Championship promotion watch: Contenders in action this weekend

Matthew Lewis

With five games left to go, the race for promotion to the Premier League is heating up. We look at the contenders in action this weekend.

Friday, 7:45 p.m. BST :

Leicester City vs. Birmingham City

Leicester's shocking form recently has seen them fall out of the playoffs altogether, but they're only two points behind 6th-placed Brighton and so have more than enough time to get back into the picture. A win here against an inconsistent Birmingham City will put them back there temporarily before the other teams play on Sunday, and it's a game they should be expecting victory from. The Foxes' financial clout should see them in good stead once they get up, but that's proving easier said than done.

Saturday, 3 p.m. BST:

Bristol City vs. Bolton

Bolton are just two points away from the playoffs after some good end-of-season form, and they face Bristol City, who are stone-bottom. The hosts will need a miracle to escape the drop, and a victory for the Trotters here will all but send them down, but the real story will be for Bolton and their unlikely immediate return to the Premier League. If they can sustain their good form into the playoffs themselves, they'll have a very good chance.

Cardiff City vs. Nottingham Forest

This is the big one. Cardiff's form has stuttered like crazy as the end of the season approaches, and although they have a 6-point lead at the top of the table, and a 9-point one in the automatic promotion spots, they face the league's most in-form team at home. Since Billy Davies' return to Forest, his side have not lost a game. Making second place will be too much of an ask, but if they can keep their form going into the playoffs, their sheer refusal to lose games will probably make them favourites to prevail. A win for Cardiff here, on the other hand, will pretty much put them over the finish line.

Ipswich Town vs. Hull City

Ipswich aren't going up, and they aren't going down. Hull City, meanwhile, are the unlikely second-placed team in the Championship as they look to return to the Premier League for the first time since the Phil Brown era. They only have a three-point lead and inferior goal difference to Watford, so a defeat could see them in third by the end of the day, but given Cardiff's stuttering form, there is a chance that the Tigers could win the whole thing. They'll almost certainly make the play-offs, but Steve Bruce's men should look to secure automatic promotion now they have the advantage.

Middlesbrough vs. Brighton

Brighton's mini-revival has seen them take the last playoff spot from Leicester for now, but they have the Foxes and Bolton just two points behind them, so have almost no margin for error. And that's bad news, because they have a very tricky away trip to the Riverside to negotiate. Middlesbrough are seven points off the playoffs themselves - it would be most unlikely, but not impossible for them to get the playoffs, although anything but a win here will surely end their hopes.

Peterborough vs. Watford

Watford have eleven points between them and falling out of the playoffs, so there is little risk they'll fail to be in contention for a spot at Wembley, but they could avoid all uncertainty by making up the three-point deficit with Hull City above them. They're away at Peterborough, who are 23rd, but there's one problem - the Posh are fighting for their lives in an extremely fierce relegation battle, and are doing so pretty effectively as a good recent run has seen them escape after looking doomed all season. This game could have huge ramifications at both ends of the table.

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