Race for Championship promotion hangs in the balance
Championship news: Cardiff City set for the title - but who will follow them to the Premier League?
On February 19, Cardiff City suffered their first league defeat since mid-December, a 2-0 loss to Brighton & Hove Albion.
However, the table remains starkly in their favour: they are eight points clear of second-placed Watford with a game in hand.
With the prospect of opening up an 11 point lead, the Bluebirds should be able to clinch the league title this season, barring any major setbacks.
So we know that Cardiff are likely to soar into the distant realms of the Premier League. What we can’t figure out is who is going to join them.
Watford occupy the other automatic promotion place with 62 points, with Hull City slightly behind in third on the same points, but languishing on goal difference.
Both teams are are in strong positions to achieve promotion alongside Cardiff, as they already have a four point advantage on their nearest rivals, Crystal Palace.
Glancing at the remaining fixtures, both sides have fairly difficult run-ins. Watford face Hull away on the April 2, which could turn out to be a real six-pointer, and then play Cardiff at home the same week.
Their penultimate game is away at Leicester City, which can always prove to be tough ground to visit, and their final game is a home fixture against Leeds United, which, while they should win, could also prove tricky.
The Tigers, meanwhile, must face Crystal Palace away in March. Both Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough will be pressing for a play-off position, and these teams are also ones that Hull City will have to overcome. They also play Cardiff on the final day of the season.
The weaker goal difference of Hull could prove to be a problem at the end of the season, though they remain on +9 despite being beaten 4-1 at Bolton on Saturday. Watford are on +25, as are Leicester, while Crystal Palace are on +18.
The teams to finish in the top five look set in stone, although their league standing is likely to fluctuate considerably.
Leicester complete the play-off chasing pack. Nigel Pearson's side are on 54 points, four behind Palace, but they have two games in hand over the three teams immediately above them, so could almost catch Watford and Hull with a few games to go.
After this, it is a fight for the last play-off place. Brighton sit there quite convincingly at the moment, with a game in hand over 7th placed Middlesbrough and a point advantage already, as well as having beaten Cardiff and Hull City in February.
And while the play-offs might just be a stretch for Nottingham Forest and Leeds United, we know Neil Warnock will do everything to keep his job come May.
A poor run of form for Leeds has left them languishing in mid-table obscurity, and the Elland Road outfit will need to get back to winning ways if they are to stand a chance of reaching the play-offs.
2. Hull City
5. Crystal Palace
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