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Manchester City in the FA Cup is one thing - The Championship is the real deal for Swansea City
Wednesday, 10th Feb 2021 09:00 by Jonathon Low & Keith Haynes

Today we see Swansea City take on the leaders in the premier league in an FA Cup tie that will focus everyone’s minds for at least the rest of the day. Come tomorrow morning the only focus, regardless of the result will be the a Championship promotion race. That’s how important this all is. That’s why in amongst all the FA Cup glory, nothing beats a seasons hard work being rewarded with an automatic promotion place to the premier league.

Who are the main contenders as it stands for automatic promotion?

Quite simply, Norwich City, Brentford, Swansea City, A.F.C. Bournemouth, Reading & Watford occupy the box seats going in to this weekends round of matches. Let’s take a look at what games remain for these clubs and assess the potential pitfalls which will leave open a pathway for two of these sides to gain automatic promotion. Let’s take a look at all these sides fixtures running up to the next proposed international break at the end of March. It’s a lot of games in six weeks that’s for sure. These are the matches that will break the back of this seasons campaign and give everyone a real insight in to who is driving, and who is in the passenger seats.

Norwich City

Stoke City (h)
Coventry City (a)
Rotherham United (h)
Birmingham City (a)
Wycombe Wanderers (a)
Brentford (h)
Luton Town (h)
Sheffield Wednesday (a)
Nottingham Forest (a)
Blackburn Rovers (h)

Verdict : Complacency could be the Canaries' biggest issue in these coming fixtures with only one game (Brentford) against a side currently in the top six. They should be looking for a minimum of 25 points from the 30 on offer. Their form of late is clearly alarming, defeat at Swansea testament to how big a commitment is needed in this league. But with key players to come back in to the side, they should maintain at least second place, maybe even equal with Swansea City.

Swansea City

Sheffield Wednesday (a)
Nottingham Forest (h)
Huddersfield Town (a)
Coventry City (h)
Bristol City (h)
Stoke City (a)
Middlesbrough (h)
Blackburn Rovers (a)
Luton Town (a)
AFC Bournemouth (a)
Cardiff City (h)

Verdict : The Swans have some tricky away games with teams such as Stoke, Luton Town and Blackburn capable of taking points off them. The clash with Bournemouth at the Vitality could have big consequences while there is also the small matter of the south Wales derby to contend with as well. We expect the swans to pick up 23 points from 33 from these games. The impact of the FA Cup hasn’t taken its toll on the swans who have added more strength in depth from the January window.

Brentford

Reading (a)
Barnsley (h)
Queens Park Rangers (a)
Coventry City (a)
Sheffield Wednesday (h)
Stoke City (h)
Norwich City (a)
Rotherham United (h)
Blackburn Rovers (a)
Derby County (a)
Nottingham Forest (h)

Verdict : Brentford are favourites in our opinion, they are currently on a 20-game unbeaten run so they will take some stopping. But, the run has to come to an end at some stage so their fate could depend on how well they react to the defeat when it comes. This block of games is relatively kind to Thomas Frank's side on paper, with Reading and Norwich likely to be the trickiest while a trip to Blackburn and a west London derby with QPR have the potential to create an upset. They could easily win them all, but we do think points will be dropped at Norwich and Reading. Blackburn Rovers could result in a loss. A minimum of 26 points is expected. They are looking strong, tight and very energetic at a time when a lot of sides tire.

Reading

Brentford (h)
Millwall (h)
Bristol City (a)
Middlesbrough (h)
Wycombe Wanderers (a)
Rotherham United (a)
Blackburn Rovers (h)
Sheffield Wednesday (h)
Nottingham Forest (a)
Birmingham City (a)
Queens Park Rangers (h)

Verdict : Reading need to be looking for maximum points in as many of these fixtures as possible if they want to keep up any hopes of a top-two finish. Beating Brentford would be a huge start and edge them a step closer to the Bees. Trips to Bristol City, Rotherham and Forest will test the side's character but the home games should yield plenty of points. As it stands and being as realistic as possible it could be that Reading and Swansea make the play offs, and then maybe a repeat of the final of nine years ago. They should expect a return of around 22 points. Anything less and it’s touch and go.

Watford

Bristol City (h)
Preston North End (a)
Derby County (h)
Blackburn Rovers (a)
AFC Bournemouth (a)
Wycombe Wanderers (h)
Nottingham Forest (h)
Cardiff City (a)
Rotherham United (a)
Birmingham City (h)

Verdict : The Hornets appear to have stuttered along so far this season but remain very much in the promotion hunt. Home form hasn't been an issue so all eyes will be on how Xisco Munoz's side fare away from Vicarage Road. All five away games will severely test the side's promotion aspirations. A sixth place finish is how it’s being seen at the moment. 17 points should be the least Watford gain from this run in.

AFC Bournemouth

Nottingham Forest (a)
Rotherham United (h)
Queens Park Rangers (a)
Cardiff City (h)
Watford (h)
Bristol City (a)
Preston North End (a)
Barnsley (h)
Swansea City (h)
Huddersfield Town (a)

Verdict : The Cherries looked like the side to beat at the start of the season but have struggled over the past month and losing Josh King in the January window takes a valuable goal threat out the side. The matches with Watford, Preston, Swansea and Huddersfield could all see points dropped. If they make sixteen points it should keep them in the play offs. Sixth place could work. Sacking their manager was possibly not the best of moves when you see Jonathon Woodgate as caretaker boss and the likes of John Terry being linked as the next manager.

End of March prediction ( Swansea Independent Staff Combined )

Brentford
Norwich City
Swansea City
Reading
AFC Bournemouth
Watford

The biggest threat outside the top six has to be Blackburn Rovers on form and ability. That’s just our opinion, what do you think ? Join us on our forums or comment below.

Photo: Action Images



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