The Football League season is heading into one of its most crucial weekends as clubs battle it out at both ends of the table in all three divisions.
There is much to be decided for sides still dreaming of the Premier League. While Fulham are cruising to the title, the other automatic promotion slot from the Championship is up for grabs and there is a thrilling tussle for the play-offs.
The promotion race in League One is also heating up as teams chase a place in the Championship. Ahead of a blockbuster weekend of action, Sportsmail gets to grips with the key questions.
Fulham are cruising to the Championship title and could seal promotion this weekend
IS THERE ANY STOPPING FULHAM?
No. Marco Silva’s side are the Championship’s best team by some distance.
No calculators are needed to decipher their dominance, though they will have their eyes on passing the 100-goal mark.
Their 94 so far leaves the Cottagers five short of Reading’s Championship record of 99 goals in 2005-06. Aleksandar Mitrovic has a staggering 38 of those, already smashing Ivan Toney’s all-time high of 33 in one season last time round.
Aleksandr Mitrovic has scored 38 goals for Fulham in the Championship this season
On watching Fulham way back in August, a report in this paper read: ‘Remember the name, Fabio Carvalho, the new prince of Craven Cottage.’
Now 19, the Portuguese midfielder is a supreme talent and is set to join Liverpool. He has dazzled in this promotion push.
WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER PROMOTION SPOT?
Scott Parker’s Bournemouth started with a 15-game unbeaten run, and although they have repeated that form at times, they have also been inconsistent.
When they click and are at full flow they are a joy to watch, but their football has often been ponderous and over-thought.
Bournemouth occupy the second automatic promotion place in the Championship
Nottingham Forest are also in with a shout of securing a place in the Premier League
Steve Cooper’s Nottingham Forest are breathing down their necks. This weekend will decide whether they are genuine candidates for automatic promotion or just the top six.
Cooper took over from Chris Hughton with the club a mess and rock bottom of the table.
So will this be a season of ‘what if?’. What if they had sacked Hughton a couple of weeks earlier? What if they do not go up and dazzling talents such as Brennan Johnson or loanees James Garner and Djed Spence leave for better clubs?
WHO COULD BE WEMBLEY HEROES?
The play-off battle is the most open race in recent memory. Huddersfield look exciting under Carlos Corberan, a disciple of Marcelo Bielsa.
The Spaniard is a perfectionist and his team have been delightful to watch. They play QPR on Friday, a team who are still in the race but now one of the chasers after a capitulation in recent weeks.
Huddersfield and Luton met earlier this week and are among those battling for a play-off place
Sheffield United are chasing an immediate return to the Premier League via the play-offs
Luton were a non-League club eight years ago so for them to be in contention is a fairytale in itself. Nathan Jones’ stubborn side mean business and can beat anyone, especially at Kenilworth Road.
Sheffield United have come on strong after a torrid start, and their former boss Chris Wilder is doing another stellar job at Middlesbrough.
Blackburn’s Ben Brereton Diaz has 20 goals but none in 2022 due to an ankle injury, although the Stoke-born Chile international is fit again and could be crucial in a play-off push for the Ewood Park outfit.
Tony Mowbray’s side are seventh, and Coventry and Millwall are also punching above their weight and could still sneak into the top six.
WHAT ABOUT RELEGATION?
There’s no need to rehash the tale of Derby County’s off-the-pitch struggles. They are almost certainly set for relegation. Wayne Rooney has done a remarkable job amid a 21-point deduction and the young squad would be comfortably mid-table without the sanctions.
Wayne Rooney has been unable to prevent Derby County’s almost inevitable relegation
But they host leaders Fulham on Friday night knowing they probably need to win every remaining match to stay up.
Barnsley and Peterborough look likely to join them in League One next year, with Paul Ince’s Reading — also deducted six points for financial mishaps — and Hull pulling clear.
WHO’S COMING UP?
There looks to be no stopping Wigan’s charge to promotion, a fantastic achievement considering they avoided relegation by a point last season.
Leam Richardson’s side have pulled seven points clear of third-placed Rotherham, who have imploded and lost their last three matches.
Paul Warne’s Millers have a crucial game in hand on second-placed MK Dons, led by young boss Liam Manning.
Wigan are on the brink of moving up to the Championship after enjoying a superb season
Rotherham hit bad form at the worst possible time as they seek promotion from League One
The play-offs will be populated by clubs of huge stature, with Sunderland, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich all in with a shout. At the bottom, Crewe are already relegated and Doncaster are likely to join them.
The Alex have sacked manager Dave Artell and look set to promote Under 23s boss Alex Morris to the senior role.
AFC Wimbledon are scrapping to stay up under new manager Mark Bowen in their first season in front of fans at the new Plough Lane.
AND LEAGUE TWO?
Forest Green have been the runaway leaders and can all but guarantee promotion this weekend, and Exeter look set for promotion after 10 years of just missing out.
It would be a heart-warming story if Port Vale join them — as they look set to do — given their manager Darrell Clarke missed two months on compassionate leave following the tragic death of his teenage daughter.
Forest Green Rovers are the runaway leaders in League Two and are destined for promotion
At the bottom, Scunthorpe will sadly end seven decades in the Football League if they do not beat Leyton Orient on Friday.
Oldham beat Stevenage earlier this month and both could also be relegated. The Latics, who would be the first former Premier League side to drop out of the Football League, are seeing a ‘Shezzurrection’ under returning boss John Sheridan but Stevenage have a game in hand and will not go down without a fight.
Barrow are the other team on 37 points and in danger, facing a return to non-League after just two seasons in the EFL.