There are only two matchweeks left in the English Championship season. The 2014-15 campaign thus far has been a display of some of the most competitive football in any country on any level. There are four teams still jockeying for automatic promotion to the Premiership with as many as four more with realistic aspirations for promotion playoffs. These eight squads have taken scalps from one another through 44 grueling games. It will be a test of wills to see who gets to bask in the riches of the Barclays Premier League in 2015-16. It will also allow some of the lower table teams to play spoiler as none of the eight top contenders play each other in the final two weeks. Without further ado, let's take a look at our eight contenders and rate their chances for promotion.
GAMES LEFT: @ BRIGHTON (4/25), vs SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY (5/2)
Watford are in the driver's seat of the Championship, unbeaten in their last five matches. They took a hard fought point off chasers Derby County and the full three from third place Middlesbrough. They are the only team in the division that can boast two twenty goal scorers in Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo. They are the United Nations of the Championship with 16 countries represented in their 25 man outfit. The Hornets have a fairly easy final two games going to lower table Brighton this Saturday and hosting mid table Sheffield Wednesday on the season's final day. They will get a win out of at least one of those games to secure automatic promotion to the Premiership.
GAMES LEFT: @ BOLTON (4/27), @ CHARLTON ATHLETIC (5/2)
Bournemouth are one of the funner teams chasing promotion. They've never made it above the second division of English football in their history. They play a very attacking style of football that is as entertaining to neutral viewers as it must be stressful for supporters. The Cherries are the highest scoring side in the Championship, led by offseason signing Callum Wilson and his 19 goals. They have a Premier League tested goalkeeper in Artur Boruc (on loan from Southampton) and an experienced defense. They are the only team of the eight with two road ties left. That slight disadvantage has me putting them out of the automatic qualification places. On 84 points however, there is no way they can fall out of the playoff spots. Nevertheless, I think they will fall in said playoffs and toil another year in England's second division.
GAMES LEFT: @ FULHAM (4/25), vs BRIGHTON (5/2)
Middlesbrough are probably the most complete team making a run at the Premier League. They boast the league's stingiest defense as well as the division's Player of the Year in striker Patrick Bamford. The 21 year old Bamford, on loan from Chelsea, has scored 17 goals this season and is subject to much transfer speculation whether or not the Smoggies come up. Of the teams featured here, Boro had the longest previous spell in the Premier League. They were apart of the top tier for eleven years before their relegation in 2009. They'll be back this year as their last two fixtures away to disappointing Fulham and home to near bottom Brighton. Two wins will put them in line for automatic promotion to the BPL.
GAMES LEFT: @ ROTHERHAM (4/25), vs FULHAM (5/2)
Norwich City is my pick to win their way into the Premier League via the promotion playoffs. I know that may keep you from reading the rest of the article but take my pick with a grain of salt. Of the past five winners of the promotion playoffs, only two (West Ham in 2011-12 & Swansea City in 2010-11) have finished third in the table in the regular season. The Canaries have tons of Premier League experience on their roster and a finalist for Football League Young Player of the Year in Nathan Redmond. They go to relegation fodder Rotherham United this Saturday before welcoming Fulham next weekend. With the goals flowing, it'll just be two more games after that before Carrow Road plays hosts to Premier League fixtures again.
GAMES LEFT: @ MILLWALL (4/25), vs READING (5/2)
If there is any team that deserves another shot at the Premier League, it is Derby County. In their last visit to the top flight, they were relegated by March, registered the lowest point total ever (11), and won just a single game. This team has a chance to wipe that memory from their fan's minds in the coming weeks. Darren Bent's career has been rejuvenated under former England head man Steve McLaren and fellow striker Chris Martin has the eye of several outfits already in the BPL. The Rams also have a favorable final two contests. They host the soon to be relegated Millwall and then go to a Reading side still reeling from their lengthy FA Cup run. In the end however, Derby will be back in the Championship after the playoffs. Their defense is just too porous to my liking as they've allowed 50 goals, tied for the most among sides currently in the playoffs.
GAMES LEFT: vs NOTTINGHAM FOREST (4/25), @ BLACKBURN (5/2)
Ipswich is the team currently in the playoff picture with the most chance of falling out. They hold a three point lead over the two teams on the outside looking in right now but have been shaky as of late. They failed to put away Wolves for good in their last game and needed some late game magic to upend dreadful Blackpool several games back. They sport the Championship's leading scorer in Irish striker Daryl Murphy with 22 goals. He's cooled off recently though with just one tally in his past seven games in the league. Ipswich host Nottingham Forest before going to Blackburn Rovers on the final day. They need at least one win to secure themselves a spot in the playoffs. Sadly, I don't see the Tractor Boys pulling it off with their shaky back line. A thirteenth consecutive year in the Championship awaits.
GAMES LEFT: @ READING (4/25), vs WIGAN (5/2)
The least recognizable team fighting for promotion has to be Brentford FC. The London outfit is looking for their second consecutive promotion after coming up to the Championship as an automatic qualifier from League One a year ago. They are on the periphery of the playoff scene currently but should not be counted out. Rookie manager Mark Warburton has the Bees playing a very open brand of football. He needs to because his defense is the worst among the top half of the table, conceding 59 goals. They may sneak in travelling to a weary Reading this week before hosting relegation bound Wigan Athletic next Saturday. In the end, they'll most likely miss out on the chance to go up.
GAMES LEFT: @ WIGAN (4/25), vs MILLWALL (5/2)
Wolverhampton Wanderers are my last team in to the promotion playoffs. The 2014-15 Wolves season has been a roller coaster ride but it ends on a smooth note. They are the only team in the hunt to have two soon to be relegated sides left on their schedule. They'll head to doomed Wigan Athletic this Saturday before having Millwall at Molineux on the last day. They need two wins to control their own destiny. The only knock on this team is that they've never had to scrape their way in. They won League One last year to get to the Championship and also won the league in 2008/09 to go up to the Premier League. I think they have the mettle to get into the playoffs via the backdoor, but not much more past that.
What do you think about my picks to get the call of the Premier League? Leave a comment with who you think is going up and who is destined for another year in the second tier. Follow Bleeding Your Colors on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. You can follow me on Twitter @TREVORutley. It is going to be a raucous last couple weeks in the battle for promotion, enjoy it folks!
Trevor Utley has been following European soccer for quite some time and hasn't seen a division this competitive ever.
Image Credits: All crests (wikipedia.org)