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Championship: The Race for 2nd Place

Liam is a guest writer who mainly concentrates his efforts on soccer. He runs his own website, bonusbetting.org.uk, which takes a look at all sports from a bookmaking perspective.

While some people are suggesting that Championship leaders Cardiff are on something of a downward spiral after winning one of their last four, the fact that they still have two games in hand and a six point cushion from 3rd place suggests to me that they are pretty much certainties for promotion. The bigger question for me is just who is going to join them, with several teams all in the hunt for that elusive second automatic place.
Following on from the above, I’ll now take a look at the three sides that I think have the best chance of gaining automatic promotion by finishing in 2nd.

Watford
The team that are currently sat in 2nd place is Watford. Considering the fact that the Hornets were regarded as potential relegation candidates last season, the transformation is quite extraordinary although is mainly down to an Italian takeover. Under their new owners, they have been able to borrow a host of players from Italian outfit Udinese - with most of these setting the division alight. A lot of managers have questioned just how they have been able to borrow so many, with many bemused at the fact that all of their eleven loan signings can start in the same fixture due to the relaxed rules regarding international transfers.
Nevertheless, this shouldn’t really detract from their achievements. As it stands they have collected sixty six points from their thirty seven matches, although they did suffer a shock loss to Sheffield Wednesday in their last outing. Still, this appears to have been a mere blip and with Gianfranco Zola having so much talent at his disposal, we think it will be a huge surprise if the Hornets don’t manage to stay in the top two for the remainder of the season.

Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace are the side next in the table, with the Eagles one point behind Watford in 3rd. The Selhurst Park outfit have been in and around the automatic playoff positions for much of the season, although it did seem to take Ian Holloway quite a while to adjust to his role after taking over from Dougie Freedman earlier in the season.
Just like the Hornets, Palace have fared very well over recent weeks although they too have suffered a defeat to Sheffield Wednesday. Barring that loss, they have been impressive with that being their only defeat in their last eight games. The most important statistic regarding Palace is their terrific home form though, with the club making Selhurst Park something of a fortress with their last defeat there being all the way back in August. Coincidently, that was the first game of the season - against Watford.
While the club have proved strong throughout, I’m just not sure they have the strength in depth that Watford possess. Their home form means they will always be circling the top positions, but I don’t think they will manage to break into the top two this time around and will have to settle for a playoff place.

Hull
Hull are the next side in the table, with the Tigers fixed on the same number of point as Palace with goal difference being the only issue separating the two. They are another side that has been around the top places for much of the campaign and just like Watford, they have also relied on wealthy owners to bankroll this promotion push.
Looking at the Hull squad on paper, it appears to be one of the strongest in the division with several big money signings complimenting it nicely. In Steve Bruce they have a manager who has seen everything at this level and while there may have been some raised eyebrows when he was appointed, he has at least masterminded a very positive campaign for the KC Stadium outfit.
The club may have lost 4-2 to Crystal Palace in their most recent match, but I still think they’ll finish above the Eagles by the end of the season due to their squad depth. That game happened to be their second in three where they have conceded four goals, which suggests they are on something of a downward slope. This is in contrast to Watford, who don’t seem to embark on such ruts of form. Taking this into account, my prediction for Hull is a 3rd place finish - sandwiched between Watford and Palace.

 


 

 

 

 

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