Wednesday 12 February 2014
While the Barclays Premier League title race continues to excite and surprise, so the leading pack in the Championship are steeling themselves for the final push for the top flight.
"We are not getting complacent. We know how quickly it can turn around"
Five clubs in the second tier have established a seven-point gap on sixth-placed Reading and although there are still plenty of matches left to decide the outcome of the Championship race, Leicester City, Burnley, Derby County, Queens Park Rangers and Nottingham Forest have laid down their credentials as the most likely candidates for promotion.
Leicester lead the way after an impressive campaign in which they have amassed 67 points from 30 matches, opening an eight-point lead at the top of the table. The Foxes' nine-match winning run came to an end when they were held to a 2-2 draw by Watford at the weekend but they remain well-placed to win the Championship title.
There are still with 16 matches remaining, however, and much can change in that time as midfielder Matty James knows from the bitter experience of last season. Leicester were in second place in February but went on a run of only one win in 13 matches and just reached the play-offs following a dramatic win over local rivals Nottingham Forest on the final day of the campaign.
"We are not getting complacent," James told BBC East Midlands Today. "We know how quickly it can turn around. It did last season and that experience is helping us this season."
Should Leicester return to the Barclays Premier League it would end a 10-year absence for a club who have graced the competition three times over eight seasons.
|Top six BPL promotion contenders from Championship
|Club||Pos||Points||Last in BPL
||No BPL seasons||Highest BPL finish|
|N Forest||5th||54||1998/99||5||3rd 1994/95|
Burnley lie in the second automatic promotion place, three points above Queens Park Rangers, following an impressive season in which Danny Ings and Sam Vokes have impressed with 20 and 16 league goals their names respectively. Tuesday night's 1-0 win at local rivals Bolton Wanderers suggests that the Clarets have the wherewithal to go the distance in what is a gruelling test of endurance, and return to the top flight they experienced in the 2009/10 season for what would be only the second time in 38 years.
Third-placed QPR were enjoying Barclays Premier League football only last season and Harry Redknapp will be desperate to return the west London outfit to the first tier suffering the disappointment of relegation last year.
The Hoops have made a good fist of returning at the first attempt, but missed the chance to leapfrog Burnley, with whom they shared a 3-3 draw at the weekend, when they were beaten 1-0 by Derby County on Monday night. Redknapp will hope that the experience of players such as Nico Kranjcar, Rob Green, Richard Dunne and Joey Barton can ensure the 'R's will be playing a seventh season of Barclays Premier League football next year.
As they proved on Monday night, Derby will have a thing or two to say about that. Their win over the Hoops represented a bold statement of intent for a side that have flourished since the arrival of Steve McLaren in September. With the help of midfielder Will Hughes and on-loan signings Patrick Bamford from Chelsea and Andre Wisdom of Liverpool, the Rams lie only a point behind Rangers and are aiming to end a six-season absence from a division they have graced in two spells stretching seven seasons in the last 21 years.
Nottingham Forest will also fancy their chances of a long-awaited return to the Barclays Premier League which has eluded them since they were last relegated 15 years ago. Forest took part in the inaugural Premier League season in 1992/93 and have not been back since their three-season stint at the end of that decade. However, the two-time European club champions are showing encouraging form at the business end of the season having embarked on a 16-match unbeaten run in all competitions that has taken them to within a point of Derby.
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