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The Battle to Squeeze into the Championship Play-off Positions

Posted on July 09, 2020 by Simon Cromie

The Championship is a notoriously competitive league, and it seems as though every season there is an extremely closely fought race to edge into the last couple of play-off places. Of course, the play-offs offer a chance to earn promotion for teams who have perhaps not excelled in the same way as those who finish in first and second place. In fact, on more occasions than you might expect, the team that finishes sixth in the table has gone on to be promoted after winning the play-offs.

That is why the scramble to finish in those coveted play-off spots is so intense. At the moment, there are five teams battling it out to finish sixth, with Cardiff City occupying the position at the time of writing. Below them, the likes of Derby County, Swansea City, Millwall and Preston North End are all in with a shout, and so the climax of the Championship season looks set to be an exciting one, with the Championship odds ever so tight.

Cardiff have been a formidable outfit since Neil Harris came into the club, having left his job at Millwall earlier in the season. They have the experience of winning promotion in the 2017-18 season, albeit via automatic promotion rather than advancing through the play-offs. Harris has brought a bit of extra bite to a Cardiff side that had begun to stagnate somewhat, and if he could achieve promotion straight back to the Premier League, it would be a fine managerial achievement.

Derby have flirted with promotion through the play-offs for years now, and they lost out in the final last season to Aston Villa. Rams supporters will be desperate to finally break their curse and make it back to the Premier League. Derby’s last season in the top flight was the 2007-08 campaign, where the club recorded the lowest Premier League points total in history with 11 – a record that still stands to this day. With a late charge for the play-offs, this team could put themselves in a position to right a few of those wrongs.

Swansea have done well this season to make progress despite losing manager Graham Potter to Brighton last summer. Steve Cooper has done an excellent job, and the Swans were one of the early pace-setters in the Championship this season before falling away slightly. The hunt is now on to secure a play-off berth and not let a good season go to waste, but they’ll be up against it to usurp the teams ahead of them in the table.

Millwall have recovered from the loss of the above mentioned Harris, and in the end have improved dramatically. It’s perhaps a long shot to suggest they’ll make it into the play-offs and gain promotion, but Premier League football at The Den is a dream Millwall supporters all share, and you can bet it would be one of the toughest away days in the Premier League. They’ll need to hope that a few teams above them drop significant points if that dream is to become a reality.

Preston North End have no more than an outside bet at making the play-offs, but there have been encouraging signs at Deepdale since the club returned to the Championship in 2015. Current manager Alex Neil has experience of winning promotion via the play-offs with Norwich City, and Preston fans will be clinging to that fact as they watch the rest of the season play out. 

Whatever happens, it’s set to be a thrilling race for that sixth position in the Championship table, and the second tier always throws up a few thrills and spills when you least expect it. Whatever side sneaks into the play-offs may just summon the momentum and confidence needed to go all the way and make it into the big time. 

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