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Saturday, 28 April 2012

Final Day Of The Championship!

We wouldn't call this an anti-climax exactly, but most of the major issues (Championship winners and relegated teams) were already concluded last week. In fact, there are only two significant battles taking place today: the race for the second automatic promotion spot and the fight for 6th place and more importantly, a play-off semi final position.

The Race For Second
The most important games of the day will focus on St Mary's (where Southampton entertain an already relegated Coventry side) and Upton Park, where Hull are the visitors. The Saints have the upper hand already going into the last game of the season, since a point will virtually guarantee them the automatic promotion place that they have held throughout the entire season (unless the Hammers score four goals against Hull). The surprise package of the Championship must have wondered what all the fuss was about when they lost only  once in their first 17 games and cruised to the top of the table with ease. Unfortunately, the extraordinary form of a Reading side (who were languishing in mid-table during the start of 2012) has pushed their hopes of a Premier League return into minor doubt. The pressure will be Southampton today, but they should be able to handle it.
On the other end of the scale, West Ham, a side expected to walk the Championship with their calibre of players, find themselves staring at another play-off adventure. Having been in the automatic positions for a majority of the campaign (like Southampton) and string of costly results which saw them drop ten points during five games in March mean they have a mammoth task today when they play Nick Barmby's side, who sit comfortably in 8th position. The current situation is as follows: West Ham must win and Southampton must lose. If Southampton draw however, Fat Sam's team can still go up if they beat Hull by a four goal margin. This means that playing 4-5-1 today, Sam's preferred formation, will practically be suicide. West Ham must an attacking formation from the off that saw them win 6-0 at Brighton earlier in the month. Overall, it seems incredibly unlikely that Nigel Adkins' side will slip up, but as Allardyce said in an interview prior to today's match "...stranger things have happened"

The Race For Sixth
If you thought West Ham have it hard, spare a thought for Middlesbrough. Two points behind Cardiff and with a goal difference that is inferior by ten, their prospects of a shot at Premier League football seem very distant indeed. On a slightly happier note, Tony Mowbray's travel to Watford to face a team who haven't won this month, and having just come off the back of a win against promotion candidates Southampton, their confidence will surely be fairly high in order to grab the three points which they desperately need to stand any chance at all.
Cardiff have bad memories of the play-offs from last season, where they received a 3-0 thrashing from Premier League bound Reading in front of their own fans. But they can take comfort knowing that they're unbeaten away from home since February when they travel to Crystal Palace, a team in slightly better form than Watford however. The odds are stacked in their heavily in their favour

Being a West Ham fan myself, I decided to be as optimistic as I possibly could and created this table last week. It is set to be an exciting day for football lovers nationwide... Good luck to all your teams!

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