Date:Wednesday February 14 2007
Southampton have played 32 games and have 53 points, leaving them 6 points off automatic promotion with a game in hand over second-placed West Bromwich Albion.
Saints` strength lies in their home record, having lost only twice at St. Mary`s this season. With three home games against other promotion contenders to go (Cardiff, Sunderland and Colchester) an unbeaten home record between now and May would do the team`s promotion chances no harm.
Southampton have also lost just twice in the league since October and boast the league`s top scorer in Gzregorz Rasiak, who has netted 15 times away from home. The threat of Rasiak will prove vital in tough away ties to Preston, Stoke and Birmingham.
Current leaders Derby County have perhaps the easiest run-in, playing mainly mid-table sides. With Billy Davies` team churning out 1-0 victories seemingly every week, the Rams are surely favourites to win the title. A victory at Birmingham next month would almost confirm this.
West Brom face a slightly trickier schedule, with Cardiff, Sunderland and Birmingham still to visit The Hawthorns. Prior to Saints` visit last weekend, the Baggies had won their last eight home fixtures, making them an good bet for automatic promotion. The threat of Diomansy Kamara and Kevin Phillips could help them to achieve this.
Although Birmingham City have two games in hand, they must play every other team in the top six. With a hectic period of four games in ten days commencing next week in addition to ever-decreasing attendances and disgruntled fans, Birmingham could easily run out of steam and find automatic promotion slipping from their reach.
Asides from a tough trip to Cardiff, Preston face a seemingly easy run-in. A handful of fixtures against the teams at the bottom could prove tricky, as the relegation-threatened clubs start to scrap for every point. A professional job against these sides should see Preston comfortably hang on to a play-off place or even threaten for automatic promotion.
Like Birmingham, Cardiff City must also play every team currently in the play-offs. With Sunderland level on points and goal difference with the Bluebirds, they could possibly find themselves missing out on the play-offs.
1) Derby County
2) West Bromwich Albion
3) Preston North End
6) Birmingham City
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