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Cardiff City is Premier League; Playoffs, relegation set

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Cardiff City is going back up to the top flight.

City sends its headline-making owner Vincent Tan back into the Premier League, where the Bluebirds would become the second Welsh team should Swansea City avoid relegation.

[ MORE: Sir Alex in intensive care ]

Cardiff City opened the door with a scoreless first half, but Fulham politely declined to put any pressure on the Bluebirds by conceding twice in the first 45 minutes against relegation-threatened Birmingham City en route to a 3-1 loss. Cardiff drew Reading 0-0.

Cardiff was relegated from the Premier League after one season, 2013-14.

Wolverhampton Wanderers have already been promoted as Championship winners, while the playoffs begin next week.

The battle for the final spot in the Premier League will feature No. 3 Fulham, who was beaten by Birmingham City, against No. 6 Derby County, and a match-up between No. 4 Aston Villa and No. 5 Middlesbrough.

As for the relegated clubs, as results for Birmingham and Bolton Wanderers avoid a final day drop.

Bolton’s survival was quite unbelievable. Adam Le Fondre put the Wanderers ahead of Nottingham Forest in the second half, but Ben Osborn and Jack Colback scored nine minutes apart to put Bolton back in the Bottom Three. Yet David Wheater and Aaron Wilbraham scored in the 87th and 88th minutes to send the Macron Stadium into elation.

Burton Albion and Barnsley join Sunderland in heading down to League One.

Where Premier League promotion hopefuls stand with one match to go

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The second automatic Premier League promotion spot won’t be decided until the final day of the Championship, nor will the last spot in the promotion playoffs nor two relegation slots.

And the match-ups tilt heavily toward those with top-flight aspirations facing clubs fearing the drop.

Call it the haves versus the have-and-hope-to-keeps.

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So, yeah, it’s going to be tense across most of the near-dozen 7:30 a.m. ET encounters

Start here:

AUTOMATICALLY YOURS: Either Cardiff City or Fulham will gain instant promotion to the Premier League, with the Bluebirds controlling their own destiny.

Cardiff vs. Reading
Birmingham City vs. Fulham

There’s an added blow to finishing third, and that’s the slowed momentum or realizing it’s going to take a lot more work. Of the last 15 playoff winners, only five were the third place team in the regular season.

Playoff fates of No. 3 teams
2017 — Reading lost final in penalties to No. 5 Huddersfield Town)
2016 — Brighton lost in the semifinals (No. 4 Hull promoted)
2015 — Norwich City won the playoffs
2014 — Derby County lost final to No. 4 QPR
2013 — Watford lost final to No. 5 Crystal Palace
2012 — West Ham United won the playoffs
2011 — Swansea City won the playoffs
2010 — Nottingham Forest lost in semis (No. 6 Blackpool promoted)
2009 — Sheffield United lost final to No. 5 Burnley
2008 — Hull City won the playoffs
2007 — Derby County won the playoffs
2006 — Brentford lost in semifinals (No. 5 Barnsley promoted)
2005 — Ipswich Town lost in semis (No. 6 West Ham promoted)
2004 — Sunderland lost in semis (No. 6 Crystal Palace promoted)
2003 — Sheffield United lost final to No. 5 Wolves

— PLAYOFF SPOTS: The third-place team will join Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, and the sixth-place team in the playoffs, slated for May 11-26.

Derby County has 72 points, two more than Preston North End and three more than Millwall.

The Rams also have a nine-goal advantage on both in goal differential, so a home draw against 21st place Barnsley would be enough (although the visitors are playing for their Championship lives).

Preston also hosts a relegation-threatened club in Burton Albion, while Millwall entertains a very good, but fate-determined Aston Villa.

— RELEGATION ZONE: Three teams will go down to League One, and Sunderland is the only one assured of the drop.

Here’s how it all looks in the race to avoid 22nd and 23rd.

19. Reading — 43 pts, minus-22
20. Birmingham City — 43 pts, minus-32
21. Barnsley — 41 pts, minus-21
22. Burton Albion — 41 pts, minus-42
23. Bolton Wanderers — 40 pts, minus-36

Aside from Bolton, those teams have all been mentioned as opponents of clubs with plenty at stake. The Wanderers are home to Nottingham Forest.

Reading is away to Cardiff, Birmingham home to Fulham, Barnsley at Derby, and Burton away to Preston.

No club can honestly feel safe with just a point.

1912 FA Cup winner’s medal stolen

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A 106-year-old footballing relic has been snatched from a house in England.

The home of the 82-year-old grandson of former Barnsley player Philip Bratley was burglarized last weekend according to the BBC and other reports, and among the items stolen was an “invaluable” FA Cup winner’s medal from 1912.

That year, Barnsley defeated West Bromwich Albion in the finals of the 41st FA Cup, with Bratley scoring the winning goal in the semifinal replay over Swindon Town. He went on to make over 100 appearances for Barnsley between 1910 and 1014 before moving transferring to Liverpool, where he spent one season before he left during the first World War.

“This item is of great sentimental value to the family and belonged to the 82-year-old victim’s grandfather who, at the time, played for Barnsley,” the South Yorkshire police said. “The family is extremely upset that this, along with many of their belongings, have been stolen. If you have any information please get in touch so we can try and reunite this invaluable item with its rightful owner.”

Barnsley has offered to assist the South Yorkshire police in their search for the stolen artifact, as those with any information are encouraged to contact either entity to share what they may know.

West Ham, Barnsley red cards contest for stupider sending off

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There must be something in the air over England this Saturday morning, because a pair of players have put their teams in disadvantageous positions thanks to nothing other than sheer stupidity.

First, in FA Cup action, Premier League side West Ham was already trailing League One leaders Wigan 1-0 at DW Stadium when Arthur Masuaku lost his head. Nick Powell and Masuaku come together, but there was hardly anything in it until the 24-year-old left-back decided to spit on the Wigan midfielder.

It was a completely mindless act, and one well spotted by the officials, who immediately produced a red card, sending Masuaku off and leaving the Premier League side with an even bigger mountain to climb in order to avoid the upset.

Wigan would eventually go 2-0 up on a penalty given for a handball on Reece Burke, a poor call but also deserved by Wigan who bossed the match after going a man up.

Elsewhere, in Championship play, promotion hopefuls Fulham were down 1-0 on the road at struggling Barnsley after an incredibly poor first half. Just before the break, Barnsley right-back Dimitri Cavare was fouled by Stefan Johansen. The referee tried to play advantage, but with Cavare’s eventual pass dragging wayward, he blew his whistle and pulled back the foul. Johansen got up and had some words with another Barnsley player, and Cavare came up from behind him and shoved Johansen hard in the back, straight into the other player, and more importantly, directly in front of the referee.

Fulham had been awful the entire first half, and after going a man up, they came out of the intermission energized and grabbed the equalizer just four minutes after the break through young Ryan Sessegnon.

What’s gotten into these players? Nothing makes a manager seethe more than a player doing something needless to put the team at a serious disadvantage the rest of the match. Which act was dumber?

‘Moneyball’ guru Beane joins board of Barnsley

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The architect of “Moneyball” is coming to the Football League Championship.

Oakland A’s hero Billy Beane is being installed into the Barnsley set-up as an investor as the club confirmed a takeover on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Arsenal eliminates West Ham ]

Beane is no stranger to soccer, having been hired by AZ Alkmaar by ex-USMNT player Earnie Stewart in 2015. New owner Chien Lee also owns 50 percent of Ligue 1 side Nice.

Chien Lee is joined on the Championship club’s board by baseball pioneer Billy Beane, as well as investors Paul Conway, Grace Hung and Neerav Parekh.

The group takes the reins from owner Patrick Cryne, who has invested plenty in the club but is suffering from a terminal form of cancer.

The Tykes are four points clear of the drop zone in the Championship.