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How the final day of the Sky Bet Championship could play out

Leeds United have already secured their return to the Premier League after 16 years away but there is plenty more fun and games to come in the Championship.

The final round of fixtures arrive tonight and there is still a lot to be decided.

Undoubtedly the most exciting tussle is for second place and who will follow Leeds straight up to the Premier League.

But along with that, the play-offs still need to take shape as do the final relegation places. Here, Sportsmail has a look at how the final day of the Championship could play out.

Before the football season was suspended this seemed like a foregone conclusion. West Brom were in prime position to finish in second if not challenge Leeds for the Championship title.

But how different the situation started to look when the season resumed. An astonishing run of form by Brentford, seven wins on the bounce, allowed them to close the gap on West Brom whose performances and results had dropped off.

Fast-forward to last Thursday night and Huddersfield’s unlikely win over West Brom offered Brentford an advantage they failed to take by losing at Stoke on Saturday.

Enter Fulham. Scott Parker said in his press conference last Friday that he was preparing for the play-offs. There was simply no way, he thought, that Brentford would slip up against Stoke. But they did and Fulham’s 5-3 win over Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday closed the gap to second to two points.

There can be no doubt that West Brom, by proxy, remain favourites to go up in second place.

Their last game of the season is against QPR at The Hawthorns, a fixture that perhaps provides the least amount of resistance than those Brentford and Fulham are involved in.

It is quite simple: West Brom win and they are up with Brentford and Fulham having to navigate their way through the play-offs to secure the third and last lucrative ticket into the big time for this year.

Should West Brom draw, though, Brentford would need to beat Barnsley, who pulled off a superb victory over Nottingham Forest on Sunday, to leapfrog them into second.

Another way Brentford could overtake West Brom would be if the Baggies lose at home to QPR and the Bees draw against Barnsley. Brentford have a nine-goal better goal difference than West Brom.

But we wouldn’t in this position if the Championship behaved logically.

Parker has said it will be ‘amazing’ should Fulham do the unthinkable and finish Wednesday evening in second and back in the Premier League after relegation last season.

For that to happen a number of things must go their way. Firstly, and the only outcome they can control, is to win away at Wigan. Without that they will finish in the play-offs, plain and simple.

But if they win, West Brom lose (Fulham would be on level points with the Baggies if they draw against QPR but Slaven Bilic’s side have a much better goal difference and Parker would need to hope his players can score well over 10 goals without return to come close to making a difference), and Brentford drop points then Fulham would finish in second place.

Beyond West Brom beating QPR, though, which if Charlie Austin and his attacking colleagues can perform better than they did at Huddersfield, it really is quite bonkers to contemplate what could possibly happen.

So, we know the top two play-off spots are already taken. The last two are still very much up for grabs with Nottingham Forest, Cardiff and Swansea all in a battle for them.

Forest, in fifth, are in the most commanding position – on 70 points, level with sixth-placed Cardiff but with a four-goal better goal difference. Swansea, in seventh, are three points back but just one goal worse off than their Welsh rivals.

Forest play Stoke at the City Ground, Cardiff host Hull and Swansea travel to Reading.

A win or a draw for both Forest and Cardiff would leave things essentially as they are unless, of course, Cardiff cut through Hull as easily as Wigan did last week, which would see both swap places due to goal difference. A win or draw for both would see them into the play-offs with Swansea unable to do anything about it.

Realistically, even if Forest do lose, it is unlikely Swansea will score enough goals against Reading to topple them. So, Swansea’s best bet is to hope Cardiff slip up with the sides separated by three points but only a single strike in the goal difference column.

What do you get if your owners get too comfortable and decide to sell their two best players in January? Easy. You get Hull City. How far and how quickly they have fallen to be bottom of the Championship, 90 minutes away from playing in the third tier of English football for the first time since 2005.

Nothing short of a mathematical miracle will save them. Other than Hull, the situation is far from simple. Directly above Hull are Barnsley. Even if they beat Brentford they could still be down should results go against them.

Luton are in the final relegation place but on level points – 48 – with Charlton who are ahead of them.

Luton host Blackburn while Charlton travel to Leeds. Charlton are only out of the bottom three because of their far superior goal difference – 18 better than Luton’s.

You also have to throw into the mix Birmingham and Middlesbrough who are both on 50 points. They’d surely be safe with draws but anything less and either one could be clawed back.

Huddersfield mathematically could still be caught but it would take something quite disastrous on their part for that to happen.  

Indeed, this is all without the prospect of Wigan being handed a 12-point deduction, which Sportsmail understands shouldn’t affect them until next season given their ability to appeal the penalty. 

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