good morning everyone. Your HIC has been ill with Covid the last handful of days, but he promised you a proper EFL Championship roundup. And that’s what he’ll deliver!
Before we get into the playoff race, let’s take a quick look at the three relegated clubs now that Huddersfield’s safety is confirmed:
22. Reading: Whose hopes were sunk after a six-point deduction.
23. Wigan Athletic: Whose players were not paid for a fifth time this season.
24. Blackpool: Who did well to remain in the Championship for at least one season before relegation.
Now - onto the playoff race.
Luton Town and Middlesbrough have both secured third and fourth in the table, leaving two remaining spots open for five competing clubs.
Those clubs: Coventry (69 Pts), Millwall (68), Sunderland (66), West Brom (66), Blackburn (66).
Let’s start with Blackburn Rovers, the club that has spend almost the entire season somewhere in the top six. The club’s strange, draw-less pattern kept them competitive for a long time, and it seemed they were on course for a solid promotion push after picking up 15 out of a possible 18 points from mid-February to mid-March.
But an eight-game winless streak has all but sunk their promotion dreams, and they now sit well outside the top six. A 0-0 draw at home to Hull City will be a particularly difficult result to look back on.
Blackburn must first beat playoff rivals Millwall at The Den to have any chance of reclaiming a spot in the top six. They would also need both Sunderland and West Brom to drop points.
Millwall have also largely stumbled to end their campaign with back-to-back losses against Birmingham and Wigan. But they have a decent home record and two strong goalscorers in Thomas Bradshaw and Zian Flemming. The Lions apparently have even been exciting enough this season to watch to welcome Gianni Infantino to one of their home matches.
Aiming for a rare double promotion, Sunderland have had a stellar return to the second tier thanks in part to the efforts of Jack Clarke. The former Spurs lad (who was never really given a proper chance in the first team) has scored seven goals this campaign, for which he was a Player of the Year contender. Amad Diallo has also been an important outlet for goals. Sunderland will look to extend their eight-game unbeaten run at Preston, and need for Millwall to drop points while also keeping their GD stronger than WBA.
Coventry and West Brom have both had strange season, both languishing at the bottom of the table before strong performances during autumn saw them quickly rise. Coventry’s main issues involved off-the-pitch matters, while West Brom improved to the playoff-calibre team after sacking Steve Bruce in October.
Coventry City would need an epic collapse and every other result going the wrong way to avoid the playoffs. Viktor Gyokeres has been one of the standout players this season in the entire league, but the Bluebirds have been able to rely on other players to score which should bode well for them if they reach the playoffs.
Promotion would be a heck of a story for Coventry City, who were in League Two as recent as six years ago.
West Brom come into Monday with not-as-convincing form, but will face a Swansea side who have nothing to play for. I haven’t been too convinced by WBA this season, and their only notable victories this calendar year have come against Coventry (3 Feb) and Boro (25 Feb).
To secure a playoff spot, WBA must beat Swansea and must also rely on Sunderland & Millwall to drop points (or for one of those two to drop points plus Coventry lose by five or more goals).
Monday’s marquee EFL Championship match-ups:
Millwall (6th, 68 Pts, +8 GD) vs Blackburn (9th, 66 Pts, -3 GD)
Boro vs Coventry (5th, 69 Pts, +12 GD)
Preston vs Sunderland (7th, 66 Pts, + 10 GD)
Swansea vs West Brom (8th, 66 Pts, + 7 GD)
Fitzie’s track of the day: Open Letter To Duke, by Charles Mingus
And now for your links:
Alasdair Gold’s talking points from Tottenham’s 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace
Dan KP: Ryan Mason shows his tactical acumen as Spurs continue manager hunt
The Athletic ($$) asks which potential manager fits Tottenham’s ‘culture’
Celtic win Scottish Premiership