Places Three to Six in the Championship
Places Three to Six in the Championship have had an amorphous look all season and while the occupants of the automatic spots have an ominous aspect, few would bet on the four currently browsing the magazines in the promotion foyer to be the exact same four come May. We said this about Burnley last year of course, but what are the chances of the current quartet hanging on to those lofty perches?
The Foxes have ground out many a good result this season, not least in Saturday’s late show 1-0 triumph over Plymouth– but they keep on defying us all. Old school in their approach to the game, but intelligent of tactic, they do have a convincing spearhead in the classy Matty Fryatt and his double in the recent win at QPR underlined how essential he is to Leicester. Chances of staying the course: 70%
I think many dismissed Paulo Sousa when he accepted Roberto Martinez’s baton in June – but the Portuguese playing legend has inspired the lilywhites to an eleven game unbeaten march and a cherished victory against their Glamorganshire rivals. Roy Keane may not like draws very much, but they suited the Swans well in September, allowing the side to put down firm foundations and build confidence for their late Autumn fixtures. However, there has been a sense of their creeping up unawares and they still haven’t properly replaced Jason Scotland. Chances of staying the course: 55%
Bluebirds have that right combination of aggression and skill to challenge the top two but it’s been a difficult two weeks for them. Of course the dispiriting news of Stephen McPhail’s cancer treatment would be a heavy burden for any club to bear, but the freewheeling form of wins against Derby and Watford six weeks or so back has deserted the South Wales club. Tempestuous derbies are never a good way to relaunch seasons; the red mist tending to obliterate the calmness required, but the reverse at Barnsley will have worried Dave Jones. However, I think this mini-run does still have the hallmark of a blip. Chances of staying the course: 80%
Queens Park Rangers
Enchanting in the trio of hammerings meted out to Barnsley, Reading and Derby a month ago, the South Africa Road boys have since turned in some performances that evoke that old, but never over-used phrase, “Fancy Dans”. A few years ago, Danny Dichio proclaimed himself not too keen on away fixtures up north (although he ended up playing there) and so it has proved with the more cultured of today’s hooped midfield and attack. Yesterday’s 2-0 defeat at Doncaster was unacceptable for a club with money and pretensions, but not all that surprising. At the moment, it’s just the same old QPR at times. Chances of staying the course: 65%
Underneath this school of teams, Middlesbrough would be the club most would pick out as showing potential, although famous managers don’t always turn round downward spirals. The Blackpool story has been romantic and spirit will serve them well, although they were by all reports comprehensively outplayed yesterday. Nottingham Forest have every chance, but Watford, brilliantly turned round by Malky Mackay, might just come short (although their poorer performances have been in matches they were expected to lose). Lower down, Sheffield United managed to reverse the slide in sneaking past bottom dwellers Peterborough, but will still look on their lack of progress this term with disbelief.