Going into the penultimate match of the season, Reading look to be in a very strong position for avoiding relegation. Barnsley’s 3-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night (cheers Aitor, the cheque’s in the post) means there’s a healthy gap of five points between the Royals and the bottom three.
However, stranger things than an 11th hour collapse on the way to League One have happened, so it’s worth running through all the possible scenarios ahead of the Saturday’s games.
First, a few quick words on what can’t happen. Burton Albion’s late turnaround at the Stadium of Light mathematically consigned Sunderland to relegation, whilst Nigel Adkins’ Hull City have kept themselves in the division for at least one more season thanks to a run of two wins and one draw in their last five.
That leaves five teams to desperately battle to stay out of the two remaining relegation places.
What are the fixtures?
Barnsley vs Brentford
Burton Albion vs Bolton Wanderers
Queens Park Rangers vs Birmingham City
Reading vs Ipswich Town
The Royals can secure Championship football with a win over Ipswich Town at the Mad Stad - if they get three points, they’ll definitely be in the second tier next season. However, a draw could be enough if both Barnsley and Burton fail to win. The same applies for Garry Monk’s Blues who also sit on 43 points.
Barnsley will be pulling off a major shock if they can get anything from Brentford who, having won four and drawn one in their last five, are on the cusp of the play-offs. That said, a cornered Tyke isn’t to be under-estimated, and their desperation could push them over the line.
Meanwhile, a tasty six-pointer at the Pirelli complicates things, giving a golden opportunity to both Bolton and Burton to claw themselves out of danger. Assuming Barnsley fail to win, Burton can lift themselves out of the drop zone with a win, although victory for Bolton would consign Barnsley and Burton to a League One campaign in 2018/19.
A draw wouldn’t be much good for either side - it would likely leave the fate of that group of three ‘B teams’ to be settled on May 6 (fixtures below).
Barnsley 0-2 Brentford
Burton Albion 2-1 Bolton Wanderers
Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Birmingham City
Reading 1-1 Ipswich Town
I fancy Burton to edge Bolton - home advantage and all that - whilst Brentford should have too much for Barnsley (I’m tipping the Bees for a play-off spot anyway). Birmingham City and Reading, both poor for so much of this season, will struggle to get over the line but will manage it anyway... just.
Final day fixtures
Birmingham City vs Fulham
Bolton Wanderers vs Nottingham Forest
Cardiff City vs Reading
Derby County vs Barnsley
Preston North End vs Burton Albion
Who do you think is heading down to the third tier? Let us know in the comments, on Twitter or Facebook.