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Sporting Life Sky Bet Championship preview

18 April 2019

Last weekend summed up the Sky Bet Championship perfectly with more drama, late twists, plenty of glorious goals and wonderful entertainment.

None more was the spirit of The Championship showcased than in the games between Sheffield United and Millwall and Wigan Athletic against Norwich City. Four clubs with very differing aims fighting with everything they had to get the points they so desperately needed.

Players, managers and fans giving everything and putting everything on the line. That is replicated in every match and highlights why we are to lucky to be fans of Sky Bet Championship clubs and why it is such an amazing League to follow week in, week out.

In Sporting Life’s latest Championship Podcast we were joined by the former Norwich, Leeds United, Reading and Bolton Wanderers midfielder and Crystal Palace and Huddersfield Town coach Andrew Hughes, who summed the League up so well, saying: "The coaching levels in The Championship have increased so much in recent years. The differing styles and high-level tactics make it one of the most entertaining, competitive Leagues in the world. Literally anything can happen in this League and this season has proved it more than any."

With Easter delivering 50% of the remaining four games, we can expect that drama, that entertainment and those nerves to continue. This is the time when things start to get settled – the potential, hope, expectation and fear can become reality – either glorious or painful.

Leaders Norwich will be promoted if they win their matches against Sheffield Wednesday and Stoke City.

Sheffield United cannot afford anymore slip-ups if they are to go up automatically, as they take on Nottingham Forest and Hull City. In fact, if they are beaten by Forest on Friday, then Norwich will be promoted with victory over Wednesday.

Leeds know two victories over Wigan Athletic and Brentford, with The Blades dropping more than three points will also see them up. But, one thing we know is that The Bees love to beat Leeds at Griffin Park. You have to go back to 1950 for the last time Leeds were victorious at Brentford.

At the bottom, Easter represents Bolton’s last chance to raise again. Ten points adrift, they need two wins over Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers to have any chance of surviving. Otherwise, Easter will see them relegated back to Sky Bet League One, with defeat to Villa on Friday officially confirming it.

We now know James Shan will guide West Bromwich Albion until the end of the season, and that focus is key for their promotion charge – Hull and Reading will present their challenges over the Bank Holiday weekend.

Reading have really impressed in recent weeks to slightly move away from the relegation zone thanks to excellent results against Norwich and Brentford, and that good form will be tested to the maximum against Bristol City and The Baggies.

Don’t write off Hull for a Play-Off push either – they five points off them currently. Two statement wins over their promotion rivals WBA and The Blades would put them right in the mix.

Aston Villa are on their best run since 1975, having won eight on the bounce, and go into Easter flying. Facing sides at the bottom in Bolton and Millwall will present major challenges, with The Lions unbeaten against the Villains since 1990.

Derby County have been beautiful at home to watch in recent weeks – scoring 10 goals in two games – so Queens Park Rangers, on Monday, will need to be on their metal at the back. Birmingham City on Friday will be an interesting affair, with The Blues back in form with back-to-back wins and County not having won away in the League in 2019.

Middlesbrough have finally arrested their slide down the table and are just one point off the top six. Clashes with sides building for next season in Stoke City and Nottingham Forest will truly show if they are back in form or not.

Bristol City have continued to go about their business quietly and successively as they hold on to the final Play-Off spot - victories over Reading and a Sheffield Wednesday side now preparing for next season would go a long way towards securing a top six spot.

Back to the relegation scrap, and Rotherham United’s fighting point at Stoke showed they will not give up on survival until the last second of the season. Swansea City and Birmingham stand in their way of earning vital points.

Wigan were going good against the leaders, and arguably unlucky not to take all three points. So, they can take confidence into Easter. However, Leeds away looks daunting for a team that’s only won once away this season, so a derby with Preston North End on Monday might be their best chance of points to stay out of the drop zone.

Sadly, we said goodbye to Ipswich Town last weekend, a side that have been in the top two tiers since 1954. The will want to leave the League with their head held high and with better performances of late they will continue to fight as they take on Preston and Swansea, two clubs who you would expect to make promotion pushes next season.

With just seven points between first and third; six dividing third and eighth; five points separating ninth and sixth; and four points between 22nd and 19th, Easter will prove to be the defining period of this wonderful Sky Bet Championship campaign.

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Listen to the latest Sporting Life Championship Podcast with special guest Andrew Hughes for FREE via iTunes, Soundcloud and Spotify here. Follow all the action from Sky Bet Championship on with EFL previews, our live Match Companion Football blog and full video highlights from every match.

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