There are just eight games left to play in the Championship, and the battle to avoid the drop to League One couldn’t be closer. We took a closer look at the bottom eight’s remaining fixtures to see who may stand the best chance of staying up.
The Fixture List
- Numbers correspond to opponent's current place in the table
- Red = games against teams in top ten
- Grey = games against teams 11th-16th
- Green = games against teams in bottom eight
The Games You Don’t Want To Play
All the teams in the bottom eight still have to face at least three of the teams still in contention for automatic promotion or the play-offs. However, Reading are the only side to face three away from home, with very tough trips to Aston Villa, Fulham and Cardiff still to come for the Royals. That said, we are one of only three relegation contenders that don’t still have to face league leaders Wolves, who remain comfortably the best team in the division.
The Six Pointers
Arguably the most crucial fixtures in the run-in will be when teams have the opportunity to take points off each other. Burton are in the best position in this situation, as they are still to play four of the teams around them - Birmingham (A), Hull (H), Sunderland (A) and Bolton (H) - more than anyone else. At the other end of the scale, Barnsley’s game with Bolton is The Tyke’s only fixture with a relegation rival.
Reading and Hull don’t look best placed in this scenario either, as both only have virtually safe Sheffield Wednesday and one other team around them left to play. Gameweek 43 could be a key weekend, as all of the bottom eight (except Birmingham and Burton) face each other.
The Final Day
With the battle to avoid the drop as tight as it currently is, it could well go all the way to the last day of action on May 6th. Reading’s trip to second place Cardiff is certainly daunting, but fortunately we aren’t alone in having a tricky final day fixture. Barnsley and Burton also have tough away games at Derby and Preston respectively, whilst Birmingham host Fulham and Sunderland (who may well be already relegated by then anyway) welcome Wolves.
I might add that whilst these games currently look like difficult, if the respective high-flying opponents have nothing to play for having secured/missed out on automatic promotion/the play-offs, then these matches may well be golden opportunities to pick up points on the final day.
Who Has The Toughest Run-In?
I don’t want to worry you here, but the average league position of Reading’s remaining opponents is just under 11th. On that basis, statistically only Hull (who are currently three points ahead of Reading) have a harder run-in, with their remaining opponents averaging a league placing of 10th. At the other end of the scale, the teams that Bolton have left to face average 14th in the table, followed by Burton’s remaining opponents who average 13th.
However, it could be argued the Brewers potentially have the toughest run-in, as all of the sides they face are either currently in the top ten or bottom eight, meaning they still have plenty to play for and will provide a tricky test. Indeed, dropping points to teams around you is likely to prove much more costly than dropping points to any other teams. Meanwhile, half of Barnsley’s remaining opponents sit in mid-table, so may not provide as much of a challenge as they might be ‘on the beach’, a phrase that begins to get mentioned at this time of year.
You can keep up to date each week with how Reading’s rivals are getting on with our Relegation Watch feature, whilst in the coming days we’ll be getting the views of the editorial team to see which three sides they think will be playing in League One next season.