Five games to go: What you need to know about the teams tussling for the top flight

A frantic promotion charge has left several sides with genuine chances of reaching the Premier League. James Fielden evaluates who's got what it takes to get over the line...

With just a quintet of games remaining in the Championship regular season, it's one of the tightest races for promotion ever. Nine points separate leaders Bournemouth and Ipswich in eighth. Since the play-offs were introduced back in 1992/93, a maximum of 76 points have been required on four occasions to take sixth place, most recently in 2000. With sixth-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers already on 71, this campaign will almost certainly set a new record to qualify for the dreaded promotion punch-up.

1) Bournemouth (77 pts, +44)

What are their chances?
Very good. Eddie Howe has a squad that works hard and score goals for #bantz. With 87 netted in 41 matches so far they’re due to hit triple figures and, on paper, the televised draw at Ipswich was their last major test. Playing Reading days before the Royals' FA Cup semi-final at Wembley looks easy enough, while home games against Bolton and Sheffield Wednesday should see them over the line.

Who’s going to get them up?
Callum Wilson’s goals have dried up since the turn of the year, but bringing in Kenwyne Jones on a reported £36,000-a-week loan would be a minor investment if he can continue proving a valuable option for the run-in. Matt Ritchie (FFT’s No.1 Football League player) has created a mega 15 goals, while on-loan Southampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc has kept 12 clean sheets in 32 appearances.

Premier League survival prospects?
Bournemouth would have the smallest ground to have ever hosted Premier League football (with its 12,000 capacity), and they would surely have to try and turn Dean Court into a fortress in order to pick up enough points to stay afloat. There’s no doubting that owner Max Demin and chairman Jeff Mostyn would provide significant funds in an attempt to attract bigger players to the south coast club.

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2) Norwich (76 pts, +36)

What are their chances?
Good. Norwich have won 10 of their last 13, and former Hamilton Academical boss Alex Neil has a 71% win ratio three months into his job at Carrow Road. The Canaries host Middlesbrough in another huge promotion clash at the end of next week, a game sandwiched by a Yorkshire double away to Leeds and Rotherham. If it comes down to the final day, Fulham at home looks straightforward enough. 

Who’s going to get them up?
Messrs Jerome, Johnson, Grabban and Hooper have all hit double figures, while Wes Hoolahan has chipped in with 10 assists. England’s John Ruddy has helped marshal the league’s joint-second-best defence while Steven Whittaker and Martin Olsson are steady at full-back. Graham Dorrans has been a welcome addition from West Brom, and with Alex Tettey alongside him the Norfolk side have good balance.  

Premier League survival prospects?
The only regular under the age of 26 is Nathan Redmond, so an injection of youth in an ageing squad may be required. But they have some players ready to prove a point at the top level. 

Bradley Johnson curls one home against Sheffield Wednesday

3) Watford (76 pts, +34)

What are their chances?
After a thrilling 2-2 draw at Derby last week with 10 men, the Hornets dominated Middlesbrough on Monday in the last of their games against fellow promotion candidates. Upcoming home games against Birmingham and Sheffield Wednesday should be negotiable, but their immediate away trips to struggling Millwall and a rejuvenated Nottingham Forest could prove tricky. Play-offs should be a minimum.

Who’s going to get them up?
Troy Deeney is a beast up front with 20 goals so far, while Nigeria international Odion Ighalo has scored 15 times since the turn of the year. Add in Matej Vydra and you account for 52 of their 82 strikes. Behind them attacking midfielder Daniel Tozser is a threat, and Ben Watson adds experience in midfield. Clean sheets have only been achieved a dozen times, so it’s sometimes a case of simply outscoring the opposition. 

Premier League survival prospects?
Many of their players have experience of playing at the top level and might even be more suited to Premier League football. While Watford may sometimes look to sister clubs Udinese and Granada, the worldwide reach of the Pozzo scouting network (which unearthed a teen Alexis Sanchez) will no doubt contribute.

Watford have been rewarded after knocking back big bids for Deeney last summer

4) Middlesbrough (75 pts, +28)

What are their chances?
After one defeat in 18 between October and February, the Teesiders lost five of their next 10 games and gradually slipped down the table. They have a crucial game at home to Wolves on Tuesday, followed by a 450-mile round trip to Norwich three days later. Home form will be key and they have three games left at the Riverside Stadium, where Aitor Karanka's men have won on nine of their last 10 outings.

Who’s going to get them up?
Chelsea loanee Patrick Bamford has scored winners against Derby and Wigan in recent weeks and will be important during the final push. Second-top scorer Grant Leadbitter is suspended for the next two so Karanka will have to reshape his midfield. Jonathan Woodgate adds experience after time out of the team.

Premier League survival prospects?
Karanka has a good relationship with Jose Mourinho and will no doubt be able to pull a few strings elsewhere. This is Boro’s sixth season in the Championship so long-term chairman Steve Gibson would surely take significant steps to ensure they stay in the top flight for that bumper new TV deal. Signing Bamford permanently could be key, with a long-term Chelsea future unlikely.

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5) Derby (71 pts, +28)

What are their chances?
Their win at Wigan last weekend was a first in eight attempts, and it should be straightforward for the Rams after Saturday’s big one in the early game against rivals Brentford. Home matches against already-relegated Blackpool and FA Cup semi-finalists Reading should reap the required points, and they'll fancy their chances at struggling Millwall in their penultimate encounter. 

Who’s going to get them up?
The Rams have an abundance of attacking talent, but in that winless run injuries hit them hard. Chris Martin is now back after nearly two months out and his goals will be relied upon again. Elsewhere, Tom Ince and Will Hughes are tidy, while Johnny Russell has created more goals (8) than anyone else.

Premier League survival prospects?
They should be attractive to potential signings, especially with Steve McClaren at the helm, and the club were announced as debt-free this time last year which should give their American owners a platform to invest. It couldn’t go much worse than their last top flight campaign in 2007/08, when they won just once.

Chris Martin netted off the bench in his last outing at Wigan

6) Wolves (71 pts, +13)

What are their chances?
Wolves aren’t quite the traditional team from nowhere to enter the play-offs, but they are the form side with four wins in a row. After five successive defeats in November and December, Kenny Jackett's men have won 13 of 21, and games at Middlesbrough and then at home to Ipswich are likely to settle things.

Who’s going to get them up?
Pilot’s 1974 hit Magic has become the soundtrack to Wolves’ three key players in recent weeks, with Nouha Dicko, Benik Afobe and Bakary Sako’s names all crafted into a new chant. They’ve hit 24 of Wolves’ 33 goals between them since Afobe joined in January, and if the trio can stay fit Jackett will fancy his side’s chances.

Premier League survival prospects?
The squad was majorly rebuilt in League One last season and their run this term has been aided by the majority of the team staying fit. They don’t have a first-team regular over 30, though, and it would be big-game experience they'd need in the summer to have a chance of staying up.

Sako and Afobe have torn apart Championship backlines this season

7) Brentford (70 pts, +15)

What are their chances?
Like Wolves, Brentford have done incredibly well to put themselves into a position to achieve back-to-back promotions. It’s fifth vs seventh when they travel to Derby in Saturday’s early kick-off at the iPro Stadium, and a win there would give them a boost after just two wins in six. After that they have winnable games, notably at home against Bolton and struggling Wigan on the final day of the regular season.

Who’s going to get them up?
Andre Gray has scored just six of his 15 goals since the turn of the year, so the net-ripplers have been spread around the team. Jota and Spurs loanee Alex Pritchard have contributed well to add to their overall wizardry in midfield. Veteran Jonathan Douglas is a calm head, and behind them Moses Odubajo is always a threat. As a result, they’ve scored three or more goals in each of their last five victories. 

Premier League survival prospects?
Mark Warburton is having none of chairman Matthew Benham’s new statistical system, and is off at the end of May. It will be a frantic summer for his replacement, and they would no doubt be favourites to go down with the bookies. An existing nucleus of young technical players would need to be padded around, along with the permanent signing of Spurs playmaker Pritchard. There are question marks about whether the west Londoners would even be able to play at Griffin Park, which doesn't meet Premier League criteria. 

Jota gets up to punish Forest late on

8) Ipswich (68 pts, +15)

What are their chances? 
In his second full season, Mick McCarthy has moulded a side ready to challenge for promotion, but questions have been asked of the Yorkshireman in recent weeks after just two wins in their last eight matches. Their fans know more than anyone what the play-offs are all about having featured seven times (a league high), reaching the final only once in 2000 when they beat Barnsley. With tricky away ties at Wolves and Blackburn, winning all three home games will be imperative to their chances. 

Who’s going to get them up?
League top scorer Daryl Murphy would be the obvious answer, but the Irishman has just two goals in his last 11 appearances for the Tractor Boys. Instead, it appears to be January signing Freddie Sears who is pushing them on. Even top assisters Paul Anderson and Teddy Bishop haven't contributed since February and December respectively, so it'll be a real team effort getting them over the finishing line.

Premier League survival prospects?
Ipswich were last in the Premier League in 2002, so promotion this season is likely to include significant investment to secure their top flight status. The club has young talent and the infrastructure needed to compete, but McCarthy has not used big amounts of money well in the past. Work-rate would be further enforced and nifty recruitment would be key to ensure safety among the big boys.

Blackburn loanee Luke Varney scored in the 2-1 defeat to Huddersfield