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The Championship is properly hotting up now and we are getting a clearer idea of who may be involved in the promotion push for the Premier League beyond Christmas and New Year.
Wolves lead the way at present which, given their spending, is no big surprise. Middlesbrough and Aston Villa were favourites for automatic promotion during the summer so their presence in the top six right now is again no shock. However, the rest of the top order has really come from nowhere.
The newly promoted Sheffield United have led the way briefly this term and after 16 games, they still sit second – a great achievement already. Cardiff City have also had their time at the top while their conquerors from last weekend, Bristol City, hold a place in the top 4 as well.
Leeds have faltered lately but have a good squad, so do Derby County. Here are the early predictions for the top four places in this division:
The current league leaders are very much expected to go up automatically and I don’t believe they’ll have many problems between now and the end of the season.
Ordinarily, I’d worry about long-term injuries to the likes of Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota but frankly, this squad is so deep that I don’t think they should have an issue. More signings may come in during January to cement their place as the Championship’s best.
They’ve taken a while to get going and were still not convincing against bottom club Sunderland this past weekend. However, a combination of young players like Marcus Tavernier and a lot of new signings in the summer means that they were never really likely to gel immediately.
Their goal difference away from home marks them out as a serious team in this league and an automatic promotion spot is a definite possibility.
Like Boro, Bristol City’s away goal difference is impressive and sides capable of that are usually booked for a top six place. It would be no surprise to see City in the playoffs this season and for an old stadium in need of an update, they have all the ingredients to be a top division club coming from one of England’s biggest cities.
Steve Bruce’s side, just like Middlesbrough, were very much expected to challenge for top spot this season and while that always looked out of their reach to me, they remain very capable of achieving a place in the top four and may continue to improve as the season wears on.