What if I told you there was a professional soccer league where the competition at the top of the standings was so tight that there’s a new leader practically every week, four teams who could win the league and just two points separating those four teams with four games left to play?
[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup ]
Oh, and the quality of soccer played in this league is pretty darn good as well — does that sound like something you might be interested in? If so, the English Championship is probably the league for you.
Top four teams win, stay bunched at the summit
Just look at that. It’s either the most beautiful league standings in the world, or, if you happen to be a fan of one of the above teams, the main source of stress and anxiety currently taking over your life. Before the weekend started, it looked exactly the same, sans three points for everybody.
Bournemouth beat Brighton, 2-0, on Friday night, then on Saturday, Norwich snuck by Bolton, 2-1; Watford won at Millwall, 2-0; and Middlesbrough took care of Rotherham United, 2-0, at the Riverside Stadium. With 42 games played, not much has changed since before the season kicked off.
This week brings another of the Championship’s draining double-game weeks, with everybody playing Tuesday or Wednesday, then again Saturday or Sunday.
Bournemouth are away to Reading and home against Sheffield Wednesday; Norwich are away to Leeds United and home against Middlesbrough (six-point promotion showdown alert); Watford are away to Nottingham Forest and home against Birmingham City; and Middlesbrough are home to Wolves before visiting Norwich on Friday.
The playoff race is even tighter
For the two unlucky losers in the race for the two automatic promotion places, it’s into the total crapshoot that is the promotion playoffs they go. As for the other two playoff places, well, there’s four teams separated by one point.
This week, Derby County host Blackpool and visit Huddersfield; Ipswich host Cardiff City and visit Wolves; Brentford are away to Sheffield Wednesday and host Bolton; while Wolves visit Middlesbrough and host Ipswich.
With a number of top-eight matchups being played once again this week, the Championship standings are bound to look vastly different this time next week. With well over $100 million at stake for each club gaining promotion to the Premier League next season, it’s hard to argue against the Championship being the most competitive and interesting league in the world right now.