EFL

Championship run-in: Where the top four stand in race for automatic promotion

By Sports Desk April 23, 2024

The battle for automatic promotion from the Sky Bet Championship continues to intensify as Leeds moved into the top-two with a nail-biting win over Middlesbrough on Monday.

Leaders Leicester sit just two points ahead of third-placed Ipswich and the Foxes take on Southampton tonight, where defeat for fourth-placed Saints would all but end their automatic hopes.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the remaining weeks of an increasingly tense Championship run-in.

Leicester (1st, played 43, 91 points, +42 goal difference)

Run-in: Southampton (h), Preston (a), Blackburn (h).

Once seemingly certain to return to the top flight after a single season in the second tier – Enzo Maresca’s side were 17 points clear of Leeds – Leicester have suffered a crisis of confidence just at the wrong time.

A 2-1 home defeat by Middlesbrough on February 17 launched a run of 10 league games culminating in a 1-0 reverse at Plymouth which saw them lose six times and collect just 10 of the 30 points available.

However, a 2-1 victory over play-off chasing West Brom took them back to the top of the table and with two of their last three fixtures at the King Power Stadium, they will hope they can make home advantage count.

Leeds (2nd, played 44, 90 points, +43 goal difference)

Run-in: QPR (a), Southampton (h).

As with Leicester, Leeds have suffered a wobble at the most inopportune moment.

A 2-1 defeat at Coventry on April 6 was their first in the league since the turn of the year and, having seen Sunderland leave Elland Road with a point three days later, Daniel Farke’s men lost on home soil for the first time this season last Saturday when Sammie Szmodics fired Blackburn to victory in West Yorkshire.

But they came out on the right end of a seven-goal thriller in Teesside on Monday, claiming a 4-3 win over Middlesbrough that Farke will hope can be a springboard for their final two fixtures.

Ipswich (3rd, played 43, 89 points, +32 goal difference)

Run-in: Hull (a), Coventry (a), Huddersfield (h).

Ipswich’s unlikely tilt at back-to-back promotions has hit the buffers in recent weeks after a remarkable run of nine wins in 10 Championship outings was brought to an end by derby rivals Norwich.

A 1-0 defeat at Carrow Road on April 6 has been followed by home draws with Watford and Middlesbrough and Town must rediscover the form which earned manager Kieran McKenna the accolade of Championship Manager of the Season on Sunday evening if they are to reach the top flight.

However, all three of their remaining opponents still have something to play for, with Hull and Coventry on the fringes of the play-off race and Huddersfield battling desperately to avoid the drop.

Southampton (played 43, 84 points, +29 goal difference)

Run-in: Leicester (a), Stoke (h), Leeds (a).

Southampton’s bad patch arrived in February, when they lost to Bristol City, Hull and Millwall either side of a 2-0 success at West Brom in the space of 12 days.

A 3-0 win over Preston a week ago was their third in succession but despite taking the lead at Cardiff on Saturday, the Bluebirds claimed a last-gasp victory and Saints are now six points adrift of the top two.

How they fare against Leicester may go a long way to deciding their fate, while a visit to Leeds on the final day of the season promises to be a must-watch.

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