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With the automatic spots sorted, the focus going into the final day of the Championship is the race for the final playoff spot with three teams chasing the 6th position. It is set to be a nervy lunchtime for Reading, Brighton and Blackburn.
Reading are in pole position to take the 6th place after two wins against Middlesbrough and Doncaster have put them one point ahead of Brighton going into the final day. That means a win against Burnley will secure their place in the playoffs. It’s all simple for Reading in theory, but when you consider they have only won one home game since the end of January it’s a difficult challenge. Especially taking into account they are playing Burnley, who will surely maintain the standards they have set for themselves this season.
One factor that will play against Reading on Saturday is their tendency to play counter-attacking football. While it does work away from home, in a game where they need to win the Reading faithful won’t allow for such a style. The key for the Royals will be to not panic and take their time to launch their well planned attacks.
All Brighton can do is win and hope for the best. They arguably have the hardest game of three competing for the final playoff with an away game at Nottingham Forest. Forest’s caretaker manager Gary Brazil will be determined to end the season on a high. It may be a battle of the strikers at the City Ground, Matt Derbyshire will be hoping to add to his decent run of form in front goal as will Leonardo Ulloa, who has 13 to his name this season.
Perhaps Brighton are advantaged by the fact the pressure will be off them. They have numerous exciting creative players such as Kazenga Lua Lua, Will Buckley and David Rodriguez, all of whom will thrive in a pressure-free situation.
In reality the playoffs are gone for Blackburn, but a miraculous seven-goal swing would see them finish in the final spot. Their game is probably the kindest of the three, Wigan Athletic will surely field a weakened team after securing their place in next season’s playoffs after a win against Birmingham on Tuesday. It’s also a bit of a local derby, so the Blackburn fans should be motivated for the game.
If there’s one factor that might hinder them it’s tenuous one. They need to rely on their local-rivals Burnley to do them a favour at Reading, it certainly won’t be out of the question for Burnley to throw the game in spite of their bitter rivals.
Reading are my choice for the final playoff spot simply because they lead by one point. I can’t see Brighton winning at the City Ground given Nottingham Forest need to end the season on a high. So a draw for Reading at home to Burnley would be enough to secure their place in the playoffs.