Championship: Blackburn, Nottingham Forest & Birmingham battle for survival

Tony Mowbray, Mark Warburton, Harry Redknapp
Blackburn's Tony Mowbray, Nottingham Forest's Mark Warburton and Birmingham's Harry Redknapp will hope to steer their respective clubs to safety on Sunday
Championship final day
Date: Sunday, 7 May Kick-off: 12:00 BST
Coverage: Nottingham Forest v Ipswich Town on BBC Radio 5 live, BBC local radio commentary of all 12 matches; live text commentary on BBC Sport website and app from 11:00 BST.

A former Premier League champion, a two-time European Cup holder or a recent League Cup winner.

By 14:00 BST on Sunday, one of those three will be a League One club.

It is 37 years since Blackburn Rovers were in England's third tier, 22 for Birmingham City and only nine for Nottingham Forest.

Rovers and Forest are in most danger of being relegated from the Championship on Sunday, while Blues could also fill the one remaining spot in the bottom three.

BBC Sport assesses why these three struggling sides find themselves in trouble.

Sunday's team news

Championship bottom six

Permutations

Blackburn will survive if they better Nottingham Forest's result, which would send Forest down. If they match Forest's result, Rovers must effect a two-goal swing on Forest to finish above them, as Forest's goal difference is better by one and they have also scored nine more goals. Blackburn will go down if both clubs draw.

Birmingham will be safe if they win, regardless of results elsewhere. However, if Blackburn and Forest both win, anything less than a victory for Blues would send them down. A draw would not be enough in that scenario as they have the worst goal difference of the three clubs, who would all finish on 51 points.

Blackburn Rovers (22nd, 48 points)

Andy Bayes, BBC Radio Lancashire: "The season comes down to one last match, which has been likened to a cup final. For Blackburn Rovers, it's more important than that.

"'Unthinkable' has been the word used in terms of relegation all season. It would be a shattering blow for a club still feeling the effects of relegation from the Premier League in 2012 and poor recruitment decisions in the aftermath.

"A victory might not secure their status. A defeat might. They just have to look after themselves, with an ear on what's happening at Ashton Gate and The City Ground."

Danny Graham
Blackburn won their penultimate game of the season against Aston Villa with a goal from Danny Graham (right)

Tony Mowbray, Blackburn manager: "We have to go into the last game knowing that we are a decent team in this league.

"It should be a pretty even match. Over the last 14 games we have shown that we are better than the league position we are in, but over 45 games we have shown we are not.

"We have to use the extra adrenalin, intensity and desire that we could have on the day.

"I am positive we can go and get a result, find a performance and then see what everyone else does.

"Sometimes knowing that you have to get result can help. There is no grey area, we have to go win.

"I will try to inspire the players before the game, give them a cause to fight for and send them out to get a victory."

Nottingham Forest (21st, 48 points)

Colin Fray, BBC Radio Nottingham: "Forest's problems are both short and long-term, but they've added up to a season of disaster. Owner Fawaz Al-Hasawi's five years in charge have seen the Reds finish lower each season than the previous one so it's almost inevitable that - without a new owner - a relegation scrap would follow.

"Takeovers have twice come close, and another attempt to buy the club by Evangelos Marinakis - the owner of Greek champions Olympiakos - is well advanced.

"But poor leadership and failed takeovers have led to an alarming lack of infrastructure. There's still no chief executive, and though Frank McParland is now trying to rebuild things as director of football, the lack of a scouting network has been bemoaned by a series of managers.

"Speaking of managers, there have been three this season. Philippe Montanier signed 12 players and five more were added in January, by which time he'd left and Gary Brazil was in charge.

"Of those 17 newcomers, one has been in the starting line-up in recent matches. Hardly great recruitment for a club haemorrhaging money, and when you throw in the sale of prized young asset Oliver Burke, it's not a policy that's gone down well with supporters.

"On the pitch, some things have been embarrassing: schoolboy errors, arguments between players about who would take a penalty, a player changing the formation without reference from the coaching staff.

"All that said, with Mark Warburton at the helm, McParland recruiting, the core of a good squad and a potential takeover looming again, Forest fans have cause for optimism - if they can get the job done against Ipswich."

Danny Fox
Nottingham Forest have won two, drawn two and lost four of their eight games under Mark Warburton

Mark Warburton, Forest manager: "'Bravery' is the key word. We use that word a lot and we ask the players to take the ball in tight areas and deal with the situation; don't come away from the game with any regrets.

"These type of games and challenges ask questions about your strength of character and I think we have enough to deal with it. These games are where you define yourself."

Chris Cohen, Forest club captain: "It's probably the biggest game since I have been at the football club [joined in 2007]. We have to thrive in a big situation. It will test what we are like as characters.

"It's about being brave. It will be a nervy atmosphere I am sure. The fans will be nervous, the same as we are. We have to set a really high tempo to start - that is crucial. We need to show the fans how much it means to us.

"The support is vital. We understand their frustrations - lots of us have similar frustrations. But there is nothing we can do about it. The past is the past.

"We need them all for one more game. We need it be loud, we need it be encouraging. It is down to us to give them something to roar for."

Birmingham City (20th, 50 points)

Richard Wilford, BBC WM: "You can't really view Birmingham City's late relegation scrap as anything other than a self-inflicted wound.

"When new owners Trillion Trophy Asia unexpectedly dispensed with the services of manager Gary Rowett in December, the club were flirting with the play-offs, and though they were unlikely to sustain that challenge, there were few signs of danger.

"Gianfranco Zola arrived for an ill-fated four months at St Andrew's. Although he was almost bewilderingly short of good fortune, there were clearly many issues on and off the field.

"Attempting a wholesale change in playing style without a pre-season and with modest incomings in the January transfer window was, at best, optimistic.

"Ultimately it proved foolhardy as Zola managed only two wins in 22 league games and friction in the squad resulted in an unseemly squabble in the post-match warm-down at Rotherham.

"Zola's resignation gave Harry Redknapp, Steve Cotterill and Paul Groves three games to save the club's Championship status. That may have been just enough. The victory over Huddersfield in the final home game, playing most of the match with 10 men, was the stuff of real togetherness, spirit and mettle.

"But it should never have come to this."

Harry Redknapp
After losing their first game under Harry Redknapp at Aston Villa, Birmingham then boosted their survival hopes by beating Huddersfield Town

Harry Redknapp, Birmingham manager: "The lads are in good shape. We've got pretty much everybody fit and the atmosphere around the place seems good.

"We've tried not to complicate the game for the lads too much and play to our strengths and I think we've done that so far.

"But Bristol will be a tough place to go in front of a full house and what will be their biggest crowd of the season.

"They went to Brighton and did a job on them last weekend and they beat Huddersfield 4-0 a few weeks ago, so they've got some form.

"They'll be up for it as everyone wants to win their last home game of the season, but so will we.

"A draw's no good. A point will make no difference, so it's win or bust for us."

Top Stories