The Championship Relegation Betting: Lancashire clubs set for heartbreak

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With more than half of the Championship clubs still in realistic danger of relegation we asked Mike Norman to try and unravel the puzzle and come up with one or two to back at decent odds...

"If either of the sides win their huge clash next week then the losing side will be trading much shorter to go down with some very tough fixtures to come."

Back Blackburn @ [11.0] to be relegated

Back Blackpool @ [9.0] to be relegated

The quest to become champions of the Football League Championship looks all but over with Cardiff City currently seven points clear at the top of the table and with a game in hand over all of their nearest pursuers.

But while the remaining automatic promotion place and play-off positions are still far from decided, undoubtedly the battle to beat the drop is going to be one of the most exciting conclusions to a Championship season for many a year.

With just eight rounds of fixtures remaining (though some clubs do have a game in hand) no fewer than 14 clubs are still very much in relegation trouble. Just seven points separate Burnley in 11th place and Wolves in 23rd, and exactly 11 clubs are no more than five points from safety.

This season has already been like none previous, and it now promises to be unprecedented in terms of the number of points required to avoid relegation.

Every one of the clubs from Burnley downwards has taken at least six points from their eight games immediately prior to today, so in a Championship where anyone can literally beat anyone, it's relatively safe to assume that the clubs in the bottom five or six will take at least a further six points from here on in.

And if that's the case then you're probably looking at around the 50-point mark, but more likely at least 52 points, required to avoid being a League One outfit next season.

This makes Burnley - available to back at [20.0] in the Championship Relegation market - and Birmingham ([28.0]) effectively three points away from safety. The Clarets have a tough run-in, but with Charlie Austin in their side they ought to grind out a win somewhere - probably at home to Bristol City on April 6.

Birmingham on the other hand have hit a bit of form at exactly the right time. Just two defeats in 10, including five wins, means Lee Clarke's men will have no problems avoiding the drop.

Derby ([25.0]) currently have 48 points and aren't in great form (just two wins in 10 games), but they are so strong at Pride Park that they will be fine. They have home fixtures against Bristol City, Ipswich, and Peterborough to come, and four of their other five fixtures are against bottom-half sides, so securing at least four points should be a simple task.

Of the three clubs currently on 47 points Millwall ([16.0]) at first glance look in most danger. The Lions have lost seven of their previous nine league games and with a FA Cup semi-final on the horizon they could easily get distracted.

Kenny Jackett's men also have some incredibly tough fixtures to come - away to Birmingham and Leicester, plus games against Crystal Palace, Watford, and Nottingham Forest. But while they are only five points from safety, they do have two games in hand on most clubs, effectively meaning they need to pick up five or six points from the next 30 available. They will do it, but only just I feel.

Huddersfield ([7.2]) have won three of their last five and appear to have emerged from their poor start to 2013, while Charlton ([8.4]) have taken seven points from their last six games and strike me as a team always capable of getting a result. Both clubs will survive.

That brings us on to two of the clubs that are in real danger of getting sucked into the relegation dogfight - Blackpool and Blackburn, both of whom are just four points above the drop zone and worth backing at their current odds.

The Tangerines ([9.0]) have won just once since Paul Ince took charge - albeit an excellent win at Watford - and have suddenly stopped scoring goals which is a huge concern. To be more precise Blackpool haven't scored in five of their last seven league games, and the fact that they have scored jut one first half goal in their last 18 outings is a staggering statistic.

Blackpool actually play Blackburn at Ewood Park in their next game, and if they fail to win that then their next two fixtures against promotion-chasing Palace and Forest won't appeal one bit.

We could easily be looking at a league table in three weeks time that has Blackpool deep in the relegation mire, and a Betfair market that has them at around [3.0] for the drop.

On the other hand, if Blackpool win at Ewood Park on March 29 then it will be Rovers ([11.0]) - who have just this morning announced that they have sacked Michael Appleton - who will be looking over their shoulders. And after that game they have Cardiff away!

Blackburn have not won in seven games now, and like Blackpool they aren't scoring many goals. They too have some tough fixtures to come, and with the shambolic ownership of the club taking another twist today with the sacking of yet another manager, then I wouldn't be surprised at all if they are in the relegation shake-up come what May.

The advice is to back both Blackpool and Blackburn now to be relegated. If either of the sides win their huge clash next week then the losing side will be trading much shorter to go down with some very tough fixtures to come. A draw would be the ideal result next week, a point apiece suiting neither club with hard games around the corner.

Of the bottom six in the table an argument can be made for any of them to be relegated, but their odds are far from appealing.

Ipswich ([6.6]) keep grinding out the odd win and look the safest of the six to beat the drop, and with Barnsley (six wins in nine league games), Sheff Wed (four wins and just three defeats in last 10), and Peterborough (two defeats and four wins in nine) showing improved form of late you'd want much more than the [3.5], [3.6], and [1.64] respectively that is currently on offer about them going down.

That just leaves Bristol City ([1.37]), who admittedly look doomed given they are three points adrift, and Wolves ([2.44]).

I fancy Dean Saunders' men to survive, simply because they score goals (they've found the net in nine of their last 10 games) and have some very winnable fixtures coming up, starting with woefully out-of-form Middlesbrough at Molineux. If they do survive, then the trap door will be well and truly open for one of our selections!

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Back Blackburn @ [11.0] to be relegated
Back Blackpool @ [9.0] to be relegated

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