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Five talking points ahead of midweek Championship fixtures

:Headline: Five talking points ahead of midweek Championship fixtures:
The Elland Road club last played in the top flight during the 2003-04 season.

The Sky Bet Championship season is fast approaching its crunch-point with top two Leeds and West Brom within touching distance of promotion and as many as eight teams battling relegation.

By Thursday evening, the picture could be significantly clearer after the 44th round of fixtures.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the major midweek talking points.

Elland back?

Victory for leaders Leeds over bottom-of-the-table Barnsley at Elland Road on Thursday night would secure their return to the top flight should third-placed Brentford fail to beat Preston 24 hours earlier. Even victory for the Bees would give them a purely notional chance of overhauling Marcelo Bielsa's men on goal difference. Leeds' 16-year absence from the Premier League has included three seasons in League One, and their 2001 Champions League semi-final showdown with Valencia seems a distant memory.

Top of the form

Only two play-off places remain up for grabs with Leeds, West Brom, Brentford and Fulham already assured of top-six finishes regardless of what happens during what remains of the campaign. Fifth-placed Forest would join them on Wednesday evening with a home win over Swansea, one of seven sides covered by a spread of just four points from Cardiff in sixth down to Blackburn in 12th.

Black clouds over Yorkshire

The traditional Yorkshire Ridings has been represented consistently over the history of the Premier League, but no fewer than four former top-flight clubs situated within its boundaries are in danger of slipping into League One over the next fortnight. Barnsley have slipped to the foot of the table, while Hull, who travel to Wigan on Tuesday, have joined them in the bottom three with Huddersfield and Middlesbrough, who go to Sheffield Wednesday and Reading respectively the same evening, just two points clear of the bottom three.

Nathan Jones had been gone too long

Luton have given themselves a chance of avoiding relegation following the return of manager Nathan Jones (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Eyebrows were raised when Nathan Jones returned as Luton manager on his 47th birthday in May after a difficult 16 months in charge at Stoke. With nine games remaining, the Hatters were deep in relegation trouble, but under his charge, they have won two and drawn three of the six they have played since to lift themselves from the foot of the table and to within two points of safety. A home victory over QPR on Tuesday evening could conceivably ease them out of the bottom three with a trip to Hull and a final-day clash with Blackburn to come.

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Championship Table
CLeeds UnitedLeeds46289977354293
5Cardiff CityCardiff4619161168581073
6Swansea CitySwansea461816126253970
7Nottingham ForestNott'm Forest461816125850870
9Preston North EndPreston461812165954566
10Derby CountyDerby461713166264-264
11Blackburn RoversBlackburn461712176663363
12Bristol City461712176065-563
13Queens Park RangersQPR461610206776-958
15Stoke CityStoke46168226268-656
16Sheffield WednesdaySheff Weds461511205866-856
18Huddersfield TownHuddersfield461312215270-1851
19Luton TownLuton46149235482-2851
20Birmingham CityBirmingham461214205475-2150
RCharlton AthleticCharlton461212225065-1548
RWigan AthleticWigan461514175756147
RHull City46129255787-3045
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Premier League Table
2Manchester CityMan City382639102356781
3Manchester UnitedMan Utd391813867373067
5Leicester CityLeicester381881267412662
6Tottenham HotspurSpurs3816111161471459
7Wolverhampton WanderersWolves381514951401159
9Sheffield UnitedSheff Utd381412123939054
13Crystal Palace391210173350-1746
14Newcastle UnitedNewcastle381111163858-2044
15Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton38914153954-1541
16West Ham UnitedWest Ham38109194962-1339
17Aston Villa3898214167-2635
RNorwich CityNorwich3956282677-5121
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