The four-way battle for two play-off places – a look at Saturday’s key fixtures
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Ipswich head into the final day of the regular Championship season in a four-way battle for fifth and sixth spots. STUART WATSON looks at the key fixtures and permutations.
All matches kick-off at 12.15pm
BLACKBURN (9th) v IPSWICH TOWN (5th) – Live on Sky
Avoid defeat and Town’s play-off place is guaranteed. The Blues’ away form in 2015 has been patchy to say the least, but Mick McCarthy’s spirited group of players are always competitive and have proven time-and-time again that they can grind out results when they are needed the most.
Blackburn can finish no higher or lower than ninth. The Lancashire club’s home form reads: W10 D6 L6. Since their narrow FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Liverpool, Gary Bowyer’s side have gone five league games unbeaten (four of them draws).
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Strike duo Jordan Rhodes and Rudy Gestede have scored 39 league goals between them, but a makeshift back four looks leaky. On 11 occasions leads they have failed to win after taking the lead.
Veteran midfielder David Dunn will make an emotional last appearance for his hometown club, while teenage keeper David Raya is set to make only his second senior appearance.
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DERBY (6th) v READING (19th) – Live on Sky
With a goal difference far superior to all those around them (+32), Derby also know that a point will secure them a top-six spot.
The Rams may have slipped from top spot and automatic promotion favourites to sixth in the space of two months, but a six-game unbeaten run suggests they will get the job done against Reading.
The Royals – who suffered FA Cup semi-final heartache against Arsenal – are winless in nine league matches and have now lost four in a row following their 2-1 defeat at Rotherham on Tuesday night.
The form guide could be misleading though. Steve Clarke’s side have only been losing by the odd goal, while Derby – whose front line was led by Conor Sammon last weekend in the absence of the injured Darren Bent and semi-fit Chris Martin – have been leaking goals.
WOLVES (8th) v MILLWALL (22nd)
Realistically, the only way Wolves can finish in the top six is by winning their game and hoping that Derby lose.
In order to catch Ipswich they would need a seven-goal swing and that seems unlikely.
Wolves may have an in-form striker in Benik Afobe (eight goals in 11), but their 1-0 win at Wigan last weekend came off the back of two defeats and draw.
Millwall’s relegation was confirmed on Tuesday night when Rotherham beat Reading 2-1.
The Lions are finishing the campaign with fighting spirit under the management of club legend Neil Harris though and have lost just two of their last eight games.
BRENTFORD (7th) v WIGAN (23rd)
If Ipswich lose, Brentford could overtake them with victory and a three-goal swing.
The Bees may have been acclaimed for their free-flowing football, but their 2-0 win at Reading last weekend was only the eighth time Mark Warburton’s side have won by two or more goals this season.
Wigan’s relegation was also confirmed by Rotherham’s midweek win, this a season to forget for the Latics both on and off the field. Player-manager Gary Caldwell is ensuring his team don’t go down with a whimper though.