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EFL Championship Playoffs

By Craig Jones, June 18, 2020

The Battle for the Championship Playoffs

The Championship resumes and with nine games remaining in the season, there is plenty to play for at the top and bottom of the league.

One area that is sure to be fascinating is the battle for the playoffs. From Fulham in 3rd down to QPR in 13th, every single team will fancy their chances of getting in.

Just six points separate 6th placed Preston with 13th placed QPR, every single point is going to be vital.

But who gets in? And ultimately, who goes up?

Who Makes the Playoffs?

Let’s assume that the top three cover the two automatic promotions plus one playoff place, so Leeds, West Brom and Fulham are either going up or in the playoffs.

That leaves three positions, for which we have 10 clubs in with a chance, separated by 10 points with nine games to go.

It is probably fair to say that the break will have benefitted every club in the playoff hunt as none of them were at the top of their game.

Key Players in the Playoff Run

When big games come around, you need key players to come to the fore and perform.

Brentford will be looking towards Ollie Watkins for more goals, he has 22 already but if he makes that 30 then Brentford are highly likely to be in the playoffs.

Another club who play in a similar way is Nottingham Forest. Lewis Grabban is their man, with 17 goals this season. Forest are the lowest scorers of the top six though, so perhaps rather than a reliance on Grabban, they need others to contribute more.

Or will we see the more defensive minded teams win close games to put vital points on the board?

Millwall have played 37 games, scored 44 and conceded 40. They don’t see much action at either end of the field. Will their style enable them to put important points on the board? It may not be the best to watch, but this could be effective with no fans in stadiums.

Defensive players Jake Cooper, Murray Wallace and Shaun Hutchinson are going to be key, can they keep clean sheets and hope attacking players such as current top scorer Matt Smith can bag something?

Further down the standings, Cardiff don’t have many star names to speak of, but have an abundance of Championship experience. Players like Sean Morrison, Joe Bennett and Aden Flint all have years of experience defending in the Championship.

At times like these, that experience could be even more vital than it normally is.

How Will No Fans Affect Games?

What is going to be fascinating to watch is how the games are affected by having no fans in attendance.

From crowd noises in Spain to cardboard cut outs in Germany and some clubs offering neither, we have seen many different approaches.

The Championship will see some clubs with cardboard fans in the stadium, but no noise will be played in. This means the games will reflect training sessions and pre-season games in terms of the atmosphere.

Without fans getting on their back, some players will find it easier to play. We have Brentford, who are one of the most expansive teams in the league, will they go even harder because they don’t have to worry about fan backlash if things don’t work out?

Who Makes the Premier League?

As ever with the Championship playoffs, the tricky position to be in is finishing 3rd. These teams have traditionally done poorly, despite being one place away from automatic promotion.

The best team in the top half of the table right now, if you take away Leeds and West Brom, is Brentford. Although they have struggled with draws recently, they appear to be best of the rest on their day. Away from the top two, Brentford are the next shortest for promotion, priced up at 6/4 with Betfred.

However, they do play a dangerous type of football and that may not be the best for the circumstances we are in. Instead, a club with experience and the know how of playing Championship football may come off best.

It would be no surprise to see the more experienced teams come into this. Cardiff are two points outside of the playoffs right now but have been there and done it all before and are full of Championship regulars.

The Bluebirds are 5/1 with BetVictor to finish inside the top six and a huge 33/1 with Bet365 for promotion this season. They are outsiders yes but do have vital experience on their side that few others appear to have in this battle.