Who will win the Championship?|
The last three weeks have some serious progression in the Championship title race. Newcastle have pulled 5 points clear at the top after wins against Brighton and Huddersfield, and Brighton faced consecutive defeats against Newcastle and Nottingham Forest, and are now looking over their shoulder at the chasing pack. As one of the most competitive and engaging Championship seasons of recent times draws to an end, we take a look at the race between Newcastle and Brighton for the title.
Rafael Benitez will certainly be very pleased with the current standings. Bar a catastrophic dip in form, he will very likely avoid a deadly playoff showdown. Yet again, Newcastle appear to be too big a club to be contained by the Championship.
Those wins against Brighton and Huddersfield will be followed by a visit to Reading this Tuesday. Indeed, Between the 28th of February and the 14th April, Newcastle will have played each of the other top six clubs. Away to Sheffield Wednesday on the 8th of April is arguably the toughest of those ties still to play, having lost the corresponding home fixture last December. A relatively fit squad already, Newcastle will be delighted with Dwight Gayle's return from injury, scoring his 21st of the season against Huddersfield, he will play a key part in the last third of this season. Should they be in good stead coming off this run of fixtures, they will be primed and ready to take the title and return to the Premier League next season.
The recent loss against Newcastle was a massive blow for Brighton's title chances. Having lost both fixtures against their rivals, it may well be the difference between the two come May. The focus surely will now be as much on avoiding a third playoff campaign in four seasons as it is about winning the title. Brighton fans have had enough playoff heartbreak to last a lifetime, and dropping below second place after such a solid season would be disastrous. They will need to react quickly to this recent poor patch, not least because Huddersfield will go within three points of them should they win their game in hand.
The title race is by no means over, however, and Brighton absolutely do have the quality to regroup and make a fight of it. They have a slightly more forgiving run of fixtures than Newcastle, with only Leeds left of the current top 6 left to play. Like Newcastle, they have a fit squad with on-form goal scorers, but there has been recent bad news as defender Shane Duffy has just been ruled out for six weeks with a fractured metatarsal, likely putting him out for the rest of the season.
There really is no value in backing Newcastle now, and at 1/7 there is no real margin for profit. Brighton currently have odds of 4/1, and considering their quality, it might just be worth a punt.
It will certainly be worth paying close attention to their result against Rotherham. Should they come out strongly against this doomed opponent, it might be a sign that they are rallying for a late run on the title, but if they under perform it will indicate that it might not be worthwhile. Enjoy Championship betting!
Calum Stephens is a writer, journalist, amateur gambler and long suffering Charlton supporter with a background in Politics and academic research. Specialising in European and English football league analysis and predictions.