracking well for an automatic promotion spot and then things started falling away. Slumping to a five match losing streak through January and February, saw them tumble out of the play off picture near the end of February. So a test of resolve in trying to turn things around will be needed as they drifted to 9/4 after looking a certainty in npower Championship 2012/13 betting to reach the play offs. Beyond them, Nottingham Forest are really the best looking option on the fringes of things in the Championship play off race.