With the four participants left in the Championship automatic promotion race skidding around the final bend ahead of a dash to the finish line, it’s about time the news.bwin.com team weighed in with their prediction on who’ll be savouring champagne showers in two weeks’ time.
Of Bournemouth, Norwich, Watford and Middlesbrough, who occupy places one to four respectively, our money is on the two frontrunners to remain in their positions of prominence between now and game 46’s conclusion.
Those who back them to do so will get paid out at a respectable 9/4 and there are ample factors quantifying the value of this price.
Bournemouth losing their spot at the top of the standings is difficult to conceive at this stage, what with their enormous goal difference, stellar form and cruise of a run in.
Eddie Howe’s men must successfully navigate three gimmies to ensure they book they go up as champions, with two home games against Sheffield Wednesday and Bolton preceding a final-day trip to Charlton.
Each are marooned in mid-table with only their summer holidays to look forward to and they were all beaten in their corresponding collisions with the Cherries earlier in the campaign.
Having won seven of their last nine heading into this comfortable triptych of fixtures – the previous three being against teams with an identical lack of motivation in Birmingham, Brighton and Reading – they’re perfectly poised to sidestep the tiny banana skins dotting their path to be first past the post.
Another factor working in their favour is that two of their competitors still have to face one another, with Norwich hosting Boro at Carrow Road.
The loser will be forced to abandon their hopes of automatic promotion with no room for error remaining at this stage.
Given Aitor Karanka’s side’s recent hammerings at Bournemouth and Watford – two games they lost by a 5-0 aggregate score and can consider themselves fortunate it wasn’t worse – the Canaries must be favoured to see them off in this final heavyweight bout of the regular season.
Such an eventuality is rated at 95/100; a very generous offering taking both Boro’s big-game bottling and the five straight wins recorded by Alex Neil’s outfit.
Assuming they do the business, the Norfolk club can canter into second, with low-hanging fruit to plunder in the shape lowly Rotherham and Fulham to follow.
Victories in all three would render whatever Watford do in their final three matches irrelevant, unless, of course, the Hornets rustle the net at an obscene rate in their final three to steal second on goal difference.