The Championship promotion race 2014 - Who is going up?

QPR 1

Stephen Pickering runs the rule over QPR, Leicester City, Burnley, Derby County, Leeds United, Nottingham Forest and several others.

All the key facts you need to know about the Championship promotion race 2014.

Queens Park Rangers - 5/6

Queens Park Rangers are comfortable favourites for the league title, with their squad of illustrious players setting the pace early on. New signing Charlie Austin has supplied the goals to put them top, but largely their first place position is down to incredible defending. The hoops have only conceded just 11 goals in 21 games this season, having kept a monstrous 13 clean-sheets.

There is little doubt about their strength in depth, nor their likelihood of losing players in January. I would be utterly gob-smacked if the West London side that have just announced plans for a 40k stadium aren't crowned Champions at the end of the season.

Leicester City - 9/2

Leicester City changed their approach to this season slightly, preserving with what they had after last season's play-off semi heartache.

City had been guilty of trying to buy the league in previous seasons, particularly under Sven. They thought nothing of splashing out on multi-million transfers and owning a large portion of the league's highest earners, all without too much success.

They are in a great position at the minute, and will undoubtedly finish within the top 6 at the very least. They're aiming for top 2, and I can't see why not. I think only a reinvigorated Derby County will be giving them problems during the run-in. 

Derby County - 8/1

After a shock manager change the Rams are well placed for a real crack at the top two this season, after years bouncing around mid-table. Nigel Clough was sacked after a poor run of form and losing to rivals Nottingham Forest on the 28th September.

A couple of days later Steve McClaren was brought in with Paul Simpson and Eric Steele to put some life back into the club. 10 games in and life couldn't be better for the trio. 8 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss have catapulted the Rams from mid-table into 4th and with a few shrewd signings, they look very dangerous.

You would always back the league's highest scorers to be promoted at the end of the season and with 12 more goals than any other side in the league - I don't think there is much doubting their quality.

Burnley - 9/1

Burnley started the season as the pace setters, and despite a few knocks back down to earth still look very good for a top 6 finish at the very least.

Sam Vokes and Danny Ings have created a striker partnership the rest of the league has struggled to deal with, 23 goals from their front two makes impressive reading. However, apart from Scott Arfield with 4, the rest are either on 1 or none - not so impressive.

I think the key thing for Burnley is to keep their manager, Sean Dyche, who is amongst the best in the Championship and keep the buzz around their promotion push going. I don't see them finishing in the top 2, but they have a strong claim for a top 6 finish.

Reading - 14/1

Reading were everyone's favourites for the league pre-season, with many predicting a QPR meltdown. Reading haven't exactly been to the standard they would have liked, but have still shown enough to be up and around there at the end of the season.

I believe Reading will make the play-offs this season, and have enough in their squad to be the one that wins the play-offs too. Adkins is a good manager, who will know what it takes and could be key to the end of season run-in.

Nottingham Forest - 25/1

Nottingham Forest were a club that gambled for promotion this season, putting their money where their mouth is.

They started strongly, and the signing of Kelvin Wilson particularly looked like it could be key to their promotion chances, however, since he got injured it's been sour reading for Reds fans.

I think for Forest it all depends on what happens in January, and when they can get injured players back in the side. At the minute their side just lacks the quality of a proper top 6 side, perhaps with a little more investment in January and players coming back from injury, they could make a late booking to the play-offs.

Leeds United - 28/1

Leeds have managed to get themselves truly into the promotion picture this season, largely to star striker Ross McCormack. Leeds are defensively a decent side, and McCormack has the ammunition to win them games but I think the midfield could do with improving.

Statistically Leeds United are quite unimpressive, in terms of possession, they are usually the side chasing the ball as opposed to keeping the ball. They've made around 1,000 less passes than Nottingham Forest, 2,000 less passes than Derby County and nearly 3,000 less passes than league leaders QPR this season - astonishing statistics.

I believe that a few more quality midfield players will be able to improve Leeds United's chances a lot, otherwise I can't see them finishing in the play-offs this season.

Brighton - 40/1

Brighton have been tortured with injuries so far this season, and the transitional period with their new manager hasn't helped matters. none-the-less, last seasons play-off semi finalist are still in the promotion fight and once they get key players back, it's impossible to discredit them for another top 6 finish.

Leonardo Ulloa and Liam Bridcutt will be the key returnee's to their side and once they're fully fit and playing week-in week-out then they will be a side that takes some stopping.

Their main threat is old manager Gus Poyet going back to his old side in January and pinching their players. They do have Premier League quality in their side, so replacing that within a reasonable budget is a difficult job to do.

Ipswich Town, Wigan Athletic - 66/1

Ipswich and Wigan come in at 66/1 for the title, and I think it will be beyond both sides this season.

Ipswich have shown good form recently, but I don't feel their squad is quite up to scratch for what it takes to finish in the play-offs. I think Mick McCarthy has done a good job with what he has, but would need recruits to get to the next level.

Wigan Athletic came down as FA Cup champions and many tipped them for an easy ride back to the Premier League. They've already chopped their manager after a poor run of form saw them stranded mid-table but have made a shrewd appointment in Uwe Rosler. I think this season is perhaps beyond them, but could be a good shout for next year.

Watford - 80/1

Last seasons play-off finalists have endured an unbelievable run that has seen them fall out the top-half all together. one win in 10 has took Zola to the limit of his patience and has walked away from his post as manager, the Pozzo family now need to pick the right man to guide them back up the table and back into the promotion fight. 

I think this season may have bypassed them, but with the talent they have and can attract due to their 'connections' then I think it's an extremely attractive job.

images: © braveheartsportsnetwork, © Tom Cuppens

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