As the 2019-20 Sky Bet Championship draws to a close on Wednesday evening, we preview all the crucial matches as promotion, play-off and relegation spots remain yet to be finalised.
10 of the final 12 matches will have something riding on them so in a special format change, we bring a full preview of every match as West Brom, Brentford and Fulham go for promotion, whilst relegation and play-offs scraps are also unpredictable.
Add in the fact that these fixtures are behind closed doors without the usual late tense atmosphere in the crowds plus possibility of points deductions lingering over some clubs, and we are certainly set for a corker of a 2019-20 Championship finale.
Automatic PromotionEmbed from Getty Images
Victory for West Brom would see the club promoted but anything less would hand Brentford the chance to clinch automatic promotion with a win, although defeat for both would give Fulham a chance at snatching the last automatic promotion spot at the death.
West Bromwich Albion vs QPR
Having restarted the season in decent form, West Brom will be kicking themselves after Friday’s defeat at Huddersfield but Midlands rivals – Stoke did the Baggies a huge favour with a win over Brentford to keep promotion in their own hands.
QPR meanwhile have nothing to play for but I do expect them to try and create a tight contest, in order to try and help out neighbours – Brentford who will be promoted with a win if West Brom don’t win.
This therefore could very well be a good battle but QPR have been inconsistent across the past month, so I have a feeling that this might end up being a comfortable win and promotion for West Brom if they play their best football.
Prediction: WBA 2-0 QPR
Result: WBA 2-2 QPR (WBA are PROMOTED!!!)
Brentford vs Barnsley
This is a huge game for Brentford because not only do they realistically need a win but this could well be their final ever game at Griffin Park, whereas Barnsley know that victory coupled with defeats for Charlton and Luton would see them stay up.
Playing the game rather than occasion therefore is going to be crucial for the respective hopes of both teams, especially Brentford who have to just give it everything for the win like they have done in the last month and hope that QPR do them a generous favour at West Brom.
Barnsley however are unbeaten in four of their last five meetings against the Bees, so I do expect another tight game for the hosts but if they score first and then crack on, this could well become a waiting game whilst the Tykes would definitely be down.
Prediction: Brentford 2-1 Barnsley
Result: Brentford 1-2 Barnsley
Wigan vs Fulham
Should QPR defeat West Brom and Brentford also lose, Fulham could unintentionally be the biggest benefiters if they beat Wigan who need a win to avoid relegation once their 12 point deduction is applied post match.
The Cottagers however haven’t exactly fired on all cylinders in recent away trips post lockdown, whereas Wigan are playing strong attacking football with just one loss against February.
Goals therefore should be expected here and based on current form, I fancy Wigan to end their 18 match winless streak against Fulham who won’t have a motivation advantage of fans present to help indicate whether they are still in with a shot of promotion late on.
Prediction: Wigan 2-1 Fulham
Result: Wigan 1-1 Fulham (Wigan are RELEGATED!!!)
RelegationEmbed from Getty Images
With five teams still at risk of relegation and possibility of points deductions for teams higher up the table still at play, this promises to be arguably one of the most if not greatest complicated final day relegation battles in history.
Hull, Barnsley and Luton all currently occupy the relegation spots but with the Hatters level with Charlton on goal difference and Birmingham plus Middlesbrough still not safe, anything could happen.
Cardiff City vs Hull City
This is a must-win for Hull because only a win with enormous goal swing in their favour would see them stay up, whereas Cardiff need just a point to secure a play-off spot.
Add in the fact that Hull have simply been in freefall since selling Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki in late January coupled with Cardiff’s strong form, then I really can’t see Hull doing much to avoid relegation if the Bluebirds deliver another clinical result.
Prediction: Cardiff City 2-0 Hull City
Result: Cardiff City 3-0 Hull City (Hull are RELEGATED!!!)
Luton Town vs Blackburn Rovers
With Charlton away at league champions – Leeds United, survival is surely in Luton’s hands because Blackburn have nothing to play for plus the Hatters have better momentum of one loss in their last 11 matches.
Tony Mowbray however will likely want his Rovers team to lay down a marker in terms of performance to launch them forward into next season, having gone close to play-off spots on various occasions this season only to blow the opportunities repeatedly.
This therefore could very well be a defining game in the relegation fight, especially given the Hatters’ defensive inconsistencies which could ultimately be what well sends them down if don’t get a clean sheet and results elsewhere go against them.
Prediction: Luton Town 1-1 Blackburn Rovers
Result: Luton Town 3-2 Blackburn
Leeds United vs Charlton AthleticEmbed from Getty Images
With promotion and title already sealed, Leeds can afford to experiment in this match whereas Charlton will definitely view this as a must win otherwise they will need results elsewhere to go in their favour if are to stay up.
A part of me therefore feels that this game could well depend on what type of Leeds team is put on the pitch by Marcelo Bielsa, especially given that he will likely want to end the Whites’ ten match winless rut against the Addicks.
If a strong team is put out then I can see a tough battle for Charlton but if a young side is fielded, Charlton really have to go for it here and try to keep a clean sheet if want a win to guarantee safety.
Prediction: Leeds United 1-1 Charlton Athletic
Result: Leeds United 4-0 Charlton Athletic (Charlton Athletic are Relegated!!!)
Birmingham City vs Derby County
Currently sat two points clear of relegation and winless in their last 13 matches, Birmingham realistically need a point to stay up given their superior goal difference over Charlton and Luton if the latter two were to beat Leeds and Blackburn respectively.
Derby meanwhile will be looking to end a disappointing season on a high amidst the threat of a points deduction and end a three match losing run, which has mainly come about through sloppy performances when they’re capable of better.
St Andrew’s however has been a goal scoring haven for Birmingham with goals in ten of their last 11 home league games, which suggests that we should see goals and if Derby don’t turn up with a strong defence then this could be Birmingham’s chance at survival.
Prediction: Birmingham City 2-1 Derby County
Result: Birmingham City 1-3 Derby County
Sheffield Wednesday vs Middlesbrough
Inconsistency and lethargic defensive displays has been Middlesbrough’s biggest issues all season, yet a point would be enough to clinch safety and possibly on superior goal difference.
Sheffield Wednesday meanwhile simply haven’t got going since lockdown defensively, which is an issue given that all of Boro’s wins since the season resumed have come on the road and have won their last three visits to the Owls.
Boro fans therefore will be hoping that continues because if they lose here and Birmingham, Charlton and Luton all win, Boro would be down which would be a shock but embarrassing for Teesside who expect more from their team.
I therefore expect Boro to come out and try to get an early goal or two to settle any nerves surrounding threat of relegation, but Wednesday will be targeting a stronger performance with a points deduction threat lingering over the club.
Prediction: Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 Middlesbrough
Result: Sheffield Wednesday 1-2 Middlesbrough
Play-OffsEmbed from Getty Images
Just three points separate Nottingham Forest, Cardiff and Swansea between fifth and seventh positions respectively, with the former pair needing just a point to secure their play-off spots irrespective of what Swansea do.
Should Cardiff slip up against relegation battling Hull, Swansea can snatch sixth with a win but if their Welsh rivals win and Forest win then a goal swing is required if the Swans are to finish in the top six.
Nottingham Forest vs Stoke City
Forest currently sit fifth but need just a point to guarantee their play-off spot whereas a defeat could put their play-off spot potentially at risk depending on margin of loss.
Stoke meanwhile are safe but will be looking to end this tough campaign on a high and build some momentum to take into next season, especially in terms of away form following a run of eight away trips without a win.
Either way, I can’t see Stoke rolling over easily so if Forest want to qualify for the play-offs, they will have to keep things tight at the back and be clinical when their chances come.
Prediction: Nottingham Forest 1-1 Stoke City
Result: Nottingham Forest 1-4 Stoke City
Reading vs Swansea
Should at least one of Cardiff or Forest slip up, Swansea could well need a huge win to snatch a play-off spot with a 1-0 result potentially being enough if their Welsh rivals lose, whereas a victory margin of three or four goals could be required if Forest are defeated.
Reading meanwhile have nothing to play for but will likely be hurting after fighting back to 3-3 at Blackburn on Saturday, only to eventually lose 4-3 late on, so I am expecting them to provide some tough competition for Swansea.
As for the play-off spots, I feel that the Swans’ best hope would be Cardiff losing but given their and Forest’s opposition, I think Swansea will get the win over Reading but ultimately in vain.
Prediction: Reading 1-2 Swansea
Result: Reading 1-4 Swansea
Bristol City vs Preston North End
Preston will be disappointed to have seen their play-hopes ended at the weekend despite defeating Birmingham but this is a chance for Alex Neil’s men to end a promising season on a high and prepare for a promotion tilt next season.
Bristol City meanwhile have dug in deep in recent games with mixed results, so I expect more of the same here as they look to record a second consecutive top ten seasonal finish.
A draw therefore would be a solid finish to the season for two teams who both fell short of their potential.
Prediction: Bristol City 1-1 Preston North End
Result: Bristol City 1-1 Preston North End
Millwall vs Huddersfield
At start of this season, many football fans would of banked on Millwall being the team needing the point to survive relegation and Huddersfield up near the top six, yet here we are heading into the final day of this season with both teams in reverse positions.
I however feel that Huddersfield will survive no matter what because although Danny Cowley was surprisingly sacked on Sunday, the Terriers look more confident on the ball and should have enough about them to create a good scrap against the Lions.
Millwall however will be frustrated by Saturday’s shabby defensive display at QPR which saw them lose 4-3, but if they channel that energy properly then I can see them squeezing a win out of this despite Huddersfield’s recent improvements.
Prediction: Millwall 1-0 Huddersfield
Result: Millwall 4-1 Huddersfield