Championship Relegation Contenders

A couple of weeks ago it looked like there was only one relegation spot in the Championship left to avoid, now it could be any three from six or seven.  Bolton looked doomed and an anticipated January exodus could have been the final nail in the coffin.  Aside from more points on the board, Charlton appeared almost as safe a bet but the Wanderers and Addicks have given themselves a fighting chance and their causes have been aided by rivals dropping points.

I’d suggest Blackburn may just be out of it with two games in hand over most and 31 points, six clear of third-from-bottom Rotherham, despite the exit of Jordan Rhodes. It is worth mentioning the Rovers are without a win in the league since December 11th and if that kind of form continues they could yet find themselves in trouble, but for now they’ve got a bit of breathing space.

Fulham

The Cottagers have 29 points and a game in hand over all five of the sides below them, but like Blackburn their form has to be a cause for concern – they’ve taken just nine points from the last 45 available.  Fulham do have a bit of talent in their squad and keeping hold of Ross McCormack and Moussa Dembele last month can’t have hurt their survival chances.  My gut feeling is they’ll be ok, and facing a few of their relegation rivals at home in the run-in could work in their favour.

Key remaining fixtures; Blackburn (a), Charlton (h), Bristol City (h), MK Dons (h), Bolton (h).

Relegation odds; 8/1

MK Dons

I had MK Dons down as relegation fodder at the start of the season but they’re making a decent fight of it and before a ball had been kicked in the Championship the Dons would probably have been fairly happy to be three points clear at this stage.  Boss Karl Robinson has got a tight-knit group together but from what I’ve seen there isn’t a huge amount of quality there, but then again they’re not carrying anyone either.  They’ve responded well to defeat at Bolton and a heavy loss to Chelsea by drawing with Cardiff and Middlesbrough – having been agonisingly close to winning in the latter.  Home form will be the key if they do avoid an immediate return, because they’ve been pretty woeful on the road.

Key remaining fixtures; Bristol City (h), Blackburn (a), Charlton (a), Rotherham (h).

Relegation odds; 3/1 (with NetBet, most are around 2/1)

Bristol City

With money behind them Bristol City will be very much a club on the up if they survive this season but at the moment that looks to be a very big if.  The Robins tried to make a few deals happen in January but as it transpired the biggest change was a switch in manager, with former midfielder Lee Johnson coming in for the axed Steve Cotterill (technically Johnson was appointed in February). They picked up a very important win at Charlton last time out and perhaps a new boss burst will see them pull clear in the next few weeks.  In Luke Freeman they’ve got a game-changer in midfield but there are big holes in the squad and goals have been hard to come by, as have wins on home soil. As things are I think they’ll be in the second tier next season but they are in a precarious position.

Key remaining fixtures; MK Dons (a), Bolton (h), Rotherham (h), Blackburn (a).

Relegation odds; 9/2

In the danger zone…

Rotherham United

Like Bristol City immediately above them, the Millers have decided to make a change at the top with the sacking of Neil Redfearn following a damaging defeat at Bolton.  There is a very fine line between satisfactory and disastrous at the wrong end of the Championship and Rotherham were incredibly close to getting a decent result last time out but ended up with a bad one.  After going behind early on, they probably had the better of the chances and were hit with a killer blow late on.  Defeats to the Addicks and Wanderers could prove costly, as well as giving the bottom two a lifeline, and the million dollar question is what impact will whoever succeeds Redfearn have?  Until that question is answered, any kind of guess on their fate would be nothing more than a stab in the dark.

They do have some quality in the squad, whether they have enough to stay-up remains to be seen and they arguably have the toughest run-in of all the struggling teams with the likes of Hull, Middlesbrough and Burnley – the current top three – still to come.

Key remaining fixtures; Bristol City (a), MK Dons (a), Blackburn (h).

Relegation odds; 19/20 (this is a huge anomaly with Winner, most have the Millers at around 1/2 to go down)

Bolton Wanderers

At the start of January the Wanderers looked destined for League One.  There was no prospect of any new arrivals to aid their cause, the threat of administration and a points deduction loomed large, manager Neil Lennon was in the tabloids and many expected their squad to be decimated. Zach Clough was close to Bristol City, Sheffield Wednesday wanted Mark Davies and Charlton had an eye on Liam Feeney but somehow all three remained with football’s latest crisis club.

However, seven points from the last nine available gives cause for optimism and they’re now just four points adrift of safety.  There may be some quality in the squad, the aforementioned Clough and Davies for example, but the lack of a goalscorer and a run-in to rival Rotherham’s has to be a huge worry.  My head is telling me they’re going down, but stranger things have happened than this team surviving and they’re not such a lost cause anymore.  Administration remains a possibility and that would be the end of any survival bid, but until then they’ve got a puncher’s chance at the very least.

Key remaining fixtures; Bristol City (a), Charlton (h), Fulham (a).

Relegation odds; 2/9

Charlton Athletic

The Addicks had been on a torrid run with just four points from 30 available but a win over Rotherham has at least kept them in the fight.  Like Bolton there are some off-field issues having an impact on the pitch at the Valley, and a home defeat to Bristol City last time out was a big blow as they failed to build on that win over the Millers.  However, they did strengthen in January with the captures of the comically named Rod Fanni and Arsenal starlet Yaya Sanogo (‘starlet’ has been used loosely, he’s 23).  Fanni was playing for Marseille last season before a move to Al-Arabi and was a tidy midfielder in his day, but I’ve not seen the veteran play for a good few years so can’t really make any kind of guess as to what kind of impact he will have.  Sanogo looked decent in patches at Crystal Palace last season and may prove to be a shrewd addition, at the very least he provides another option in attack for a frontline who have struggled for goals this term.

That said, it still doesn’t look good and they have some tough games to go, but it isn’t over yet for the south Londoners.

Key remaining fixtures; Fulham (a), Mk Dons (h), Bolton (a).

Relegation odds; 1/7

I was going to put my neck on the line and go for the three I think will go down but after writing this I’m less sure than when I started.  I still think Bolton and Charlton have left themselves too much to do but am not prepared to give up on either just yet, either way we could be set for a battle in the second tier that looked highly unlikely not too long ago.

Championship relegation odds (Oddschecker)

Championship table, form and fixtures (SoccerSTATS)

Follow/abuse us on Twitter @GonzoSportsDesk, we’re not fancy we follow back.

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