Taking the temperature of the Championship’s race for promotion

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The Championship has entered the home stretch of the season, with around a dozen or so matches left in the race to earn promotion to the Premier League.

As it stands, the automatic places of first and second are anything but settled and there are seven teams within six points of the final playoff spot, setting the stage for a memorable final couple of months.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s PL match recaps ]

Once the runaway to win the league, Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United have taken a hit in form and maybe mystique since the discovery that they were spying on opponents’ training sessions in the run-up to matches.

Leeds is now third in the table following a 1-0 loss at QPR on Tuesday, two points back of Norwich City and one behind Sheffield United. The Whites are 3W-1D-3L since beating Derby County on Jan. 11.

The beautiful thing about the thick-and-fast nature of Championship fixtures is there’s a match with serious table ramifications seemingly every match day. Leeds will tangle with fourth-place West Bromwich Albion come Friday, while Sheffield United has a derby with playoff hopeful Sheffield Wednesday.

Here are the contenders for Premier League status, in two fields.

Automatic promotion

Red-hot Norwich City has lost just three times this season, and neither Leeds nor Sheffield United boasts a six-pointer left with the Canaries on their fixture list. Fourth-place West Brom is bidding for a straight return to the Premier League under Darren Moore, but could be joined on points by former boss Tony Pulis and Middlesbrough if the Smoggies win their match-in-hand. All five are within sight of automatic promotion.

Final playoff spot

While there’s plenty of time for any of the top teams to dip out of the Top Six, it’s looking more and more like about seven teams are vying for one spot. Bristol City has the inside track with 53 points and a match-in-hand on all but one of the teams in the the chasing pack: USMNT prospect Duane Holmes and Derby County. After that, it’s Birmingham City, Nottingham Forest, Preston North End, Hull City, and Sheffield Wednesday. Swansea City could also be within six points of sixth if it wins its match-in-hand and Bristol City and Derby lose theirs, but let’s no dive that deep into headache territory.