After 540 games the situation at the top of the Sky Bet Championship is set for a classic final day ending. Burnley can seal the title with a win at Charlton, but all eyes will be on the Riverside, where Middlesbrough entertain Brighton. Both games will be televised simultaneously at 12:30pm tomorrow: Charlton/Burnley is on Sky Sports 2 and Middlesbrough/Brighton is on Sky Sports 1.
There’s been enough hype this week already without extending it to this game and that’s probably just as well, because there’s every chance that it could be an anti-climax. The advantage is clearly with Middlesbrough as two of the possible outcomes tomorrow favour them. They’ve gone eight games without a home defeat and have kept a staggering 15 clean sheets at the Riverside this season; not only that, Boro have won all four of their other encounters on Teeside with the other clubs in the top six without conceding a goal.
Although Brighton are the underdogs tomorrow, they arrive in the North East having won five of their last six away games; the Seagulls haven’t lost on the road since their surprising defeat at Cardiff in mid-February. The big difference here is that although Brighton haven’t lost at any of the clubs in the top six, all four away games at Burnley, Derby, Hull and Sheffield Wednesday have been drawn. That won’t be good enough tomorrow.
What to watch for: since the start of 2016, Boro have scored 15 goals in the Championship at the Riverside, but just under half of those have been scored from the 76th minute onwards. Uruguayan midfielder Gaston Ramirez has scored five of those goals, but only one of them has been in that time frame.
Brighton have also scored 15 goals in their away games since New Year’s Day with Tomer Hemed weighing in with four, including a brace at MK Dons at the start of March. The Seagulls are normally at their most effective in front of goal at the start of the second half, but will be without Lewis Dunk in defence after his red card against Derby on Monday:
Verdict: Middlesbrough will want to put last year’s disappointment in the play off final behind them. Brighton need to win to overtake Boro, which is something they’ve managed three times in their last 10 visits in the league, the last victory coming in April 2013. I’d not be at all surprised if this was all square with fifteen minutes left before Boro nick it.
Of course, there are still a number of other issues in the Premier League and League One that will determine who will be playing in the Championship next season. If you want to see the situation in League One, please visit our companion blog at Buzzin League One Football, although I’m guessing I won’t be spoiling anything when I congratulate Wigan for returning to the competition after one season away.
The Premier League doesn’t finish until next weekend, so we won’t know who’ll be relegated with Aston Villa yet. We’ll know the play off schedule by 2:30pm tomorrow, so I’ll get a preview written ASAP but I’ve got to inform you that my wife’s birthday is next weekend and I’ll be unable to write individual previews for next weekend’s games although I should be able to post updates if I don’t get too caught up in the Eurovision Song Contest party that we’ve been invited to…