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Editors Blog: The Championship Play-Off Run In

With only seven league games left to play I thought it might be interesting to see the respective run ins for each of the current top four and the chasing pack. This way see if we can place who will make the top four and in which order. Finishing 3rd or 4th means that all important second leg home tie.

Chris Brunskill

Current Top Four

As it stand the top four would finish QPR, Derby County, Wigan Athletic and then Reading. It would mean one of last season relegated sides getting the chance to return to the promised land, with Steve McClaren's resurgent Derby chasing the dream. Of course anyone you play in the Play-offs isn't going to be easy, but that is an extremely hard group of teams.

You would have to say that both QPR and Derby are safe from slipping out of the top four. They would really have to lose all of their last seven games, yet is it possible that Latics could catch one of them and get a second leg home tie?

Derby who are currently five points ahead of us don't play anyone inside the top ten teams between now and the end of the season. So you would imagine they won't slip up massively between now and the end of the season. It is however a different story for QPR, the hoops have to play Bourenmouth, Nottingham Forest and Leicester before the end of the season along with a difficult away tie with 11th placed Blackburn.

When you consider Derby's and QPR's run ins with ours they both have respectively easier ones. We have to play games against Reading and Burnley before the end of the season, two very tough games. However if we beat Reading on the 18th April, that could be our play-off spot cemented.

Reading though will pinpoint that as a must win game for them as they have a lot of difficult fixtures before the end of the season. Bournemouth next Tuesday is also a must win to stop the team from the south coast challenging for a top six spot, while following that game they also have to face Leicester and Burnley along with ourselves.

If anyone in the top four is likely to slip out now, it looks to be sixth placed Reading.

Chasing Pack

The question here is, who do you include in the chasing pack. You could look as low as 12th placed Watford and say any one of those five teams could make the charge into the play-offs and I wouldn't bet against it. However for this I am going to draw the line at 10th placed Bournemouth who are only five points of Reading in 6th.

Nottingham Forest appear to be in free fall in seventh and were they will finish this season is anyone's guess. With the club confirming they will not bring in a new manger till the summer (Stuart Pearce) they have basically written off getting promoted this season. It could still be doable for them if they manage to string some form together, the do face three tough tests though against QPR, Bournemouth and Brighton.

Next come Ipswich Town and Mick McCarthy's men. They have been plugging away for a while and have been just outside the play-off, could they make a final charge? On recent form (losing two in the last seven and winning four) they could close the gap if Reading slip up. After all they are only two points short of the London club.

Brighton are another team who have been on the brink all season and after last season play-off hurt will be wanting to get to the final this year. No win in their last four, but with only Leicester their only major test before a final weekend show down with Nottingam Forest. Can they stay in touching distance? If they win this weekend the players and fans could believe they will make it.

Finally is this season surprise package in Bournemouth. Under Eddie Howe they are a force to be reckoned with and having only lost once in their last eight games they have climbed the table and are in touching distance of that play off place. With four of the top ten to come though it will be a hard run-in, however win those games and they could surprise a few of us and get a play off place. Home games against QPR, Reading and Nottingham Forest will be massive if they can get wins, throw in an Ipswich away tie and this teams could sail into the play-offs.

Watch this space I have a sneaky feeling that we could see the team who will upset the odds this year.

My Predicted Place Off Places

3rd - Derby

4th - QPR

5th - Wigan

6th - Bournemouth

Derby with their easy run in I see leap frogging QPR while Latics manage to hold onto 5th place. 6th spot though I feel will go to the wire, the teams close to it are out of form, while the in-form teams are closing and I have a sneaky feeling Bournemouth will make it.

Stranger things have happened after all!