Can in-form Middlesbrough dislodge Sheffield United from the top two and are Coventry City and West Bromwich Albion set to gate-crash the top six? We take a look at the state of play in the Championship...
Middlesbrough’s resurgence under Michael Carrick has propelled them right into the thick of the Championship promotion picture, and we are now 11/4 that they pip Sheffield United into second place.
The Teesiders have won 16 of the 22 league fixtures since the former England international’s appointment five months ago and now sit just three points adrift of Paul Heckingbottom’s men, albeit having played a game more.
It marks a remarkable transformation at the Riverside Stadium with the club languishing towards the foot of the table, and seemingly set for a campaign of struggle, prior to Chris Wilder’s dismissal in October.
However, Carrick has transformed their fortunes to such an extent that they are now 1/125 to finish the season in the playoffs, and even-money to secure a Premier League return by any means come the end of the campaign.
Boro have won three of their last four Championship outings, with their only blip coming at home against Stoke City, and whilst they know they have little room for error if they are to elevate themselves above Sheffield United, the fact that the Blades (1/5 to win promotion automatically) have lost two of their last four should offer further optimism.
It looked a near certainty that United, who also have an FA Cup semi-final showdown with Manchester City on the horizon, would be joining Burnley back in the top-flight a couple of months ago, with the pair building what, at the time, appeared an almost insurmountable gap between themselves and the chasing pack.
However, whilst Burnley have maintained their charge, the Blades’ automatic promotion hopes have been blunted; offering hope to Middlesbrough, and even 16/1 shots Luton Town, that they could yet gate-crash the top two.
The Hatters, like Middlesbrough, have been in inspired form since the turn of the year, losing just one of their last 12 league fixtures, with their 1-0 success over promotion rivals Sheffield United last month further proof of their credentials.
All the latest news Football news, videos and betting tips
There’s no doubt that it’s going to take an almighty effort for Luton to spring what would be one of the biggest surprises in second-tier history in ending their three-decade long absence from the top flight.
But they play host to an inconsistent Watford, who are out to 5/1 to secure a playoff finish, in their first fixture back after the break, before travelling to Millwall (1/2 for a top six finish) to take on Gary Rowett’s side, knowing a healthy points return could ignite a very exciting end to the season in Bedfordshire.
The playoff picture is equally as enthralling as the battle for the top two, with as many as six sides currently perched outside the top six still harbouring ambitions of extending their seasons.
Barring a calamitous final eight fixtures, two of Sheffield United, Middlesbrough and Luton look nailed-on for the end of campaign in the promotion shootout, whilst Blackburn Rovers, who have won four of their last five, will expect to make their four-point cushion, and game in hand, count.
But with Millwall and Norwich City, in sixth and seventh, starting to falter, is the door beginning to crack ajar for Midlands duo Coventry City (4/1) and West Bromwich Albion (15/8) to seriously throw themselves back into the hunt?
Coventry have registered two points per game over their last 11 outings to propel themselves into the picture, whilst the Baggies have taken 10 points from their last five to re-establish themselves as strong-looking 7/1 promotion outsiders.
And despite their own recent struggles, even Watford (5/1), Sunderland (14/1) and Preston North End at 33/1 shouldn’t be entirely discounted from making a late dash for a playoff position.
View the latest Championship outright odds
Odds displayed within this article were correct at the time of writing and are subject to fluctuation.
Become a member of the world's favourite online sports betting brandJoin Now
Min deposit requirement. Free Bets are paid as Bet Credits and are available for use upon settlement of qualifying bets. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. Time limits and T&Cs apply.