The Championship league is will slowly come to an end, and with that, we will get to see the best three teams that have proven themselves, get rewarded to play among the “big boys” in the Premier League next season. While we are still a good month away from the final round, we can not help ourselves to speculate which teams we will see finishing at the top. Which is exactly what we will be looking at in this article, where we will try to answer who are the two main candidates to be promoted into Premier League and which teams will fight for the third spot in the playoffs.
After 36 rounds of Championship league behind us, we are seemingly in for an exciting end of the season with plenty of teams still in an excellent spot to be crowned the champions and even more teams that have a good chance to end up in the playoffs.
Norwich are flying high after a disastrous 2018 season
As it stands now, Norwich are leading the pack, which is not surprising, if we take into consideration their exceptional performance this season, especially in the attack. Norwich have scored an impressive 72 goals in 36 matches played, which is exactly 2 goals per game average and while their defence is not the best, it was still good enough to bring them to the top of the league. The reason behind why I believe Norwich will end up as a direct promotion team is not only their admirable performance but also the easy schedule Norwich has in front of them. Out of the remaining 9 matches, Norwich will play 5 at home, in addition to being paired with bottom half teams in most of the remaining fixtures. Taking all into consideration, Norwich should end up as the champions if of course there won’t be any huge surprises and upsets from other teams.
The 15-year long drought might come to an end for Leeds
Only two points behind Norwich sits Leeds, who have been chasing the Premier League promotion for 15 long years and from what we have seen, this year just might be the one for them. While they are only 2 points behind the league leaders, Leeds are at the same time only 2 points in front of Sheffield United, who will look for a chance to grab the 2nd place from them. Much like Norwich, Leeds also has a fairly easy schedule in front of them, facing mostly teams from the bottom of the league in their final 7 rounds. In that regard, I do believe Leeds will manage to hold on to their hard earned 2nd spot if of course, we won’t see any huge surprises in the remaining rounds. The only teams I believe that could upset Leeds are Preston in an away game or Aston Villa in the final fixture of the season. The former Leeds midfielder Michael Brown has claimed that Leeds would feel more pressure than their promotion rivals.
So close but yet so far
Moving down to the 3rd place, we have got Sheffield United, who surprised us all with their performances this season. As of now, they are only 4 points behind Norwich and 2 behind Leeds, which puts them in an excellent spot to finish in the top 2 this year. I would not be surprised if they manage to do so, as Sheffield Utd have been playing well this season, but at the end of the day, they need to wait for one of the top 2 teams to make a mistake and drop points. Of course, the most important match in the remaining fixtures will be the away fixture against Leeds on March 16th, which will be highly important for Sheffield Utd to win, if they want to have a fighting chance for direct promotion.
4th place more or less set in stone.
While previously mentioned three are the main candidates to win the league this year, it could have easily been four teams, if West Brom performed better in their last 3 matches, when they lost two and drew one, which results in 8 points they won’t ever get a chance to get back. With a disappointing run behind them, which puts West Brom 9 points out of reaching the top 2, they will have to fight for the playoffs spot, where we are in for a heated battle between Sheffield Utd, West Brom, Middlesbrough, Derby and even Bristol City. Nonetheless, out of the four teams, I do believe West Brom will hold on to the 4th spot, which is at the end of the day a disappointing result for a team that had an excellent chance to join the title race, however, a playoffs spot is not bad either. Why I believe they will hold on to the 4th spot is fairly easy schedule in front of them and their impressive attack; Rodriguez and Gayle, who have proven before are a deadly duo, which will help West Brom get back up after subpar performances in the last 3 fixtures
5th and 6th place for anyone to grab
In the fight for the 5th and 6th place, we have got four teams; Middlesbrough, Derby, Nottingham and Bristol City. While it seemed like the race will end up being between Middlesbrough and Bristol City, Derby found their way into the 6th place after a win and a draw in the last 2 fixtures, which now puts them 3 points behind Middlesborough,1 point ahead of Bristol City and 2 points ahead of Nottingham.
Being that teams seem equally strong it will all come down to their schedules, where Derby and Nottingham come out as the two teams with much easier schedules. Derby already managed to catch up to the top 6, and Nottingham is closing in fast, while on the other side, Middlesbrough and Bristol City slowly started to slip down the leaderboard. In the end, I would not be surprised if Derby and Nottingham climb up to the 5th and 6th place and fight for the promotion.
With that, I expect the leaderboard to show Norwich to finish 1st, Sheffield Utd and Leeds to have a close battle for 2nd, West Brom to remain 4th and Derby and Nottingham to climb to 5th and 6th place, while Middlesbrough and Bristol fall out of the top 6.