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Race to the Promised Land: Assessing the Championship title race

As the Championship reaches its final full month, the race for the top two automatic spots remains wide open, in one of the most enthralling and entertaining title races in recent memory. It’s possible that the teams who finish in the top two may both eclipse the 100 point mark, a feat that has never been seen before in the division. Three horses remain in the race, but with under five weeks before judgement day, there’s a lot more running before we know who will join the footballing elite in the Premier League next season. Let’s meet the contenders…


Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna is a candidate for manager of the season

The surprise package of the season, the Tractor Boys rejoined the Championship following an impressive campaign in League One last season. However, nobody could’ve predicted that they’d be seeking back-to-back promotions, and a first stint in the Prem in 22 years. Kieran McKenna’s men have smashed expectations, and find themselves in the thick of the promotion race against teams who are far better equipped than themselves. Following a slight dip in form in January, the Blues have won 9 of their last 10 fixtures. Their fate is in their own hands now.


If there’s one word to describe Ipswich’s fixtures this season it would be; entertaining. The Tractor Boys have scored 84 goals in 40 games this season, the most in the entire EFL. This attacking barrage has been courtesy of McKenna’s modern and progressive playstyle, playing out from the back and wearing defences down across 90 minutes. There’s a host of attacking talent to mention here: forwards Conor Chaplin and Nathan Broadhead are both in double figures for the season, and January signing Kieffer Moore has provided a focal point up front in the absence of George Hirst. However, if attack is Ipswich’s strength, their defence has been leakier than a broken tap. They’ve conceded 51 goals this season and have found themselves falling behind early in matches far too frequently. Their tenacity has been admirable, earning 31 points from losing positions this season, the most in the league. But it’s intriguing to think how many more points they could’ve had with a more resolute defence.


Surely the best full back in the league, Davis has been the epitome of Ipswich’s attacking ethos, providing a league-leading 16 assists from left back this season. The left back has provided assists from blazing runs down the wing, as well as plenty from set pieces. However, he has been caught out tracking back at times, and providing defensive resilience along with attacking brilliance will be crucial in Ipswich’s run-in.


Ipswich’s biggest fixture is surely their next, an East Anglian derby against bitter rivals Norwich this Saturday, which will be important for both bragging rights and league position. They also face back-to-back games away from home against play-off challengers Coventry and Hull, which could decide their fate come May 4th.


Crysencio Summerville has impressed going forward for Leeds this season

The first of the three sides to be relegated from the Premier League last season, Leeds have managed to rebuild successfully from a disappointing season, retaining some quality talent and appointing an experienced Championship manager in Daniel Farke. They’ve been in unbelievable form, and are currently unbeaten in the league in 2024, including 8 consecutive wins at home. They’re the team in form at the moment, but the chasing pack may force them to continue this perfect streak to clinch promotion.


Leeds’ Championship campaign has been thoroughly impressive, and the most important aspect to their success has to be their impenetrable defence. The Whites have conceded only 31 goals this season (0.78 goals a game on average) and goalkeeper Illan Meslier comfortably leads the clean sheet charts with 17. Leeds’ resolute defence has been spearheaded by the Welsh duo of Ethan Ampadu and Joe Rodon, who both possess top flight and international experience. Youngster Archie Gray has also impressed at the back, and will undoubtedly attract attention from multiple suitors this summer. Leeds haven’t been short on attacking firepower either, scoring 75 goals for the campaign. This has led them to a league best goal difference of +44, which could be a game changer if there’s a tie on points to secure a top two spot.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Crysencio Summerville

Summerville unperformed in the Premier League for Leeds, but his efforts this season have revealed his true talents. The talented winger has scored 17 goals so far (the fourth most in the league) and contributed 8 assists as well. In a loaded front line that includes the likes of Dan James and Georginio Rutter, Summerville has made himself the stand out, and his attacking creativity, pace and flair are a joy to watch (unless you’re an opposing defender!)  


Leeds’ most important fixture may be their last; they face Southampton at Elland Road on the final day of the season. On paper, Leeds have one of the easier schedules of the top three, with games against relegation strugglers such as Blackburn and QPR. However, as we all know there’s no easy 3 points in the Championship.


The 2015-16 Premier League title winners have had a rollercoaster journey since their relegation from the top division last season. Certainly amongst the favourites to win the title before the season started, Leicester began the season in historic fashion. Managed by Enzo Maresca, the Foxes made a storming start to the season. They accumulated a record 58 points at Christmas from 23 games, and lead the league by 6 points, at times looking unstoppable in their quest to return to the Premier League. It seemed a certainty that the Foxes would return to the promised land. However, the turn of the year has brought a turn in fortunes, and Leicester have only managed 2 wins in their last 7 Championship games.


The Foxes have played an attractive brand of possession football, combining steady build-up play from the back with flashes of attacking flair and talent up front. The Foxes are second in both goals scored and least goals conceded this season, a balance that has been evident in their plethora of impressive performances. There’s real creativity in the midfield as well. The solidity of experienced Premier League campaigner Wilfried Ndidi has been crucial, but the real stand-out has been Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall. The young Englishman has recorded 11 goals and 13 assists this season, and has acted as the central creative hub for the Leicester front-line.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Stepheny Mavididi 

Mavididi has been one of the most electric players in the league this season, and his presence in this Leicester side has been vital. Having joined from Montpelier in the summer, Mavididi has scored 11 goals so far this season, and has terrorised Championship full backs all year, with his blistering pace and effortless finishing.


Leicester’s run-in includes four teams in the bottom half. These fixtures may seem easy on paper, but the desperation of the relegation dogfight is sure to kick in and makes these tough fixtures. Otherwise, a Tuesday night visit from Southampton on 23 April looks like the Foxes’ biggest test to come.


Adam Armstrong is the Championship's second highest scorer so far this season

Southampton’s promotion push basically looks over after a crushing loss to Ipswich on Monday, but I’m not counting them out completely yet. Moreover, their achievements this season still deserve praise even if they fall short of the finish. After an unbelievable run of form at the start of the season which saw them set a record 25 game unbeaten run, Southampton have faltered in the race for automatic promotion, and find themselves 11 points behind the top three. But they’re averaging a shade under 2 points a game (which would be promotion pace in a normal season) and their final run of games will have a serious impact on deciding the top six by the end of the season.


Russell Martin took over a broken Southampton side at the start of the season, having suffered relegation after a fractured season in the Premier League. However, despite a rough start to the season, the Saints went on an unbelievable run of form and showed some of the Premier League talent that they possess. Their play style revolves around steady possession football, with the Saints averaging a staggering 66% possession for the season. While this play style may be patient, it’s also deadly, with plenty of attacking quality from the likes of Che Adams and Ryan Fraser. They’ve also benefited from pressing teams whilst out of possession, and have experience at the back from Premier League veteran Jan Bednarek.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Adam Armstrong

He seems the obvious choice, but there’s a reason that Adam Armstrong is second only to Sammie Szmodics as the Championship’s top goalscorer. The striker has already netted 20 goals, and provided 11 assists this season and Southampton will need his clinical finishing if they’re to rejoin the race for promotion.


As previously mentioned, Southampton still have to play Leicester and Leeds, and will certainly need to steal three points from both to keep their promotion hopes alive. They also have two games in hand, which may be both a blessing and a curse, with the Saints facing 7 more fixtures in April. Tricky away games against Coventry and Cardiff will also be pivotal in the Saints’ final push for the summit.

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