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Championship Focus: Top three all win; everyone else drops points

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The EFL Championship’s races for Premier League promotion and the second-division title might just go down to the final days — if not day, singular — of the season based on the recent form of three runaway clubs.

[ MORE: What did we learn on a wild PL Saturday? (video) ]

As we discussed last week, Norwich City and Leeds United have paced the league for the vast majority of the season and remain in line to return to the PL for the first time in three and 14 years, respectively. There remains, however, a threat to their duopoly: Sheffield United are unbeaten in their last eight outings (five wins) and sit just two points back of Leeds, who are two points off the pace of Norwich.

All three of the aforementioned promotion chasers won this weekend — Norwich 1-0 Swansea City; Bristol City 0-1 Leeds; Sheffield United 2-0 Rotherham.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview: Liverpool in chase mode; Arsenal v. Man United ]

That’s all the joy and happiness there is to report from the upper reaches of the Championship this weekend, as the next five teams in the table (entering the weekend) all dropped points.

West Bromwich Albion were one of the luckier sides, able to salvage a 1-1 draw with 24th-place Ipswich Town despite coughing up an early lead. Manager Darren Moore, who took over and re-energized the club just before the Baggies were relegated from the PL last season, wasn’t so lucky: he was fired with West Brom sitting fourth in the table.

Fifth-place Middlesbrough blew an early lead of their own and gave away all three points to suddenly red-hot Brentford (four wins in their last five — up to 12th, six points out of 6th) at the Riverside Stadium. Sixth-place Bristol City fell victims to Leeds, which opened the door for Derby to leapfrog them for the fourth and final playoff place on the back of their draw with Sheffield Wednesday.

After 35.5 of 46 rounds…

Place Team Points GD
1 Norwich City 72 +27
2 Leeds United 70 +22
3 Sheffield United 68 +27
4 West Bromwich Albion 61 +20
5 Middlesbrough 58 +13
6 Derby County 55 +2
7 Bristol City 54 +7
8 Nottingham Forest 53 +10
9 Preston North End 51 +6
10 Birmingham City 50 +8
11 Hull City 50 -1
12 Brentford 49 +13

Murray helps Brighton complete FA Cup fifth round field

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It took extra time, but Brighton and Hove Albion outlasted former Premier League peers West Bromwich Albion to advance in the FA Cup by a 3-1 margin.

Glenn Murray scored twice in extra time to join Florin Andone‘s regulation marker, while West Brom’s lone goal came through one-time Arsenal prospect Kyle Bartley.

[ RECAP: Everton 0-2 Man City ]


The fifth round of the competition is now set, with a guarantee of at least two lower league sides in the quarterfinals.

FA Cup fifth round fixtures
QPR v. Watford — Feb. 15
Brighton v. Derby County — Feb. 16
AFC Wimbledon v. Millwall — Feb. 16
Newport County v. Manchester City — Feb. 16
Bristol City v. Wolves — Feb. 17
Doncaster Rovers v. Crystal Palace — Feb. 17
Swansea City v. Brentford — Feb. 17
Chelsea v. Manchester United — Feb. 18

Nacer Chadli signs for Monaco from West Brom

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Nacer Chadli has made quite the leap, returning to a Champions League club from the English second tier.

The 29-year-old winger has moved to French club AS Monaco from Championship club West Bromwich Albion just before the European transfer deadline. According to Belgian journalist Kristof Terreur, Chadli commanded a fee of around $13 million.

Chadli had not appeared for West Brom yet this season, hoping to force a move away as he was not prepared to drop his level of competition to the Championship.

Chadli spent three seasons at Tottenham after moving from FC Twente in 2013, but after slowly losing playing time, he left for West Brom in the summer of 2016. He made just 38 total appearances for West Brom and scored six goals, never able to capture the form he had at Spurs on a consistent basis.

However, Chadli maintained his place in the Belgian squad, and was a key figure in the team’s World Cup run to third place this summer in Russia. Chadli scored a goal and assisted another as he made six total appearances including four starts at the World Cup.

West Brom had been preparing for Chadli’s exit for some time, but still must scramble to replace him with England’s loan deadline on Friday.

Former MLS defender Tyrone Mears joins West Brom

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Former Major League Soccer defender Tyrone Mears has joined English Championship side West Bromwich Albion on a short-term contract, which keeps him at the club until at least January.

[ MORE: 10 Premier League clubs in Carabao Cup action on Tuesday ]

The Baggies won’t waste any time in including Mears in the team, with the former Seattle Sounders, Atlanta United and Minnesota United player set to feature for West Brom in Tuesday’s Carabao Cup clash against Mansfield Town.

The 35-year-old has plenty of experience in England throughout his career, making appearances for clubs like West Ham, Derby County and Burnley throughout his extensive time playing professionally.

Mears joined MLS back in 2015 when he arrived with the Sounders, and most recently played for second-year club Minnesota prior to joining West Brom.

Transfer rumor roundup: Hegazy linked with two PL clubs; Dembele to Arsenal

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With a long-term injury befalling Florian Lejeune, Rafa Benitez and Newcastle may look to add to its Midlands shopping list.

Already expected to swoop for center forward Salomon Rondon of West Brom, Benitez is eyeing up $12 million Baggies center back Ahmed Hegazy.

[ MORE: Zlatan suspended ]

The Egyptian was one of West Brom’s top performers despite making his Premier League debut in August. Brighton is also being linked with Hegazy.

Newcastle has signed Fabian Schar this summer, who will join Jamaal Lascelles and Ciaran Clark in Newcastle’s CB corps.

The Magpies are also linked with Club Brugge winger Anthony Limbombe, who was capped by Roberto Martinez. They’ll only be bringing him to town should they sanction the deal of Christian Atsu, who is being linked with Huddersfield Town.


Peak silly season here: Rumors that Arsenal may be able to land Ousmane Dembele from Barcelona have a wild other side of the deal.

A report claims that Unai Emery could land the winger he wanted at PSG from Barcelona if he sanctions the departure of Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey.

Yeah, that’s not going to happen.

Ramsey is a pivotal piece of Emery’s Arsenal project and when healthy is one of the top center midfielders in the Premier League.

That’s not to say Dembele isn’t a prospect with the same weight, but why Emery would give Ramsey away to make such a deal is a head-scratcher.