With the relegation fight in the Championship now done and dusted after last weekend’s fixtures, all eyes now turn to the top of the table where three sides are locked on 87 points with just two games to go.
The top side on goal difference as it stands are Burnley – and after their 0-1 win over Lancashire rivals Preston last Friday night, few would bet against them when they host QPR on Bank Holiday Monday.
For Rangers, the season couldn’t end sooner – the Hoops’ inconsistent form means that their play-off dreams were over long ago. A 1-1 draw with Reading last Saturday meant that it is now one win in seven for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s side, form that they will be desperate to change before the campaign ends.
Friday night’s sole action sees second-placed Middlesbrough take on Birmingham City at St. Andrews, meaning that the Teesiders will go top with a win – piling the pressure on both Burnley and Brighton and Hove Albion at the summit.
Boro have drawn their last two games; including a 0-0 stalemate with Ipswich last weekend, meaning that despite their lofty league position, their form will be a concern for boss Aitor Karanka.
The form of their hosts, Birmingham, has meant that their push for the top six also ran out of steam a while ago – one win in ten games for the Blues has stopped any push up the league in its tracks. Gary Rowett’s side drew 1-1 against Huddersfield Town after their own play-off hopes were extinguished the week before.
The other of the top three sides is of course Brighton, who are the Championship’s form side after beating Charlton 3-1 in a tension filled game last week – for all the wrong reasons.
Albion are unbeaten in ten, and have won seven of those games – making them the dark horses for the automatic promotion positions after a consistent campaign. Only five defeats all season have left Chris Hughton’s side in red hot form, and they have scored the most goals of anyone in the Championship thus far.
The South Coast side host Derby on Monday, who have confirmed their spot in the play-offs already after a solid run following last weekend’s 1-1 encounter with Sheffield Wednesday. A win against Brighton would definitely give them momentum leading up to the play-off campaign.
Cardiff City are the only side outside of the top six who can still qualify for the play-offs, and they travel to Hillsborough this weekend knowing that only a win will keep their hopes alive.
The side from South Wales beat luckless Bolton 2-1 last week, and will know that their hosts need only a point to stop any Bluebirds progress.
Wednesday hold the cards when it comes to this weekend’s game, but their 1-1 draw with Derby last weekend was their third on the bounce meaning that they are not in the best of form heading into their crunch match.
Elsewhere in the Championship this weekend; already relegated Bolton welcome Hull to the Macron for their last home game of the campaign, Bristol City and Huddersfield do battle as two of the sides now mathematically safe from the drop, Brentford host Fulham in a West London derby, and Leeds United welcome Charlton to Elland Road with more than just footballing matters at stake.
Ipswich take on relegated MK Dons, Nottingham Forest play host to Wolves, Preston travel to Reading and Rotherham United welcome Blackburn to the New York Stadium in the other dead-rubbers.
Friday, April 29
Birmingham v Middlesbrough
Saturday, April 30
Bolton v Hull
Brentford v Fulham
Bristol City v Huddersfield
Ipswich v MK Dons
Leeds v Charlton
Nottm Forest v Wolves
Reading v Preston
Rotherham v Blackburn
Sheff Wed v Cardiff
Monday, May 2
Brighton v Derby
Burnley v QPR