Second half of the season has just begun, and many clubs are still chasing their chances of promotion. Play-offs are always most entertaining part of season, but if you have a chance for getting a straight promotion, you need to fight for it. This season seems special, as too many clubs have a chance to get a second spot and to play in Premier League next season. Some clubs are having surprisingly good run, while others that invested big money on transfers have failed to achieve what everyone expected from them. Although it’s only half of season, it is hard not to ask yourself, who will finish second in Championship and get a straight promotion?
Maybe the start of the season wasn’t the best for Derby, but it didn’t take long for Gary Rowett to get the best out of his squad and start their winning run. They have great players in every position and their substitutes can often make a big difference. One of the most effective players for Derby County this season has been Matej Vydra. It is certain that their attacking style of play suits him perfectly, he scored 15 goals so far and if he continues this form, he can easily be Championship top scorer this season. Other than their incredible attack, Gary Rowett has made magnificent defensive system, and the fact that they are capable to make opposition’s chances to the minimum is one of the biggest advantages that they have in their fight for second spot.
Cardiff had a biggest chance to finish second, but their injury list kept getting bigger and it led them to the series of losses. Now January came and they have brought a few players to improve their performance. Marko Grujic came on loan from Liverpool and Yanic Wildschut was brought from Norwich. They are both first team players and it should be expected now from Cardiff to improve their away performance and concede less. If they stay injury free, Neil Warnock and Cardiff City can easily finish second.
If teams with the best defence have the biggest chance of getting a straight promotion, than Aston Villa will certainly be in fight for second place until the end of the season. Steve Bruce has proved that he can completely rely on his defence and play without pressure in attack. And although they were short on strikers at one point, currently Scot Hogan has found his form and in combination with Robert Snodgrass he is doing wonders for Aston Villa. That perfect balance between young and more experienced players that knows the league better is working for Aston Villa as they look unstoppable once they start winning.
This month hasn’t been great for Lee Johnson and Bristol City, but they have proved already that they are capable and ready to fight for a straight promotion. It appears that their amazing run in Carabao Cup has led them to this losing run as their schedule is quite busy and players don’t have enough time to rest. However, they have been in excellent form so far as they are quite good in defence and magnificent in attack. Their best defender this season, Aden Flint, has not only been great in defence, but his headers are quite often finishing in the back of a net. Bobby Reid is in amazing form too, and their manager Lee Johnson is not giving up on their 4-4-2 formation that seems to be working great for them this season.
After their losing run in December, when they’ve lost their second spot, Sheffield United is getting back on tracks as they started winning again. Finishing first in League One was an easy challenge for team like Sheffield United, but can they finish second in Championship and get a straight promotion? Of course they can! Their overall performance has been magnificent this season and transfers they have made in January are only proving once again that they’ve got the ambition to fight for a straight promotion. If they start defending better, their fight for second spot will certainly not be over soon.
Although it sounds strange, Fulham can get a second spot too. Only one month ago they were close to the bottom having a terrible run, and now they are one point away from play-offs and eight points away from second spot. Slavisa Jokanovic has proved before that he can get a promotion in Championship, and there is no reason for anyone to think that he cannot do it again. Their attractive style of play can be quite effective against many opponents and young talents like Ryan Sessegnon are often bringing a hunger for a win. Although a play-off spot looks more realistic for Fulham, if they continue their winning run, they can easily start fighting for a second spot too.
Middlesbrough hasn’t been playing up to their full potential this season. They have invested a lot in their squad over summer, but Garry Monk’s results haven’t matched with club’s ambition to go for a straight promotion. Now they’ve got a proven manager, and Tony Pulis will certainly have better results. They needed someone to improve their defence and make their attack playing without pressure, and by all means, Tony Pulis is the right man for that job. It is still early to say if he has made their performance better, but two away wins in a row for him are certainly suggesting that he is heading in the right direction.