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Championship Focus: Still jammed up; Leaders Burnley face tough run-in

Huddersfield Town v Burnley - Sky Bet Championship

HUDDERSFIELD, ENGLAND - MARCH 12: Sean Dyche manager of Burnley during the Sky Bet Championship match between Huddersfield Town and Burnley at the John Smiths Stadium on March 12, 2016 in Huddersfield, United Kingdom. (Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

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Nothing’s close to decided in the promotion race with between 8-9 matches left for the teams of England’s second tier.

While three clubs can feel comfortable knowing they’ll at least be in the promotion playoff, the automatic promotion spots have three favorites for two spots. And nine teams are still realistically alive for a playoff spot.

[ MORE: Hart & Sterling out for England; Heaton called up ]

Before we go any further, how about a hand for Rotherham United, who have claimed 13 of their 39 points -- one-third -- in six matches to pull out of the relegation (with plenty of work to be done). It looks like they’re in the middle of a five or six team fight to stay in the Championship.

But what about those teams that could go up to the Premier League?

Championship table

The same nine teams were in the mix when we last put the Championship in focus, and the top team remains Sean Dyche’s Burnley. The Clarets have a four-point lead on second-place Brighton and are five points ahead of Middlesbrough, which has played one less game.

Boro are flying thanks to a win over fourth-place Hull on the weekend. The Tigers also have a match-in-hand, and blew the chance to pass Boro with a win.

Birmingham is in danger of dropping out of the picture if it fails to win its match-in-hand, while Ipswich is now more than one win from the final playoff spot.

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Boro and Birmingham will make up their matches in hand on April 1-2, a two-day span that also sees a huge meeting between the table’s top two sides. If Burnley can get a win at Brighton, the Clarets would seem to have an almost insurmountable lead.

Here’s the thing, though: it wouldn’t be, thanks to a brutal run of scheduling that will see the Clarets play only two bottom-half sides over the rest of the season.

Follow @NicholasMendola