Another gruelling Championship season has reached its final day and although the title is already settled, there are still plenty of other reasons to tune in.
Norwich City have continued to fit their billing as a ‘yo-yo club’, comfortably winning their second Championship title in three seasons, as well as their fourth promotion in 10 years. Watford have also confirmed their immediate return to the Premier League, wrapping up second place in advance of the final match.
But at both ends of the table and on an individual basis, there are still a number of issues to be resolved. So, let’s take a look at why you should be watching the Championship this weekend.
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1. Relegation battle
Heading into the final game, we’re in the unusual position where no team has yet had their relegation mathematically confirmed.
Wycombe Wanderers have technically stayed in the race with a late-season resurgence, taking 17 points from their last 10 games, including beating Bournemouth 1-0 last time out. But to stay up, Gareth Ainsworth’s men need to win away at Middlesbrough by 12 goals and hope Sheffield Wednesday beat Derby by one goal and Rotherham either lose or draw at Cardiff City. Never say never but, well, we’d be willing to offer up some interesting forfeits if this happened.
Just above Wycombe, Sheffield Wednesday simply must beat Derby and hope Cardiff can hold Rotherham, otherwise they’ll be playing in the third tier next season for the first time since 2012. If Rotherham win in South Wales, Wycombe and Wednesday are gone regardless.
But perhaps the most surprising team to be landed in this situation is Derby County. Just two seasons ago, the Rams were beaten by Aston Villa in the playoff final. Since then, Frank Lampard has departed and been sacked by Chelsea, while his replacement Philip Cocu has suffered the same fate at Pride Park.
After an initial winter bounce under Wayne Rooney, Derby have slumped to 10 defeats in their last 14 games, winning just once during that time. Rooney has been heavily criticised for making too many tactical switches and being unable or unwilling to influence the game from the bench but in fairness to England’s record goalscorer, his side has been ravaged by injury at times.
Lose against Sheffield Wednesday and Derby are gone. If they draw, the Rams will be relying on Cardiff avoiding defeat against Rotherham.
Championship relegation odds with Karamba…
- Rotherham: 2/11
- Sheffield Wednesday: 1/5
- Derby County: 6/5
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2. Ivan Toney to wrap up the Golden Boot?
It’s been a long road to the top for Ivan Toney, who has taking in spells at a diverse range of clubs, from Northampton to Newcastle and Shrewsbury to Scunthorpe. But at last, it looks like the 25-year-old striker is fulfilling his considerable potential.
After scoring 49 goals in 94 goals for Peterborough, Toney arrived at Brentford at the start of this season and has scored a quite ridiculous 30 goals in 44 Championship appearances, firing the Bees into the playoffs. The man who almost became back-up to Harry Kane at Tottenham and is being tracked by West Ham, according to Peterborough director of football Barry Fry, now has his sights set upon Premier League glory.
“He has a burning ambition to be the best centre-forward in the Premier League,” Fry told BBC Sport. “I think he will get an opportunity to prove that very soon, either with Brentford or if somebody pays £30m or £40m for him.
“He’ll be the Golden Boot winner in a couple of years in my opinion.”
But first, he must finish the job with Brentford, and that starts with sealing the Championship Golden Boot this weekend. Ahead of play, Toney is four goals clear of his nearest challenger, Teemu Pukki, and although the Finnish striker is an expert at this level, it’s as hard imagining him overturning that deficit as it is Toney not scoring this weekend. After all, Brentford face a Bristol City side with the second-worst defensive record in the English second tier this season.
Bristol City vs Brentford odds with Karamba…
- Home win: 17/4
- Draw: 59/20
- Away win: 2/3
- Ivan Toney to score first: 23/10
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3. Playoff posturing
Brentford, Swansea, Bournemouth and Barnsley have all already sealed their places in this season’s Championship playoffs, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to play for in that section of the table.
Brentford cannot be caught in fourth, but who they’ll face in the semi-finals is yet to be decided. As it stands, Barnsley will take on the Bees, but the Yorkshire side can still climb as high as fourth if results and goals go their way. Bournemouth are level on points with Barnsley but have the best goal difference of the three sides chasing fourth, while Swansea face a difficult trip to second-place Watford.
Powered by Toney, Brentford have scored a league-high 76 goals this season, while no side has lost fewer Championship games (7) this season. The other three sides will all be desperate to avoid the Bees in the playoff semi-finals, adding an extra pinch of spice to their final fixture.
Championship playoff teams’ remaining fixtures:
- Bristol City v Brentford
- Watford v Swansea City
- Bournemouth v Stoke City
- Barnsley v Norwich City
(All games kick-off at 12:30pm on Saturday, May 8)