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Saturday, May 01, 2010

Championship: Final Day

Along with the crunch relegation showdown at Hillsborough, there are still some unresolved issues in the Championship going into the final day.

and Nobes take a look at who's fighting over what.

Battle for 3rd

3. Nottm Forest.......45....25.....78
4. Cardiff................45....21.....76
5. Leicester.............45....14.....73

Barring a mathematical miracle, Leicester City will definitely finish 5th, so who faces the Foxes in the play-offs will be decided on Sunday.

Currently, it's Cardiff who are in line to face Nigel Pearson's men. However, it could yet be an East Midlands derby with Nottingham Forest on City's agenda.

Cardiff know a win, coupled with Forest losing, will secure them 3rd place. A large win would also be enough if Forest draw.

On the final day, both sides are away from home, with Forest at Scunthorpe and Cardiff making the trip to Derby.

Derby County vs. Cardiff City

Twelve months on from their nightmare collapse, Cardiff will just be pleased to have nailed down their play-off place before the final day of the season.

They have consistently been in the top six all season and, although they've lost quite a few games, they have always shown the attacking quality that makes them a match for any side on their day.

The question ahead of this weekend though is how much do they really want to finish 3rd? Will they go hell to leather and risk injuries and suspensions before the play-offs begin? I doubt it.

I expect Dave Jones to rest a few players therefore. They're already assured of home advantage in the second leg, so does it matter who they face over two legs?
After all, each side in the play offs will be difficult for different reasons.

They'll also be aware that finishing third would open up the possibility of facing bitter local rivals Swansea in the semi finals. I think that's something they'd like to avoid almost as much as the local Welsh police.

So, for those reasons, coupled with Derby being a decent team at home and wanting to end on a high, I think the Rams will collect all three points.

Nobes' Prediction: Derby County 2 Cardiff City 1

Scunthorpe United vs. Nottingham Forest

Scunthorpe have had a very impressive season and I must hold my hands up and admit I was wrong. I predicted the Iron to get relegated and I was wrong.

They were even guaranteed safety with a couple of games to play. So, for them, their target has been achieved - which means they have nothing to play for.

The same can be said of Forest, although the game is certainly more important for the Reds. They are currently in the middle of a truly horrendous away run where they've gone nine away games without a win.

Although they are already guaranteed to finish either 3rd or 4th - thus giving them home advantage in the second leg of the play offs, Forest would like to get an away win before going into the promotion deciders.

I think Billy Davies will probably play a weakened team so he can rest his key players ahead of the play offs, but he will still be hopeful his side can record an away win at the tenth time of asking.

Nigel Adkins will know his team have the freedom to play open and expansive football, which could be dangerous for both teams. A home win on the last day of the season would add the finishing touches to an excellent season.

Turls' Prediction: Scunthorpe United 2 Nottingham Forest 2

The final play off spot

6. Blackpool............45....16.....69
7. Swansea.............45.....3......68

Just one place in the top six remains unaccounted for, and it's a straight fight between Blackpool and Swansea.

The Welsh club had held a place in the play-offs since December until their defeat at Sheffield United last week saw them overtaken by the Seasiders.

So, it's the Lancashire side who know they can secure 6th place and a shot in the play-offs if they match Swansea's final day result.

The Swans know they must win and hope Blackpool don't if they are to join local rivals Cardiff in the end of season lottery.

Both teams face mid-table sides at home on Sunday. Blackpool entertain Bristol City and Swansea host Doncaster.

Blackpool vs. Bristol City

The Tangerines have been picking up points at the right time and should be coming into the play offs with a decent run of form - just like they did when they got promoted to the Championship in 2007.

I say that they are coming into the play offs because I am certain of a Blackpool victory.

Lakes will be disappointed by the events in the North West, but he shouldn't be too disheartened. If they do get promoted, they'd be very lucky to pick up ten points.

Bristol City have been a club with nothing to play for for the large portion of 2010.

Guaranteed of safety and too far adrift of the play offs for a while, the Robins faithful have had to resort to planning trips to Norwich and Portsmouth next season.

With no pressure, it can lead to expansive, free-flowing football. However, in this instance, I think Blackpool will pick up three points simply because they know what's at stake.

Turls' Prediction: Blackpool 3 Bristol City 1

Swansea City vs. Doncaster Rovers

Let's be frank, Swansea will be kicking themselves they're even in this position. They've been comfortably nestled in the play-offs for the last four months - but have stumbled at the very worst moment.

It doesn't take a genius to work out where their problem has been either - they just simply haven't scored enough goals. They'd be setting a new record for making the top six despite scoring so few goals if they manage it on Sunday.

Being tough to score past at your end is all very well - but keeping clean sheets only ensures you don't lose, only goals win games. Sounds ridiculously obvious, but their 17 draws could prove very punishing.

Fortunately, they've still got a chance of getting back into the top six, but don't expect Doncaster to make it easy for them. Rovers are an excellent side on the ball and will be able to play with great freedom - shown by their 4-3 win over Scunthorpe last week.

In fact, this is a game for the purists. Both sides play an unconventional slow tempo game - more often seen on the continent. It's not typical of the Championship, and involves plenty of midfield possession play.

However, Swansea will have to change their style a bit simply because of the urgency of needing a win. I think they'll manage to win, just because of their greater need. I don't think it'll be enough to finish 6th though.

Nobes' Prediction: Swansea City 2 Doncaster Rovers 0

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