EPL Promotion Watch: Top 2 Start New Year with Wins, Race for 6th Intensifies

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 01: Jeff Schlupp of Leicester City celebrates his goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Millwall and Leicester City at The Den on January 01, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)
Tom Dulat/Getty Images

The new year in the Championship began on Wednesday with 11 matches and plenty of movement near the bottom of the promotion places. 

At the top, Leicester City won their fourth game in a row as they took down Millwall, 3-1, at The Den. Anthony Knockaert, David Nugent and Jeffrey Schlupp all scored for the Foxes as they became the first side to reach 50 points. 

Second-place Burnley received a first-half brace from Danny Ings to propel them to a 3-2 home win over Huddersfield Town that kept them one point ahead of Queens Park Rangers in the race for the automatic promotion berths.

Below the top two is where things are getting very interesting, with as many as 10 teams having a chance to earn a spot in the promotion playoffs as the new year begins. 

QPR are the safest bet to reach the four-team playoff at the moment with 46 points. Harry Redknapp's side defeated Doncaster, 2-1, at Loftus Road thanks to second-half goals from Matthew Phillips and Charlie Austin. 

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 1: Charlie Austin of Queens Park Rangers scores his team's 2nd goal as he's challenged by Liam Wakefield Doncaster Rovers during the Sky Bet Championship match between Queens Park Rangers and Doncaster Rovers at Loftus Road on Ja
Robin Parker/Getty Images

While they are safe for now, Derby County did not do themselves any favors with a 1-0 home loss to Wigan. The Rams have 44 points through 24 matches, and although they are four points ahead of fifth-place Nottingham Forest, one or two more bad results could hurt their promotion chances greatly.

Forest have 40 points and are clear of the messy race for sixth by four points, which is now led by Ipswich Town after the Tractor Boys drew with Charlton at Portman Road, 1-1. 

Beneath Mick McCarthy's side in the table are a plethora of clubs within three points of sixth place. Brighton and Hove Albion are behind Ipswich only on goal difference, as the two sides both have 36 points. Leeds United and Reading have 35 points, while Blackburn sit on 34 and Wigan now hold at 33 after their victory over Derby. 

Further down the table, the likes of Blackpool, Huddersfield Town and Watford are not out of the promotion race just yet, as a good spell of form could boost any of those sides back into the promotion discussion. 

Play in the English second flight will take the weekend off due to FA Cup third-round action, but when play resumes on January 10 with a top-four clash between Leicester City and Derby, the race for promotion will once again catch fire and provide us with compelling storylines.

Here is how the top 10 in the table looks after 24 rounds of play in the Championship. The top two sides will automatically move up to the English Premier League, while the teams placed in third through sixth will face off in a four-team playoff for the final promotion bid. 

Championship Table
TeamGames PlayedPointsGoal Differential
Leicester City2451+16
Burnley2447+18
Queens Park Rangers2446+12
Derby2444+18
Nottingham Forest2440+10
Ipswich Town2436+9
Brighton & Hove Albion2436+7
Leeds United2435+7
Reading2435+2
Blackburn2434+2
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