Cardiff City and Swansea City await QPR verdict

By Dewi HughesBBC Wales Sport
Cardiff City and Swansea City are locked in a battle for third place
Cardiff or Swansea could still celebrate automatic promotion

With one game to go in the Championship season, the promotion connotations for Cardiff City and Swansea City should be crystal clear.

But a dark, menacing cloud hangs over the race to the Premier League as champions-elect Queens Park Rangers sweat over the distinct possibility of a points deduction penalty.

The simple facts as they stand are that Cardiff and Swansea will face the anxiety of the play-off matches.

Norwich's win over Portsmouth on Monday night, which followed Cardiff's heavy home defeat to Middlesbrough, finally extinguished all hope the Bluebirds and Swans had of climbing above the Canaries.

All that now remains for the two Welsh sides is to jockey for position in the play-off places.

A victory for Cardiff away to ninth-placed Burnley will guarantee them third place on 82 points, and a semi-final play-off match against the team that finishes sixth.

But a draw or a defeat will open the door for Swansea, who would leapfrog their arch rivals with victory over relegated Sheffield United at the Liberty Stadium.

Such a scenario would mean Cardiff would finish fourth and face the fifth-placed team in the play-offs.

But if Swansea draw, they finish fourth - and if they lose, they would be overtaken by Reading if they beat Derby at home.

Nottingham Forest (sixth) and Leeds United (seventh) are the other teams still in the mix.

However, the whole picture could change significantly if QPR are docked points by the Football Association.

The London club, who are five points clear of Norwich at the top of the Championship, face a four-day hearing in front of the an Independent Regulatory Commission into claims they broke league rules on third-party ownership in the signing of Alejandro Faurlin in 2009.

The verdict is due to be delivered on the eve of the final round of Championship fixtures, which sees QPR hosting Leeds United.

A guilty verdict will almost certainly bring a hefty fine, but the prospect of a points deduction also looms large.

Losing 10 or 15 points would plummet QPR into the play-off places, thrusting Cardiff and Swansea into a final day battle for second spot - and an automatic promotion place - behind Norwich.

But such a punishment would inevitably prompt an appeal, and that would be heard within seven days of the original verdict.

The provisional dates for the first legs of the play-off semi-finals have been set for 12 and 13 May, but the Football League has already contemplated delaying the games until the week beginning 16 May as a result of any possible appeal.

It all adds up to an enthralling end-of-season crescendo, which could still conceivably result in Cardiff and Swansea reaching the promised land of the Premier League.

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