Championship Promotion Watch: Leicester runaway leaders, but who else could join them?

Rob Munro

Leicester City are clear favourites in the race for promotion to the Premier League, but who else is likely to join them? And who should we want to come up?

Leicester City

The surprising runaway favourites as Nigel Pearson has managed to finally turn a team that have been threatening promotion for a long time into an unstoppable winning machine. It'll come at the right time too, as without promotion they'll likely lose several players to expiring contracts, among them goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

There's still a way to go, but it'll take a pretty hefty collapse now for Leicester to fail, something that all available evidence suggests is very unlikely.

Odds: 3/5

Would they be nice to have around?

Well, possibly. Anthony Knockaert is not quite the second coming of Eric Cantona that his 'Brace of the Century' of yesteryear suggested, but he's undoubtedly an interesting and exciting player that would be good to have in the Premier League. Riyad Mahrez also looks like he could be one to watch. The rest, however is a team of Championship lifers. Gary Taylor-Fletcher, Sean St. Ledger, Kevin Philips, David Nugent, Dean Hammond ... investment from the owners could well make them easier on the eye but this is not the most exciting team in the division.

Queens Park Rangers

Harry Redknapp is still arguably underachieving at Queens Park Rangers - initially he was battling it out with Leicester at the top of the table, clear of the rest of the stragglers, but now the Foxes have pulled themselves miles clear and QPR are just three points ahead in the automatic promotion spots. An interesting January, heavy on striker acquisition, could help Redknapp's men regroup, and there's no doubt they have a hugely talented squad. While they may not have been as good as they could be, one has to assume that Harry will surely make the club's superior resources and quality tell in the end.

Odds: Evens

Would they be nice to have around?

If you love Harry Redknapp, certainly. And you can expect that his side, if it comes up, will be like all Harry Redknapp sides. Pragmatic without being boring, getting in a Great Bunch Of Lads™ from former players Redknapp has worked with an off-the-wall bargains. They'll probably be one of the most competitive, at least. Leicester have been far better this season, but QPR arguably look better equipped to survive in the Premier League.

Burnley

Almost something of an unknown quantity. Unlike Blackpool, when Burnley suffered relegation after fluking promotion, they reinvested the Premier League money and have been around the promotion fight plenty thereafter. They've lost big players in recent seasons, first Jay Rodriguez and then Charlie Austin, but they've managed, under the management of Sean Dyche, to remain in the hunt. Their squad is something of an unknown quantity, and it's certainly very thin, but they look like they'll be fighting on to the bitter end.

Odds: 2/1

Would they be nice to have around?

Probably. With Sean "Stone Cold" Dyche, and his Louis-CK-as-a-P.E.-teacher-at-a-leather-bar aesthetic, the side aren't just fun on the pitch. There's a pretty fun side here that generally try to play football the right way, but there is the question of how many of them are actually good enough to play in the Premier League. They could be facing a pretty severe mismatch if they do come up and can't find the right buys.

Derby County

Years of odd decisions and floundering around with poor squads have finally ended in the East Midlands, with Derby emerging with a surprisingly excellent group and the results on the pitch doing it justice. Inconsistency was their downfall last season, but this year they've been very good, and look certain to claim a spot in the playoffs.

Odds: 3/1

Would they be nice to have around?

Yes. A fairly young side, including talents like Mason Bennett, Jeff Hendrick, and of course Will Hughes, there are two reasons to want them to come up. Firstly because it'll be interesting to see how their kids cope in the Premier League, and secondly because they've been badly short of success for a long time and failure to come up may see them struggle to keep a young side together. There's a good team in there, one that'll need heavy reinforcement to survive in the Premier League, but it's far from beyond them.

Nottingham Forest

The last few years have been strange for Forest, and they got stranger when new owners who were seemingly more willing to invest re-appointed the highly divisive Billy Davies as manager. The talent at the upper end of the table has left the Scot unable to really challenge for automatic promotion, and it seems likely that yet another spot in the playoffs beckons. That's not been a great thing for Forest in recent seasons, but hey, maybe it'll all be different this time, look at Cardiff.

Odds: 3/1

Would they be nice to have around?

Maybe. Billy Davies is at least guaranteed to annoy people and suffer at least one meltdown in a Premier League season, while the club have decent players and surely have the financial clout to buy more. Plus, it's Nottingham Forest. They won the European Cup twice, and they haven't been in the top tier for years. Whether you think that means they should come back or it means they've had their moment in the sun is up to the reader.

Reading

Reading Football Club (Listeni/ˈrɛdɪŋ/ RED-ing) is an English professional football club, based in Reading, that plays in the Championship. The club competed in the 2012-13 Premier League season, having gained promotion at the end of the 2011-12 season, after winning the Championship. Reading is competing in the Championship again this season having been relegated after one year back in the top flight.

Odds: 4/1

Would they be nice to have around?

A team of mostly dull players playing Championship-football-by-numbers stuff in a bid to get promoted thus adding one of England's dullest towns to the collection of Premier League away days. Sorry, but no.

And the rest....

That's not all of course, with a few outside bets of making the playoffs still lurking in mid-table. Something went very badly wrong at Leeds United, but then after even more turmoil the team bizarrely improved to thrash Huddersfield 5-1. They'd have to go on a remarkable run, but it's not beyond them.

Ipswich are only one place below the playoffs but look something of a shot bolt. Blackburn are probably more likely, with the quality they have in their squad, while Middlesbrough and Watford probably started too badly to recover at this point. The latter have plenty of talent while the former have been much-improved since securing the coup of getting Aitor Karanka in as manager. Yet barring a miracle, they'll be two to watch for next season rather than this.

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