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Championship Focus: Leeds falters, Sheffield United takes advantage

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The race for Premier League promotion took a few more turns on Monday, as Norwich City missed a chance to assure itself a place in the top flight.

Still, its next point gained or point lost by Leeds or Sheffield United will do the trick.

[ MORE: MLS Power Rankings ]

Speaking of Sheffield United, the Blades took advantage of Norwich’s stumble and have a shot at Championship title, while Leeds fell at Brentford to fall behind in the race for automatic promotion.

Frank Lampard had a good day with his Derby County, thanks to a win and losses by two playoff contenders. And Aston Villa is buzzing.

Stoke City 2-2 Norwich City

The Canaries blew two leads and now lead the Blades by three points with two matches to play. Teemu Pukki scored his 28th league goal of the season in the draw, which puts them six points clear of third with a 10-point goal differential advantage on Leeds. Thumbs up.

Hull City 0-3 Sheffield United

David McGoldrick scored two of the Blades’ three first-half goals in a tremendous win at the KC Stadium that pulled United three points ahead of Leeds, three back of Norwich City.

Brentford 2-0 Leeds United

Neil Maupay and Sergi Canos scored on either side of halftime as Brentford continued to push Leeds United away from the Top Two. Marcelo Bielsa’s men are now 9W-1D-7L since his staff was caught spying on Derby County training and beat the Rams 2-0, compared with 16W-6D-5L in the run-up to the kerfuffle.

Leeds next hosts red-hot Villa before finishing away to relegated Ipswich Town. Sheffield United hosts Ipswich Town and goes to Stoke, while Norwich City hosts Blackburn and goes to Villa.

Derby County 2-0 Queens Park Rangers

Liverpool loanee Harry Wilson scored two goals in 11 minutes of stoppage time to send Lampard’s men into sixth thanks to losses from Middlesbrough and Bristol City.

“It’s cup football almost now,” Lampard said. “What’s on these games is so much. And we’ve got to get up for it, and we will be. No doubt about that.”

Aston Villa 1-0 Millwall

Dean Smith’s men broke a 109-year-old record with a 10th successive win, as Jonathan Kodjia scored the lone goal at Villa Park. Villa is now fifth on the table and will head to the playoffs.

Elsewhere
Blackburn 2-0 Bolton
Ipswich Town 0-1 Swansea City
Reading 0-0 West Bromwich Albion
Rothertham 1-3 Birmingham City
Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 Bristol City
Wigan Athletic 2-0 Preston North End
Nottingham Forest 3-0 Middlesbrough

WATCH: Game of Thrones star tricks Kimmel audience into Leeds support

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Forget King of the North, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau just wants his club to be promoted to the Premier League.

The Danish actor, 48, was on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” this week to preview the return of “Game of Thrones” this weekend on HBO, and was asked about fan theories for the end of the show.

[ MORE: Andy Carroll to NE Revs? ]

After discussing one option, Coster-Waldau slipped into a story about the magical hero “Bielsa.” Readers of this site will instantly make the connection with the Leeds United manager, beloved by fans of the club and soccer hipsters everywhere.

Hear how Coster-Waldau gets the audience to chant up some good karma in favor of his manager. And if you hate Leeds, at least know that the actor has done good in the name of the game for the United Nations Development Program.

It’s fitting that Coster-Waldau used a little bit of trickery to fool the audience, as Bielsa and the Lannisters don’t mind a bit of gamesmanship.

Championship Focus: Playoff picture, auto promotion far from settled

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Six Football League Championship fixtures took place in the shadow of the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, providing the smallest bit of clarity in the race for promotion.

Leeds United won to move second and put a measure of pressure on Sheffield United, which has a match-in-hand, while Bristol City increased its stock while putting a hurt on West Brom’s hopes.

[ MORE: Spurs-Man City recap | Kane hurt | 3 things ]

The Baggies had won three-straight after firing Darren Moore, but have now lost two in-a-row. Both came away from the Hawthorns, and Tuesday’s defeat at Bristol City means the Baggies can forget about anything other than promotion via the playoffs.

Bristol, meanwhile, rode their three goals in the first 19 minutes to move fifth, four points clear of seventh.

Wednesday is day Leeds will be hoping for upsets, with Reading and Sheffield United expecting to collect three points (even if the Blades’ opponents, Birmingham City, have a point total that doesn’t match their skill level due to a 10-point punishment).

Here’s the road into the playoffs, and only two teams — one almost certainly Norwich City — will avoid it via automatic promotion.

Norwich City (1st, 84 points)

Wednesday v. Reading
Sunday at Wigan
April 19 v. Sheffield Wednesday
April 22 at Stoke City
April 27 v. Blackburn
May 5 at Aston Villa

The Read: It would be stunning if Norwich City doesn’t wrap up its place in the Premier League with 2-3 weeks to spare.

Leeds United (2nd, 79 points)

Saturday v. Sheffield Wednesday
April 19 v. Wigan
April 22 at Brentford
April 27 v. Aston Villa
May 5 at Ipswich Town

The Read: At least two exceptionally tough games in terms of desperate opponents means they’ll need to be good and get help from the Blades, who have one more match to play.

Sheffield United (3rd, 77 points)

Wednesday at Birmingham City
Saturday v. Millwall
April 19 v. Nottingham Forest
April 22 at Hull City
April 27 v. Ipswich Town
May 5 at Stoke City

The Read: Birmingham City is a tricky Wednesday test, but the Blades control their own destiny.

West Bromwich Albion (4th, 70 points)

Saturday v. Preston North End
April 19 v. Hull City
April 22 at Reading
April 27 v. Rotherham United
May 5 at Derby County

The Read: The Darren Moore firing bump is gone. Three of the five matches are against clubs with eyes on promotion (although Derby could be out by May 5).

Bristol City (5th, 65 points)

Saturday at Aston Villa
April 19 v. Reading
April 22 at Sheffield Wednesday
April 27 v. Derby County
April 30 at Millwall
May 5 at Hull City

The Read: In-form, yes, but Bristol City faces four teams in the playoff picture right now and two more who could be looking for points to avoid relegation to League One.

Aston Villa (6th, 63 points)

Wednesday at Rotherham United
Saturday v. Bristol City
April 19 at Bolton
April 22 v. Millwall
April 27 at Leeds United
May 5 v. Norwich City

The Read: Winning Wednesday would set up a huge “playoff six-pointer” on Saturday. This is a rough run to the playoff.

Middlesbrough (7th, 61 points)

Saturday v. Hull City
April 19 v. Stoke City
April 22 at Nottingham Forest
April 27 v. Reading
May 5 at Rotherham United

The Read: Tony Pulis‘ men have finally won again, but used up most of their mulligans on the way. Not dead, but will need help.

Derby County (8th, 60 points)

Saturday v. Bolton
April 19 at Birmingham City
April 22 v. QPR
April 27 at Bristol City
May 1 at Swansea City
May 5 v. West Brom

The Read: Losing at Blackburn on Tuesday stings, but points should be there for Frank Lampard‘s men.

There are others who could make a charge, but these are the protagonists.

Fan arrested after American player Holmes racially-abused in England

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A man has been arrested for racially abusing American midfielder Duane Holmes during a Football League Championship match on Sunday.

The incident occurs as a high-profile time for racism in soccer, which has seen Moise Kean and Raheem Sterling racially abused during matches in recent weeks.

[ MORE: Robben looking at MLS ]

Holmes, 24, is having a terrific year for Frank Lampard at Derby County following his arrival from Scunthorpe United. The diminutive right midfielder, who also plays centrally, is starting regularly and had a goal and an assist last week against Rotherham United.

Saturday at Brentford was a different story, as Holmes was targeted by a Bees season ticket holder after subbing off the pitch.

Here’s Derby manager Frank Lampard, from the BBC:

“Duane Holmes complained that he was racially abused – I didn’t see it, I was facing play and a fan came up to him at the side of the dugout and abused him,” he told Sky Sports.

“Because it’s such an important issue I don’t want to go beyond what I know, but it was very clearly reported by the players and the people around.”

The arrest shows that Lampard’s comments were backed by authorities.

Holmes, for his part, retweeted a supporter’s message backing “Kick It Out,” which aims to eradicate racism from the game.

Championship Focus: Pukki powers Norwich, Leeds slips up

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The race for automatic promotion looks to have a spot-in-hand — don’t accuse us of jinxing you, Norwich City supporters — as Leeds and Sheffield United continue to flip-flop for the second spot.

[ MORE: Palace smashes, grabs win at Newcastle ]

The relegation and playoff spots are still very much in flux, too. Here are some big things to know about Saturday’s action.

Norwich City 4-0 Queens Park Rangers

You don’t need to be in the coal mine to see the Canaries are likely heading back to the Premier League, destroying Geoff Cameron‘s QPR despite going down a man in the 71st minute. Cameron subbed off after 59 minutes, with QPR down 3-0 and needing an attacking miracle.

Teemu Pulki scored his 25th and 26th goals of the season for the Canaries, who have an 7-point advantage over Sheffield United and 8-point cushion on third place Leeds United.

Birmingham City 1-0 Leeds United

Leeds lost for the second time in three matches and the third time in seven, as Che Adams’ goal gave more relief to a Birmingham City side recently stung by a points deduction for reckless spending during the Harry Redknapp era. Leeds have dropped into third place.

Preston North End 0-1 Sheffield United

PNE has presented some stiff challenged this season, and Saturday was no exception, but Sheffield United made a first half David McGoldrick goal hold up over 90 minutes to move back into an automatic promotion spot.

Elsewhere

— Aston Villa turned what looked to be like a scrappy away point into three with a late buzzsaw and sits fifth with six matches left on its schedule (though Bristol City and Derby County have matches-in-hand).

— Ahmed Hegazi conceded an own goal and was later sent off as West Brom lost 2-0 at Millwall.

— Rotherham United is within a point of safety after defeating Nottingham Forest, and seeing Reading lose their matches. Wigan is two points clear after drawing at Bristol City).