Championship Focus: Who may be headed for Premier League promotion?

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The fixtures are evening out, and the promotion picture is coming into focus for Premier League hopefuls in the Championship.

The first and second placed clubs will join England’s top flight, while sides three through six will contest the promotion playoffs.

[ MORE: Previewing the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second legs ]

The desperation is just as real for clubs to join the big money Premier League as it is for PL clubs to avoid relegation, and here’s what’s cooking down in the second tier with about a dozen matches to play.

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Four sides are within four points of the top of the table. It’s not impossible that fifth-place Derby County could make up the 7 points between itself and automatic promotion, but let’s focus on the four.

BLACKBURN, ENGLAND - MARCH 01: Jordan Rhodes of Middlesbrough and Jason Steele of Blackburn Rovers shake hands after the Sky Bet Championship match between Blackburn Rovers and Middlesbrough at Ewood Park on March 1, 2016 in Blackburn, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Burnley (68 points): Last year’s one-and-done Clarets have had an incredibly impressive run under Sean Dyche, who simply must be considered for any job in England (if he even wants to leave Turf Moor). The Clarets are unbeaten in 12 matches, and have allowed just one goal in their last six matches, but they’ve also played one more game than the second and third placed teams. Andre Gray (above) has proven an impressive buy, with 21 goals.

Middlesbrough (67 points): Boro has allowed a league-best 20 goals (tied with Hull). That’s good because their big buy Jordan Rhodes has just a goal and assist in 7 matches since coming over from Blackburn.

Hull City (64 points): Steve Bruce‘s stingy side had been very good but is struggling with schedule congestion. Abel Hernandez is thriving in the England’s second tier, with 16 goals tied for second in the league.

Brighton and Hove Albion (64 points): Tomer Hemed is the club’s leading scorer, with 11, and Chris Hughton‘s club surged into the Top Four thanks to a 21-game unbeaten streak (not currently active).

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In the mixThe race for the final two playoff spots looks down to Derby — with a five-point lead on sixth place — and four other teams.

 during the Sky Bet Championship match between Brentford and Derby County at Griffin Park on February 20, 2016 in Brentford, United Kingdom.
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Derby County (60 points): Chris Martin has 12 goals and 8 assists in an outstanding campaign for the Rams. Tom Ince is second in goals with eight.

Sheffield Wednesday (55 points): The second-highest scoring club in the Championship, with Fernando Forestieri and ex-Celtic and Norwich striker Gary Hooper leading the way.

Cardiff City (55 points): Could Vincent Tan own a Premier League club again after this season? The Bluebirds have points in five of their last six.

Birmingham City (54 points): Cooled a slide with wins in two of three. U.S. back Jonathan Spector is on the team.

Ipswich Town (54 points): Winners of two in-a-row after halting a three-match losing skid.