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Who is going to finish where in the Championship promotion chase? Analysis on the clubs in the hunt for the Premier League – South London News

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Lewis Williams (@wearelutontown)

 Team: Luton Town

Position: Third

Points: 63

Remaining games: Eight

How are the remaining fixtures looking: Tough. Extremely tough. Apart from Cardiff who will be on holiday, every game has something in it. We’ve got two teams fighting to stay up with Peterborough and Reading. Three teams who are trying to get into the play-offs and a Fulham who will be wanting to confirm the title. However, we’re going into these remaining games in great form. In our last 15 games, we’ve picked up 31 points.

What do you think will be required: I’d say at least four to five wins. We can’t lose many as we will allow teams to close the gap. We do have a game in hand though which could make us more confident. Luckily, it’s in our hands as we’ve got to play the teams around us.

What gives you the most confidence of a top six finish: Nathan Jones. The man has done wonderful things at this football club and I have full confidence we can achieve anything under him. We’ve got a great group of players who will work 110 per cent for our manager. At the back we’re very secure, it’s just about going forward, can we take our chances?

What are the biggest concerns: Injuries. If we get hit by more injuries then we’re going to struggle. In our recent two games, we’ve been playing full-backs as centre-backs in a back three system, but still getting wins. However, we don’t have squad depth like Bournemouth and Fulham.

Who’s your predicted top six: Fulham, Bournemouth, Middlesbrough, Luton, Huddersfield, Forest.

Luton Town manager Nathan Jones celebrates following the Sky Bet Championship match at the MKM Stadium, Kingston upon Hull. Picture date: Saturday March 19, 2022.

Leon Wobschall (Yorkshire Post)

Team: Huddersfield Town.
Position: Fourth.
Points: 63
Remaining games: Seven

How are the final fixtures looking? Fairly tough. After next Friday’s trip to Hull, Town face three rivals in a row in Luton, QPR and Middlesbrough – with the latter two fixtures being over Easter. The club’s final two home games against Bristol City and Barnsley look better on paper, but a final away game at Coventry could be tricky.

What do you think will be required? Four wins – 12 points – should probably do it. More especially with a number of sides having to play each other. Sheffield United still have to play QPR twice for example.

What gives you the most confidence of a top six finish? Town have proved good at reacting to poor results in the past and have a very strong togetherness. They are also rich in senior players and dressing room leaders who have been around the block in the likes of Tom Lees, Matty Pearson, Jonathan Hogg and Danny Ward. They have also shared the goals around and can grind out results and the squad are all contributing.

What are the biggest concerns? Moments of poor game management have seen Town concede some unnecessary goals this term and earlier this season, they dropped off in a number of games after the break. Concentration and full intensity is required over 90 minutes as mistakes can be fatal at this time of the season.

Who’s your predicted top six? Fulham, Bournemouth, Blackburn, Huddersfield, Luton, Nottingham Forest.

Danny Hall (Sheffield Star)

Team: Sheffield United
Position: Fifth
Points: 61
Remaining games: Eight

How are the final fixtures looking? Spicy. United have two games against QPR to come, as well as the Championship’s current top two – although Fulham don’t come to Bramall Lane until the final game of the season and will have long been promoted by then. It could be a tough end to a play-off race which will go right down to the wire. The trip to QPR on the penultimate day of the season could be huge. Amongst those, United also face sides with nothing really to play for in Stoke, Cardiff and Bristol City, and host relegation-threatened Reading in mid-April.

What do you think will be required? Win every remaining game! That seems unlikely in a division this competitive, of course, but it’s just so competitive. The good thing is that qualification is in United’s hands. They have spent almost all of the season hunting, after their poor start, and are now the hunted. Can they handle that? They need to get some players back from injury, too, and avoid losing any more.

What gives you the most confidence of a top six finish? Five of the remaining eight games are at Bramall Lane, where United are unbeaten since October.

What are the biggest concerns? Injuries, without a doubt. United have had to play a left-footed midfielder at right-back in recent weeks and recalled a teenager from the National League North to play centre-half. They had 11 senior outfield players missing recently and if Billy Sharp’s hamstring injury is serious, then that could be them done and dusted.

Who’s your predicted top six? Fulham, Bournemouth, Forest, Boro, Blades (if their injuries calm down), Rovers.

 

Rich Sharpe (Lancashire Telegraph)

Team: Blackburn Rovers

Position: Sixth

Points: 61

Remaining games: Seven

How are the final fixtures looking? Rovers looked to have the most appealing run-in of any side, with six of the bottom seven to play in their final 11 games. They still have five bottom-half sides to play, but having not taken advantage of a favourable last four, only picking up four points, there’s not quite the same level of confidence than there was before.

What do you think will be required? Rovers will probably need to win four of their remaining seven games, and with a draw or two in there, and hope that 74-75 points will be enough.

What gives you the most confidence of a top six finish? Top scorer Ben Brereton has been out for over a month and should return for the run-in, and they have missed his movement and his goals. If he can get back firing, their defensive record has remained pretty strong which hopefully can combine to get back to edging the tight matches they’re in, rather than coming out on the wrong side of them.  They have put together winning streaks previously, though not under this level of pressure.

What are the biggest concerns? The lack of Championship top six experience within the squad, doubts over the fitness of Brereton and other injury issues, an away record that has seen them fail to score in their last seven and recent history of falling away in the latter stages of the season.

Who’s your predicted top six? Fulham, Bournemouth, Luton, Middlesbrough, Nottingham Forest, Rovers

Scott Wilson (Northern Echo)

Team: Middlesbrough

Position: Seventh

Points: 59

Remaining games: Nine

How are the final fixtures looking? With five of their remaining nine matches at the Riverside, Boro look reasonably well set. That said, however, they still have to face both Fulham and Bournemouth, which will be tricky. Easter is likely to be a pivotal weekend, with a trip to Bournemouth preceding a home game against promotion rivals Huddersfield.

What do you think will be required? Win three of their five home matches, and two of their four remaining games away from Teesside, and Boro should probably be okay. Their final four games are all pretty winnable, so they should be able to finish with a flourish.

What gives you the most confidence of a top six finish? Boro’s form since Chris Wilder replaced Neil Warnock in the autumn. Leaving aside the opening two games when he was still finding his feet, Boro have picked up 36 points from a possible 54 in their last 18 matches under Wilder – repeat that ratio in the remaining matches, and they should finish in the top six. Defensively, with Paddy McNair, Dael Fry and Jonny Howson, Boro are one of the most solid teams in the division.

What are the biggest concerns? The lack of a reliable goalscorer. Andraz Sporar and Matt Crooks are Boro’s joint leading scorers this season, with eight league goals apiece. That is hardly an impressive statistic, and the January arrival of Aaron Connolly and Falorin Balogun on loan has failed to solve the problem.

Who’s your predicted top six? Fulham, Bournemouth, Sheff Utd, Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough, Luton

 

 

Dan Bennett (West London Sport)

Team: Queens Park Rangers

Position: Eighth

Points: 59

Remaining games: Eight

How are the final fixtures looking? After a dismal run of form, things don’t get much easier for QPR with champions to be Fulham up next. Due to an earlier postponement, Rangers will also have to face play-off hopefuls Sheffield United twice, as well as high flying Huddersfield. There are some seemingly more winnable games over the final stretch against Preston, Derby, Stoke and Swansea, but given Mark Warburton’s side have lost to both Peterborough and Barnsley of late, that might not mean an awful lot.

What do you think will be required? Teams normally need to reach around the mid-70 mark to get into the play-offs. So with 24 points still to play for, Rangers are probably going to need at least 15 more to be in with a chance.

What gives you the most confidence of a top six finish? Unfortunately there is not a great deal to be confident about at the moment, but the fact QPR have been in and around the play-off spots for much of the season should provide a bit of encouragement.

What are the biggest concerns? The recent run of form and level of performances. Rangers have won just two of their last 10 league games which has included defeats to Peterborough, Barnsley and Cardiff and the team looks way off the earlier season form we saw. Star man Chris Willock has also been ruled out for the rest of the season – a real blow to the team’s play-off aspirations.

Who’s your predicted top six? Fulham, Bournemouth, Sheffield United, Huddersfield Town, Luton Town, Nottingham Forest

Chris Willock is out for the rest of the season Picture: Rob Avis

Sarah Clapson (Nottingham Post)

Team: Nottingham Forest

Position: Ninth

Points: 58

Remaining games: Ten

How are the final fixtures looking?: Forest have got a really busy run-in, given they have at least one game in hand on most of their rivals. It’s going to make for a hectic finish. And it includes trips to Fulham and Bournemouth. Forest are full of confidence and belief at the minute, though, especially after the way they played against Liverpool in the FA Cup. They won’t fear anyone. They’ve got bags of spirit, so they will always fight to the end in games – and the same will go for the season as a whole; they won’t give in.

What do you think will be required? It’s going to be so close. Forest will hope the start to the season they had (their worst in more than a century) doesn’t come back to bite them. If a rough average of about 74 points proves to be the threshold, they’d need 16 points from their last 10 games.

What gives you the most confidence of a top six finish? Steve Cooper. He’s transformed the club since he came in – although he won’t thank anyone for saying that, since he always points out a ‘transformation’ doesn’t mean sitting ninth in the league. He’s got a knack of getting the best out of players, though, and he’s got the whole squad and the fanbase believing again. Even when Forest have been thrown challenges, such as losing key players to injury, his solutions have more often than not come up trumps. Under his guidance, it’s the best chance Forest have had in a long time.

What are the biggest concerns? As much as others have stepped up, being without four key players has been a blow. Lewis Grabban should be back soon after the break, but defenders Max Lowe, Steve Cook and Scott McKenna are expected to be out for a few weeks. Those three have been so influential. And as above, there’s always the worry one point from their first seven league games comes back to haunt Forest.

Who’s your predicted top six? Fulham, Bournemouth, Sheffield United, Middlesbrough, Huddersfield, Forest.

Kai Bennett (South London Press)

Team: Millwall

Position: Tenth

Points: 57

Remaining games: Eight

How are the final fixtures looking? Only games against Luton Town and Bournemouth make me nervous. The others seem to be either floating in mid table or trying to survive. I know the bottom clubs are always the most dangerous to play because they are fighting for their lives but I hope our quality will shine through. However, Luton is massive after the international break. Win that and the Lions will put out a massive statement.

What do you think will be required? The Lions will probably need five wins out of their last eight. That leaves them on 72 points which isn’t always guaranteed to get you in there but a couple of draws in the other three would hopefully do the trick.

What gives you the most confidence of a top six finish? Starting to get players back from injury is exciting. Players who can change games like Tom Bradshaw, who was on a frightening run of form before picking up an injury. Oliver Burke’s pace is electric and that and the other players returning will give Millwall a major boost just when they need it going into the last run of games.

What are the biggest concerns? Gary Rowett and his players have been playing down talk of any play-off ambitions but they will know as do the supporters they want to gatecrash them. As the season gets closer and closer to drawing to a close, if the Lions are close or in the top six, I fear pressure may get to the players – which would most likely be self inflicted by themselves but it shows how much they care I guess.

Who’s your predicted top six? Fulham, Bournemouth, Luton, Huddersfield, Blackburn Rovers, Millwall.

 

 

Andy Turner (Coventry Telegraph)

Team: Coventry City
Position: 11th
Points: 55
Remaining games: Eight

How are the final fixtures looking? Really tough! The Sky Blues have a game in hand but have five of their remaining eight games away from home, three consecutively at Forest, Fulham and Birmingham. They kick off their final run-in at home to free-falling Blackburn Rovers but also have to travel to West Brom, entertain automatic promotion chasing Bournemouth and play-off hopefuls Huddersfield Town before a last day trip to Stoke.

What do you think will be required? City will have to go on one hell of a run to bridge their current six-point gap but I fear injuries and inconsistency have given them too much to do.

What gives you the most confidence of a top six finish? Talisman striker Matty Godden (12 in 23) is bang in form after returning from six weeks out due to appendicitis and the Sky Blues can mix it up with the best on their day, having already thrashed Fulham and Sheffield United 4-1 at home this season. Mark Robins’s men have a terrific team spirit and real quality in star midfielders Gus Hamer and Callum O’Hare, and striker Viktor Gyokeres (14 goals).

What are the biggest concerns? Coventry have only won five Championship games away from home all season and I can’t see them suddenly bucking that trend in the final race for the finish line.

Who’s your predicted top six? Fulham, Bournemouth, Luton, Sheffield United, Middlesbrough, Nottingham Forest.

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