Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Promotion contenders in this year’s Premier League

With only a quarter of the football season left to go, the race to get promoted to the most lucrative league in the world is heating up. For 2019-2022, revenue from Premier League television broadcasting rights will reach a high of £5.14bn, with competition from streaming services such as Amazon challenging the traditional dominance of Sky and BT.

Recently relegated teams face huge pressure to get promoted at the first time of asking in order to get a slice of TV revenue or face massive cuts in players wages and a slew of players leaving the club. Contrarily, teams who missed out on promotion last season pour sizeable funds into their team, buying new players or expanding their wage structure to ensure their best players remain at the club. What results from this mix of spending may be long-term financial uncertainty for some clubs, but for others, there is a shot at glory. So, which teams are likely to be facing the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool next season?

Automatic Promotion:

There are a clear pack of favourites who, bar a disastrous run of results, look to be in the playoffs at least and challenge for one of two automatic spots available. Currently first in the table, Norwich City suffered from an initial run of poor form winning only one of their first six games. They’ve since gone from strength to strength backed by Finnish talisman Teemu Pukki, the current Championship top scorer. What is most impressive about the form of Pukki is the high number of assists he has also contributed, suggestive of a free-flowing team. Norwich has a kind run of fixtures to the end of the season, where they only face one team in the top six and are yet to play six teams in the bottom nine. You’d be foolish to rule them out for clinching the title if manager Daniel Farke eases concerns from the fanbase about his potential departure and signs a new contract.

Each team’s away form will be key in deciding who claims an automatic promotion place

Norwich are currently being chased by Leeds and Sheffield United, two teams who are having contrasting fortunes at present. Sheffield United are the form team of the Championship, losing only one of their last fourteen league matches, whilst Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds has suffered a relatively poor patch of form coinciding with the fallout from the ‘Spygate’ scandal. Leeds United have played expansive football under Bielsa and it seems as though they may have brushed off their poor form by demolishing promotion hopefuls West Bromwich Albion 4-0 last week. Each team’s away form will be key in deciding who claims an automatic promotion place, after being similarly dominant at home.

The Chasing Pack:

The top five teams in the Championship have been somewhat clear of the rest of the division for much of the season. West Brom and Middlesbrough currently sit in 4thand 5thplace respectively, comfortably in the play-off zone. Do they have what it takes to challenge those ahead of them?  Although steadfast in away games, both sides have suffered at home with West Brom winning none of their last five home matches. If either team have realistic hopes of challenging for an automatic promotion place, improving form at home must be a priority.

Pulis will be looking to club-record signing Britt Assombalonga

Middlesbrough, as expected of a Tony Pulis side, are very disciplined at the back conceding the fewest goals with a league-high of sixteen clean sheets. Pulis will be looking to club-record signing Britt Assombalonga to propel his Boro side up the table after struggling to capitalise on their defensive stability with an attacking threat. On the other hand, West Brom have a kinder run-in to the end of this season. Having scored the second most number of goals with a lethal strikeforce of ex-Premier League strikers in Dwight Gayle and Jay Rodriguez, they could be a side to watch out for later on in this campaign.

The Last Play-off Place:

The real battle for promotion this season lies in the final play-off place, with a cluster of teams all setting themselves up for a last-ditch attempt at promotion. Just six points separate Bristol City in sixth, to Sheffield Wednesday in thirteenth place. The current holders of sixth place did so on the back of a seven-game winning streak, although are now on an unwanted run of three without a win.

Derby County are the “nearly men” of the Championship

In seventh place, Derby County are the “nearly men” of the Championship having finished 9thor higher every season since 2013, run by seven different managers without promotion. Manager Frank Lampard has done little to yet deserve the moniker of “Frank Lampard’s Derby County” but with a deep squad and outstanding loan talent in Mason Mount and Harry Wilson, they pose a serious threat to teams around them. Seeing as both Bristol City and Derby have a game in hand to those below them, it seems likely that it will be these teams that will continue to battle it out for a chance to play in football’s most expensive game: the Championship Play-off Final.

Dark Horses:

There are, however, a group of teams still within touching distance of sixth place, able to catch the main contenders unaware. Birmingham City have had an extremely mixed run of results but are closest to the top seven. Hull in 10th have two of the most dangerous wingers in the league with Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki, Preston who lie in 12th are unbeaten in nine matches and look a dangerous outfit with plenty of goals from midfield, and Sheffield Wednesday in 13th have new found impetus under experienced manager Steve Bruce who’s been promoted four times previously.

Forest also boast a young squad full of talent with the likes of Joe Lolley and Arvin Appiah

However, a sensible pick for a dark horse to achieve promotion is Nottingham Forest under the new leadership of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane. They have an extremely favourable run-in, only playing against two teams who are currently above them. Forest also boast a young squad full of talent with the likes of Joe Lolley and Arvin Appiah, as well as experience on the touchline and the pitch; a balance required for a prosperous promotion push.

The battle for promotion from the Championship is as exciting as ever. We’ve seen from Fulham this year that the money received from promotion is no guarantee of success in the top division. Nonetheless, all clubs involved will be desperate to make their own piece of history, to coalesce with some of the biggest names in world football next season.

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