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  • Writer's pictureJoe Murray

Analysing the Top Contenders in the Championship Playoff Race

The Championship is undoubtedly one of the most exciting leagues in world football, with 24 teams battling it out for promotion to the promised land: the Premier League. Burnley and Sheffield United have already won the race for automatic promotion, so focus switches to the playoffs where Coventry, Millwall, Sunderland, West Bromwich Albion, and Blackburn Rovers have the greatest chances of securing themselves an opportunity at promotion. The race is certainly heating up with a staggering 8 teams competing for the final two playoff spots after Luton Town and Middlesbrough secured their spots in the previous weeks.

Coventry City has had a sensational turnaround in comparison to last season, as the team in sky blue has gone from being a mid-table/relegation-threatened team over the years to sitting comfortably in a playoff spot. Undoubtedly, Coventry's star player has been the Swedish striker, Victor Gyokeres, as he has lifted his side with 21 goals (only second to Middlesbrough striker Chuba Akpom). These goals, accompanied by his staggering 10 assists, mean that Gyokeres has been involved in 31 of Coventry's 57 goals this season - 54% of their goals over the entire league season! Mark Robins has also played an incredible part, lifting them from the depths of English football in League 2 to the possibility of Premier League football in just 6 years at the club. Being on 69 points, all they would need to secure their spot in the playoffs is 1 point against Middlesbrough.

As things stand, Millwall and Coventry occupy the final two playoff spots, but the 6 other previously mentioned teams are in contention for stealing a spot. Millwall has had a remarkable season under Gary Rowett, winning a sensational 19 games from 45 and sitting on 68 points. Millwall has had a few players worth noting this season, such as strikers Tom Bradshaw and Zian Flemming being particularly impressive up front, and Leeds United loanee Charlie Cresswell contributing greatly to the backline. Bradshaw and Flemming's contributions to the team have been key to Millwall's success, and they will be looking to secure a win in the final game of the season against 9th placed Blackburn Rovers in order to enter themselves into the playoffs.

Sunderland is enjoying their first season back in the Championship following their double-relegation in 2017 and 2018 by sitting comfortably in 7th place - largely due to their smart signings and loanees during the season - Amad Diallo from Manchester United, Aji Alese from West Ham, and Edouard Michut from French giants Paris Saint-Germain, to name a few. These signings show the intent of Sunderland as they look to build a young, hungry team to bring themselves back to the top flight. Sunderland's star player in their bid for promotion is undoubtedly Jack Clarke as he proves to be Sunderland's primary creator alongside Amad Diallo - the winger has completed 1.91 successful dribbles per 90 and averages a goal or assist of 0.42 per 90. Sitting just two points behind Millwall, they certainly have the opportunity to capitalize on The Lions should they fail to beat Blackburn as Sunderland will face 11th placed Preston North End.

West Bromwich Albion had a poor start to the season, as they sat second bottom after 16 games, all until the managerial signing of Carlos Corberan from Huddersfield in late October. The appointment of Carlos Corberan lifted the squad to winning 10 of their next 12 league games, and they currently hold 8th place in the league. The standout player of West Brom is Okay Yokuslu, and the appointment of Corberan has helped Yokuslu incredibly on the pitch. The Turkish midfielder averages 2.59 tackles and 8 ground duels per 90, proving to be a fantastic defensive unit in the midfield alongside Jayson Molumby. The Baggies are currently on the same points as Sunderland, only behind on goal difference, with their final game being against 10th placed Swansea City. Swansea come into the game in good form, but with nothing to play for, Corberan's men could take advantage.

Blackburn Rovers sit lowest of the possible playoff candidates, as they occupy 9th place. The Rovers have the lowest chance of making the playoff spot, however, as they would require all of Millwall, Sunderland, and West Brom to lose, whilst making up for their -3 goal difference. Weirder things have happened, but mathematically, Blackburn still have the chance to return to the Premier League. The standout player of the season for Blackburn has been Dominic Hyam, as he has been crucial to Blackburn's performances over the season with his fantastic defensive prowess, and even made his Scotland debut as a result of his performances! The Scottish defender has made 40 interceptions over the season too.

Crowdplod prediction for winners of the playoffs: Middlesbrough

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