Derby County extended their unbeaten run to six matches with a superb 1-0 victory against Sheffield Wednesday last night, and threw the promotion race wide open. 

Patrick Bamford's superb strike was a goal fit to win any match, as he curled in a left footed cracker from 20 yards to give Chris Kirkland no chance. 

And that put The Rams just two points off Burnley in second place, and two clear of Queens Park Rangers, who do have a game in hand. 

Tonight sees two more East Midlands rivals go at it, as both look to secure returns to the Premier League.

Leicester City could go 12 points clear of third place with a win at Nottingham Forest, who in turn will go just a point off Derby in third with victory. The Reds have not lost in the league for 11 matches, whilst Leicester have won nine of their last 10. 

With this in mind, we are going to take a look at the sides in contention and just whether or not they have the chance of securing a ticket back to the big time. 

Leicester City

Nigel Pearson's men must go up, it is as simple as that. He has built his side a seven point gap over second placed Burnley, which could extend to 10 with victory tonight. Whilst they have thrown leads away before, that is just not in the same category as this season.

They have been dominant both home and away, losing just five matches in 30, whilst the combined firepower of David Nugent, Jamie Vardy, Chris Wood and now promotion specialist, Kevin Phillips, should see them over the line. If they don't make it from this position, Nigel Pearson won't get another chance.

Burnley

Burnley have been a surprise package this season. Their side has mid-table written all over them, yet they have overcome expectations and have been in the top three almost all season.

Sean Dyche's front two have been a large part for this, with Danny Ings and Sam Vokes the true surprise package of the season, making up for the loss of Charlie Austin to bag 32 goals between them. Questions can be asked of their squad as a whole and their capability to last in the Premier League, but they've proven this season they can prove their doubters wrong. Expect them to finish top three for certain. 

Deby County

Derby County supporters can be excused for getting a little bit optimistic. After five years of huge disappointment (four under Nigel Clough and the other the 11 point season), they finally have something to cheer thanks to the managerial genius of Steve McClaren.

Since his arrival in October, he has taken The Rams from 14th to third, and is in the midst of another unbeaten run. Defensive questions are there, with them conceding more than any side in the top 12, but these have been quietened thanks to two clean sheets in a row. They are also the divisions highest scorers, and if they can take points off their promotion rivals, they will look very good for an automatic place. 

Queens Park Rangers

QPR have been this season's great underperformers, which sounds crazy considering they lie in fourth place. But for the amount of money Harry Redknapp and his predecessor Mark Hughes have spent at Loftus Road, they should be walking this league.

Redknapp's side is full of international footballers and former Premier League players. Just looking through their squad list is like a who's who of 2009/10 Premier League footballers.

They have scored just 37 goals in 30 games, an embarrassing total for a side that boast Bobby Zamora, Andy Johnson, Charlie Austin and Niko Kranjcar. Rangers will probably miss out on promotion this season, and it will be all they deserve. Also, don't expect Redknapp to last too much longer. 

Nottingham Forest

Forest are the outsiders of the promotion race, and after their result in the cup against Sheffield United, it is no surprise. However, they will finish in the play-offs at the very minimum, although that would not be ideal for them. They have fallen out of the play-offs at the first hurdle four times in the last 10 years, and have failed to reach Wembley so far. Whilst they have a good team on paper, and while they do boast a 13 game unbeaten record, promotion still looks beyond them.

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Topics:
Queens Park Rangers
Nottingham Forest
Leicester City
Derby County
Championship
Football