Chase for The Championship – Down to the wire?

With Brighton winning away in London on the Friday and Newcastle United losing on the Saturday, it saw the two teams swap places as they aim for glory. It was the seagulls third win in six days and looks enough to keep them in the automatic promotion spots, but as we have seen, nothing is quite guaranteed. For Friday’s game it looked like it could fizzle out in to a draw that would have quite suited their rivals Newcastle.

Glenn Murray had bagged his 21st of the season and his goals going on in the final few games will prove crucial to the South Coast outfit’s promotion chances. Chances were few and far between either of the clubs (eight out of twenty eight combined) but sometimes you just need to convert the ones you take and two out of three for Brighton was enough.

For Newcastle United, their day was the opposite. They were up against it playing Sheffield Wednesday who themselves aiming for a play off spot. It didn’t get any better after 29 minutes when they lost their star striker Dwight Gayle. Despite having the more shots and possession, Rafa Benitez’s men showed that stats don’t count for nothing. Like the game at Loftus Road, it was one of second half showing. A goal on hour and one ten minutes later had most certainly secured the points for the Owls, even though Jonjo Shelvey had netted for Newcastle close to the end.

Huddersfield who are currently third, may have a game in hand but they have a ten point deficit and it could very well be the Easter weekend fixtures that seal the automatic promotion or see oportunities still open. Huddersfield host Preston on Friday and travel to Derby County on the Monday. Two top ten teams battling for position more than anything as they seem too far back in hoping for a playoff spot but for Huddersfield automatic promotion is the feint hope they have whilst they look to cement their playoff spot. Seven points separate Huddersfield and Derby County so points will be crucial come this weekend.

Brighton face Wolves on Good Friday and host Wigan on Easter Monday whilst Newcastle host another promotion chaser in the form of Leeds United and struggling Ipswich. Brighton should be the happier of the two clubs come Tuesday morning as they should take six points, whilst Newcastle United may find themselves only picking up four, especially if they are without their top scorer Dwight Gayle.

Reading, who are a point behind Huddersfield will be hoping to reclaim third spot, which for a number of weeks was their home. Their last game was one to forget as they went crashing to a 7-1 defeat away to Norwich City. Their run in though gives them hope for securing a playoff spot, Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest break up the two games against relegation favourites Wigan and doomed Rotherham. Whilst Nottingham Forest find themselves at the wrong end of the table, they should be safe from the drop.

Having had a bad start to the season, Leeds United are doing their bit to make sure they have a playoff hope and a return to the top flight once more. They though have a marginally easier run in. Apart from the trip to Newcastle on Good Friday and a home game against promotion rivals Norwich City at the end of April, it’s a case of the strugglers. Of course though never understimate the strugglers. They will have all to play for and will no doubt not have a care in the world with regards to who is challenging for the title or chasing a play off place.

Fulham who lie just outside the playoff spots by two points will be hoping that their recent good form will keep them moving higher and into the playoff spots although for the West London club, it will be a little more trickier journey. Fulham travel to Norwich on Good Friday whilst hosting Villa on the Monday. Fellow promotion chasers Huddersfield, who will have their own place to secure host Fulham in the penultimate game whilst a game against midtable Brentford brings their season to a close.

It’s going to be quite close and exciting for fans of the top six seven although for Brighton given their position, they will be the more happier. A top two spot for them is definitely going to happen, it’s just down to whether they or Newcastle have the bottle to go the stay the course. Newcastle with the experience and leadership of Rafa Benitez should guide them to another championship trophy and return to the Premier League.

Playoffs? well that’s where the fun starts and although the current spot takers are Huddersfield, Reading Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday, I think one of the later could find themselves losing out to Fulham.


Owners, referees, Ballon D’or

Leeds United fans must wonder when everything will be alright again. If its not the coming and going of managers, this time it’s the owner. Italian Massimo Cellino has been disqualified from owning the club due to failing the League’s fit and proper ownership test. Paper work that had been acquired by the League had shown the Italian to be guilty of tax evasion. He had received a heavy fine from the Italian court back in March. This had lead to the Football League blocking his takeover. This was over ruled by an independent QC. Some might now be saying ‘we told you so’. Of course it doesnt end there as the Italian, it is likely that he will appeal this decision. Should he lose, he will be back in March when the punishment will have been served. That of course will help neither the club or the fans who just want to see football being the centre of the club news and not ownership battles or manager sackings. It is a sad time for Leeds United who found themselves relegated from the Premier League in 2007 and plunged into administration. This is a club of course that had seen a few glory days under the management of Don Revie in the 1960’s and 70’s.

Man City were robbed of an early penalty opportunity after Sergio Aguero was brought down in the area. The referee though was having none of it and opted to show the Argentinian a yellow card for simulation. It would seem that maybe past history was on the mind of the official when he made that decision. Sadly though it should be the moment in the match that the referee makes his decision on. It would of course have been no different to that of one Luis Suarez who often found himself missing out on legitimate free kicks and penalties all because of his diving intent.

It’s the start of December and in football that means its Ballon D’or time or more commonly known as the Messi & Ronaldo club. Cristiano Ronaldo is the current holder as we wait to hear the announcement. Last year Franck Ribery came third ending the Spain & Barcelona dominance for the previous three years. The third place for the 2014 award is likely to go to Manuel Neur of Bayern Munich and Germany. It will be the first time since 2002 that a German has finished in the top three, back when it was the World Footballer of The Year. That year was also a German goalkeeper in the form of Oliver Kahn, who also played for Bayern Munich. With Messi still only 27 and Ronaldo 29, it would appear only an injury to either player would prevent them battling for the top honour.

Newcastle United find themselves without keeper Tim Krul for six weeks. The Dutchman suffered ankle ligament damage in pre match training. The Toon’s good start has seen them rise to ninth despite the regular discontent from the fans. The injury to Krul is also one of the last things that Pardew requires as he already has several key players out with injury. Interesting times lay ahead for Magpies.