In just over a week’s time, the promotion landscape could be a lot clearer.
The run of big matches began on Tuesday when Huddersfield continued their outstanding form with a late 1-0 win at home to Reading.
The Terriers have now recorded six successive victories in the Championship, including a 3-1 win over the Seagulls, and have won 11 of their past 13 league games.
There’s no doubt David Wagner is doing a superb job. In just 15 months, he has turned the team from a lower mid-table side to one fighting for promotion to the Premier League, with a win record of 47 per cent in his 68 matches in charge.
At the moment, Huddersfield look the most likely to deny either Albion or Newcastle an automatic promotion place, trailing Brighton by four points and the Toon Army by five.
The matches in the Championship continue to get bigger and better in the coming days. It’s getting towards the business end of the season and Saturday’s win at Barnsley could give Albion the confidence to get on a season-defining run.
Tomorrow, Albion host Reading at the Amex. A Seagulls win will almost certainly put Reading – who have perhaps been a surprise package under Jaap Stam this season – out of the running for a top-two finish. An automatic promotion place will probably also be just out of reach for Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday, who are both ten points behind the top two with games running out.
Newcastle then head to the Amex on Tuesday for a highly-anticipated match, before the Magpies travel to Huddersfield and Reading in their following two matches in a horrible run of away fixtures.
Prior to that, Huddersfield have a Yorkshire derby at Barnsley on Saturday, while Newcastle entertain an out-of-form Bristol City side, who have collected just one win in their past 12 matches.
There’s going to be several more twists and turns to come but Albion do not have the worst-looking run of fixtures following the upcoming blockbuster home matches.
The Seagulls are in an outstanding position, although this could be a season where 90 points, or more, is needed to finish in the top two.
Newcastle, Brighton and Huddersfield are all averaging two points or more per game, but not since 1998 has a team finished outside of the second tier promotion places with 90 points. Albion had 89 last year and missed out on goal difference.
The Seagulls also have a manager who has been there and done it in the Championship. Chris Hughton took charge of his 100th Albion league match in the win at Barnsley on Saturday and collected his 50th win.
A win ratio of 50 per cent in the remaining 14 games will certainly give Brighton a strong chance of returning to the top flight of English football for the first time since 1983.
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