As the end of the Championship season is on the horizon, the play-off picture is starting to heat up.

Daniel Farke looks on course to guide Norwich to a swift Premier League return. However, below the Canaries, the likes of Watford, Swansea, and Brentford are all challenging for automatic promotion to the Premier League. So, with seemingly two more play-off places remaining, who still has a chance of playing Premier League football next season?

Barnsley

BARNSLEY, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 24: Callum Styles of Barnsley celebrates with Alex Mowatt and Callum Brittain after scoring their team’s first goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Barnsley and Stoke City at Oakwell Stadium on February 24, 2021, in Barnsley, England. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

The Tykes are having the most extraordinary season under head coach Valerien Ismael. On paper, Barnsley have the most favourable fixtures remaining of those at the top of the Championship. Hence, many in South Yorkshire can believe a trip to Wembley could await Barnsley for the first time since 2016.

Since the 27th of January, Barnsley have suffered just one league defeat, which came at Oakwell against Sheffield Wednesday in the last gameweek.

January signings of Daryl Dike and Carlton Morris have further strengthened the teams attacking options, with the pair contributing a combined total of 11 Championship goals already.

The form of Michael Helik and Callum Styles has been invaluable in Barnsley’s resurgence. Many fans will be hoping both feature in the Championship team of the season.

Reading

After accumulating 22 points from their first eight matches, Reading started the new campaign in style. In the 30 games after, the Royals have picked up only 40 points, which is why their position in the play-offs is far from certain.

Especially when putting into consideration that they have to play Barnsley, Watford, Swansea, and Norwich, all of whom sit above them in the table.

READING, ENGLAND – MARCH 06: Michael Olise of Reading celebrates with teammates Lucas Eduardo Santos Joao, Liam Moore, and Omar Richards after scoring his team’s first goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Reading and Sheffield Wednesday at Madejski Stadium on March 06, 2021, in Reading, England. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

The form of rising star Michael Olise has proved vital, with the 19-year-old registering 15 goal contributions so far this term (five goals, ten assists).

Currently, the Berkshire side have a three-point gap to seventh-placed Bournemouth. Although, the Cherries have a game in hand on Reading.

Bournemouth

Following Eddie Howe’s departure at the end of the Premier League season, Bournemouth had new manager Jason Tindall in the dugout. The new boss had a positive start to his tenure, as the South Coast side only suffered three defeats in their first 23 games.

Four straight league defeats between mid-January and early February saw the Cherries plummet down the Championship. Jason Tindall then lost his job and was replaced by Jonathan Woodgate, who had only joined the Cherries coaching staff shortly before.

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND – MARCH 25: Manager Jonathan Woodgate of Bournemouth during a training session at the Vitality Stadium on March 25, 2021, in Bournemouth, England. (Photo by Robin Jones – AFC Bournemouth/AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images)

This has coincided with a slight improvement in league form, as Bournemouth’s star individuals start to find their confidence back.

It is vital that Dominic Solanke and Arnaut Danjuma remain fit, following Junior Stanislas going off injured in the 3-0 win over Swansea. The three of them are all in double figures for Championship goals this campaign.

Cardiff or Middlesbrough

MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 27: The big screen shows goal after Middlesbrough’s Paddy McNair scored the equaliser during the Sky Bet Championship match between Middlesbrough and Cardiff City at Riverside Stadium on February 27, 2021, in Middlesbrough, England. (Photo by Alex Dodd – CameraSport via Getty Images)

Neil Warnock’s former side Cardiff and current side Middlesbrough both have an outside chance of a play-off position.

Cardiff sit four points away from sixth-placed Reading, following their South Wales derby victory. However, their chances will be hindered on Bournemouth’s result in the Cherries game in hand.

The Bluebirds have two hard away matches at Reading and Brentford remaining, but crucially their other six fixtures remaining are against sides sat 15th or below. Therefore, it would be naïve to write Mick McCarthy’s side off completely.

Boro look more likely to be playing in the Championship next season, as the Teessiders sit six points outside the play-offs. Arguably, Boro’s next match away at Bournemouth will define whether their season is still alive.

Neil Warnock has signed a new managerial contract until the end of the 2021/22 season, so he will be hoping to guide Boro to the Premier League next year.

Championship Play-off Verdict

With Watford most likely to go up automatically, both Brentford and Swansea look set to be in the play-offs. Barnsley’s relentless run and seemingly easier fixtures will bode well for a spot in the top-six. Bournemouth or Reading look the safest bet for the last-spot, but the Cherries individual quality and experience would favour them to nick it.

Prediction- Swansea, Brentford, Barnsley, Bournemouth

The Championship play-offs are a lottery, whereby anything can happen. Form coming into the play-offs is crucial. Therefore if Barnsley maintain their current run and team spirit, it is hard to look past them winning it this season.

The Championship Crowd Podcast

For previews, reviews, and greater insight into the latest Championship news, then be sure to listen to this week’s Championship Crowd Podcast. It is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and many more platforms. However, if you would prefer to watch it visually, it is obtainable via the WDSportz YouTube channel.

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