Battle to beat the drop takes centre stage on Championship final day

Date published: Friday 5th May 2017 4:03

birmingham celebrate

With the race for promotion and play-offs a clearer picture, Blackburn, Birmingham and Nottingham Forest battle it out in a bid to avoid the drop.

Wigan joined bottom club Rotherham in facing up to life back in League One again next season following a 1-0 defeat at play-off bound Reading last weekend.

There is, though, one relegation spot still to be decided – and it will be filled by one of three clubs who not so long ago were established among the elite of English football.

Birmingham’s task is the most straightforward, given their two-point cushion, with a win at Bristol City guaranteeing survival.

Blackburn, meanwhile, must aim to better Nottingham Forest’s result when they travel to Brentford, with a goal difference of just one between the sides who are locked on 48 points.

Yet with things being so close, Rovers, who are currently 22nd, could even stay up should they lose and Forest’s margin of any defeat at home by Ipswich be greater.

Birmingham, meanwhile, would go down if they lose and both the teams below them win.

Although the many permutations will have supporters reaching for the calculator app, Rovers boss Tony Mowbray will make sure his players stay focused on the job in hand rather than worrying about what might be happening elsewhere.

“We are looking forward to Sunday, I have no fears that we will turn up and give a good account of ourselves,” Mowbray said on www.rovers.co.uk.

“We have to be very focused, very organised, have an understanding of what we are up against, but also ask questions of them when we get the opportunity.”

Forest manager Mark Warburton will aim to keep things in perspective.

He said at a press conference: “You have to be aware of other results, but the focus will be on us because the game can change so quickly, so we have to look at ourselves and make sure the team see it as a positive challenge.”

Blues caretaker manager Harry Redknapp wants his side to simply concentrate on doing their own job first.

“We can’t be worried about elsewhere, we have to try to win the game,” said Redknapp, who was parachuted into St Andrew’s following the departure of Gianfranco Zola.

“You have three big clubs – one has won two European Cups, Blackburn won the Premier League and we had 28,000 last week – and they are all scrapping.”

Brighton will deliver the Championship title if they win at Aston Villa, who are set for a mid-table finish after failing to deliver an instant return to the Premier League.

Albion manager Chris Hughton said: “The main ambition of this season (was promotion) and we have already achieved that, but I do think there will be that tinge of disappointment if we are not able to do it (win the league).”

Newcastle are a point behind in second and hold a superior goal difference ahead of their final match at home to Barnsley.

“The way to go into the game is with smiles on our faces, and hopefully after the game we will have bigger smiles,” said manager Rafael Benitez.

Reading will be out to secure third place when they travel to Burton, while Huddersfield, who are a just point behind in fifth, host Cardiff.

Even if Fulham lose at fourth-placed Sheffield Wednesday, the Cottagers are set to take sixth place ahead of Leeds, who are away to Wigan, because of their superior goal difference.

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