After Sunderland's 2-1 defeat to Manchester United last Saturday, there has been speculation about whether or not they can turn their abysmal season around and avoid the dreaded drop zone.

With only one point after seven games played and not a single league win as of yet, Sunderland's hopes of retaining a spot in the Premier League next season seem to be wearing thin.

Let's say they were relegated, along with second from bottom Crystal Palace, (the third spot is more debatable - Norwich and Fulham are even on seven points and goal difference, four ahead of Palace) - which teams would replace them in the Premier League next season?

A quick glance over the Championship table shows there are two, arguably three or four, possible contenders - Burnley, Queens Park Rangers, Leicester and Nottingham Forest.

Burnley have had a corking start to this season, soaring to the top of the table with 26 points from 11 games. The Clarets boast eight wins, two draws and only one loss.

They have won five consecutive Championship matches, and if you include their Capital One Cup win against Nottingham Forest, it would stand at six.

This time last year paints a very different picture, with the Clarets holding just three wins and five losses.

Perhaps forward Danny Ings has something to do with their recent success - although he joined the club in 2011, Ings has been in fine form recently, netting seven Championship goals so far this season and hitting national headlines.

However, Queens Park Rangers sit level on points with Burnley and although the Rs lag behind table leaders Burnley on goal difference with 10, they are arguably capable of taking the top spot.

QPR are currently the only team in the Championship without a single loss yet this season - even Premier League teams haven't managed the same with the top four all losing one game each.

Their 2-0 victory over Barnsley on Saturday saw QPR dominate and set a new club record of eight successive league clean sheets.

They have clearly picked themselves up after an appalling 2012/13 season, which saw them relegated from the Premier League after taking only four league wins from 38 games.

If their current form continues, QPR could see themselves automatically promoted back to the Premier League. Whether or not they can hold on to their spot this time remains questionable and only time will tell as the season progresses.

Third place is more of a close call, with Leicester currently leading the playoff pack. Nottingham Forest are not too far behind though, with one points difference between the teams.

Arguably, Forest have the cleanest record with only one loss so far - plus they have worked their way up from League One to join the Championship in 2008/09 season, so perhaps now is their time to take flight back to the Premier League?

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