Championship Run In: The Race To The Premier League

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WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 17: Benik Afobe of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Jake Buxton of Burton Albion during the Sky Bet Championship match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Burton Albion at Molineux on March 17, 2018 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images)

With just 8 games to go in this year’s Sky Bet Championship, the race to the Premier League, is entering its final stretch of matches.

In a league where anything can happen, there are sure to be just a few more twists and turns this year with so much at stake.

The Race To The Premier League: Championship Run In

Villa Stumble Again while Wolves get back on track

In last weekend’s fixtures, there was yet another shock for Aston Villa to stomach as they went down 1-0 to lowly Bolton.

This helped make it a good weekend for Wolves, who shook off the 4-1 defeat to Villa last weekend with a convincing 3-0 home with against Reading in the week.

They backed that up with a comfortable 3-1 home win against Burton on Saturday to restore a 6-point gap over Cardiff.

The Bluebirds had been due to play Derby at Pride Park in the lunchtime kick-off on Sunday but the game was surprisingly postponed due to snow.

Elsewhere Fulham, whose surge up the table since the turn of the year took everyone by surprise, let a two-goal lead slip to draw 2-2 at home to local rivals QPR.

Warnock furious over match postponement

With most Cardiff fans on their way to the ground when the match was held back an hour, City manager Neil Warnock was left bemused.

“It’s a disgrace,” Warnock told BBC Sport. “I am sorry, I can’t accept that today – it’s not safe? We’ve come out of the middle of the countryside in the coach and the roads have been perfectly all right.

“I just don’t know where they’re coming from with this. It leaves a sour taste for all the people that have travelled.”

Derby had been forced to train with just 10 first team players on Friday, and Warnock also admitted he was not overly surprised it might get called off.

Cardiff are still 7 points clear of 3rd placed Fulham in the final automatic promotion place and have put themselves in a great position to get promoted.

They face Burton Albion on Friday, who are 3 points from safety and fighting for their lives, it has all the making for a classic Championship encounter.

The playoff race

Middlesborough’s promotion push took another stumble, as they were unable to hold on to the 1-goal lead that in-form Adama Traore had provided.

Dean Smith’s Brentford, who are probably just out of reach of the playoffs now after their previous home defeat to Cardiff (3-1), are 8 points off Boro in 6th.

Bristol City all but ended Ipswich Town’s playoff hopes by beating them 1-0 at Ashton Gate.

They got their playoff push back on track, Milan Djuric converting Lloyd Kelly’s pass to close the gap on 6th place to just a point.

Preston flying, Sunderland sinking

Alex Neil’s Preston are seen by many as dark horses for a playoff place this season. After some excellent results against the top sides, they find themselves in a fantastic position.

3 win’s in 4 matches, including a 2-0 win at struggling Sunderland, mean they are now on 60 points from 38 matches, 1 win from leapfrogging Boro.

The win at Sunderland means that the Black Cats look destined for League One, and the prospect of back-to-back relegations.

Two promoted clubs within reach

Two more clubs that started the season expecting to try and hold their place in the division were Sheff United and Millwall, but the form they have shown this season means they are deserved playoff spot.

United only managed a 0-0 draw at home to Nottingham Forest, the third a goalless draw in a row for Aikor Karanka’s side who are unbeaten in 7 matches. (W2 D5)

Millwall won for the 6th match in the last 7, drawing the other, and Neil Harris believes his side do not get the credit they deserve.

They have taken the joint second most points from the last ten games (24 pts) topped only by Cardiff (26 pts) and joint with Fulham.

“People still aren’t talking about us,” Harris said to the BBC. “We’ve gone on this run and every TV programme, radio station and newspaper you look at don’t give Millwall a mention.”

Millwall certainly deserve a lot of credit and so does Neil Harris, sticking to the 4-4-2 formation that got them up, the partnership of Morisson and Gregory being just as effective as last season.

The strike partnership have managed 22 goals between them, and with 4 clean sheets in 7 matches, the defence has been fantastic as well

Will anyone show their bottle?

It is a common saying that football is played in the mind, and your feet are just the tools, to quote Andrea Pirlo.

And in the Championship, that saying is truer every year. Some clubs in the division this year have spent big, and not had it all their own way.

Wolves are an exception, but have shown signs of the wheels coming off in the last few weeks.

And Aston Villa, a club that have also spent big this season, followed a 4-1 win at top of the table Wolves by losing 3-1 at home to QPR and also losing at Bolton, two sides both in the bottom half.

It’s the most unpredictable league on the planet, and often the team that gets promoted via the play off’s just sneaks into that 6th spot right at the end of the year.

Could Millwall or Sheff United repeat what Blackpool did in 2010? Where they reached the Premier League despite being tipped to get relegated before the season kicked off.

That year they beat Cardiff 3-2 in the play-off final at Wembley, coming from 1-0 and 2-1 down to reach the promised land.

As the race heats up for a play-off place, Cardiff have hit form at the right time and must know more than most how important it is to finish inside the top two, as they did in the 12-13 season when they won the league.

In what has already been an exciting Sky Bet Championship season, the run-in is sure to pull out a few more shocks and surprises.

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