RESET! As the run-in to the season commences (most have seven or eight matches left to play), let's take a quick look at things:
Southampton looks quite likely to seal automatic promotion, and one of Reading and West Ham is almost as likely to join them. Whomever doesn't win that battle will fall back into a scrum with Brighton, Boro, Brum, Blackpool and Cardiff for playoff spots - and below them, anybody down to Burnley on 50 points must be holding out hope for some kind of playoff push. West Ham, Reading, Southampton, Boro and Birmingham all think they belong in the Premier League as birthright; It would be new for Cardiff, of course, who would double the Welsh representation in the Prem; Brighton are on the upswing as a club and hope to get there next season if not this, but are ultimately happy with a strong finish even if it means staying put. Blackpool is still consolidating its recent success as well, though I admit I don't know much about their expectations.
Wave goodbye to Doncaster Rovers and, sadly, Pompey. It'll be a scrap between a few others (notably Forest and Milwall) to avoid the sucking sound of the drain that leads to League 1. Matches to watch:
West Ham v. Reading, Sat 3/31 (thanks, hitcat) - can the Hammers climb into an automatic spot? The last chance to take points off the top 2 for West Ham.
Brighton v. Boro, Sat 3/31 - both looking to consolidate playoff position
Southampton v. Portsmouth, Sat 4/7 - Should be rife with emotion as the derby foes rarely meet in league play and are going in such starkly different directions.
Boro v. Cardiff, Sat 4/7 - another scrap between playoff hopefuls
Forest v. Bristol City, Sat 4/7 - classic six-pointer between two clubs dangling on the edge of relegation
Bristol City v. Coventry, Mon 4/9 - Bristol turn right around to play another six-pointer. Huge two days for them.
West Ham v. Birmingham, Mon 4/9 - Hammers trying to push up out of the playoffs, Brum trying to hang on to their place
Brighton v. Reading, Tue 4/10 - at home, Brighton probably need maximum points from this game to keep pace with their playoff rivals
Portsmouth v. Doncaster, Sat 4/14 - if either still has a pulse at this point, this will be crucial. Or it might just be the saddest game of the season in the Championship.
West Ham v. Brighton, Sat 4/14 - Brighton's playoff push doesn't get any easier at West Ham as they chase automatic promotion
Bristol v. West Ham, Tue 4/17 - both need points at opposite ends of the table
Boro v. Doncaster, Tue 4/17 - ditto
Reading v. Forest, Tue 4/17 - ditto again. By the end of play on this Tuesday, a lot should be cleared up.
Brighton v. Birmingham, Sat 4/21 - incredibly valuable late-stage six-pointer at home for Brighton
--- everybody gets a full week of rest before the cull ----
Birmingham v. Reading, Sat 4/28 - if Reading hasn't sewn up their automatic spot by now, this will be quite a match
Millwall v. Blackpool, Sat 4/28 - here's hoping the Lions are already safe, but if they're not (and Blackpool's still sniffing the playoffs) this could be interesting
Forest v. Portsmouth, Sat 4/28 - only if Pompey has rallied and has a chance of saving themselves
Southampton v. Coventry, Sat 4/28 - Southampton likely clinched, Coventry likely desperate - these conditions make for some of my favorite matches
Should be a fun end-game.
Edited by dirtynine, 27 March 2012 - 10:56 AM.