The Championship de-brief - Which teams are most likely to secure promotion?

Published on 18 November 2023 at 16:00

Each season, one of the most captivating storylines within football is the quest for automatic promotion and the drama of the Play-Offs in the Championship, with every game culminating towards judgement day in early April. This season is no different although early on it appears to be a straight forward two horse race between the leagues two most exciting team Ipswich Town and Leicester City. But, with resurgent powerhouses such as a rejuvenated Leeds United and Southampton could we see the chasing pack catch up with the front-runners? 


Leicester City 

After last season's dismal capitulation ending their nine successive campaign's in the top flight, their was a lot of pessimism engulfing the West Midlands club. This was exacerbated by the underwhelming appointment of Pep Guardiola's assistant - Enzo Maresca - who was taking his first plunge into management. It was seen as a huge risk, with many fans anticipating the inexperienced novice would de-rail the club's ambition to immediately return to the Premier League.

Instead, it has been a fairy-tale transformation at the King Power with the 43 year old Spaniard bringing a direct counter-attacking style to Leicester which has seen the club play with freedom and flair. It seems this fresh change of direction from the monotony of Brendan Rodgers who was plagued with an ageing squad has revitalised the atmosphere at the club, where Leicester are a thoroughly entertaining club.

Maresca has guided the former Premier League champions to become the first team the Championship to earn 39 points in their first 15 games. During October they recorded six wins in six games with hard-fought victories against Sunderland, Preston North End and Blackburn and scored 15 goals.

Nevertheless, November has represented a stumbling block for the free-scoring foxes with back to back defeats for the first time all season against Leeds United and Middlesbrough. This has enabled Ipswich Town to go level on points with Leicester, however, they have still retained an impressive eight point cushion on the automatic promotion places.

Leicester boast a squad brimming with quality with pedigree Premier League stars like Jamie Vardy, Connor Coady and Harry Winks to up and coming talents like Kasey McAteer who has four goals in nine games this season. They are definitely the favourites to secure the Championship title and return swiftly back to the promise land.


Ipswich Town -

What a journey Ipswich Town have been on since Kieran McKenna took over at the helm in December 2021, the 37 year old has 65 wins in 115 matches as manager. Last season, was an incredible achievement with the Tractor Boys breaking the 100 mark for goals and earning 98 points to claim automatic promotion back to the Championship. 

Since McKenna was appointed at Ipswich no team in all four tiers of the EFL has won more points (160) and only Pep Guardiola has earnt more league victories than the 37 year old. Ipswich have taken this form into the Championship, recording the best start in EFL history for a newly promoted team with 39 points in 16 games.

They play with jeopardy and risk, which makes them so entertaining to watch because they're set up to attack with direct and free-flowing football generating exciting games for the neutral. This season they have scored the most goals in the second division (36) and are on a 12 game unbeaten streak which has seen them pull away from the chasing pack.

The worry for Ipswich is longevity; are they able to continue to execute this high intensity tactic all season. The hardest tests for McKenna is yet to come and with Leeds United back in form, they could be looking over their shoulders as it gets to the business end of the season.

Leeds United - 

Leeds endured a shambolic season last year, finishing five points from safety and completely losing their attacking identity which had been so integral to their rise under Marcelo Bielsa. They appeared to suffer from a hangover, from their impressive returning season in the Premier League where last season the players looked lethargic and fatigued. 

Daniel Farke's difficult task of turning the scepticism into positivity at the club and getting the fans back on side has been worsened after a mass exodus of star players this summer. Luis Sinisterra, Tyler Adams, Jack Harrison, Marc Roca and Rodrigo all abandoned the Yorkshire club and left Farke with a stripped squad.

The start of the season was disrupted by transfer sagas surrounding Wilfried Gnonto and uncertainty surrounding which players would actually still be at the club. Leeds took just nine points from their opening seven games and were stuck in mid-table while their promotion rivals enjoyed winning streaks and manager of the month awards.

The signing of Joel Piroe appeared to be the turning points of their season, because it gave them a recognised number nine who is a goal machine at this level. Since, the club has built momentum and rhythm recording 22 points from a possible 30 in their last ten games and closing the gap to the top two down to eight points.

Leeds narrow win against Leicester City shows that while they've been slow burners their squad has the quality and potential to storm the league and they are serious contenders for automatic promotion.


Southampton - 

The Saints experienced an overhaul this summer, stripping the driftwood from their club and cashing in on their star players to fund a complete new re-build in the Championship. James Ward-Prowse was the high profile departure after playing over 400 games for Southampton since graduating from their youth academy.

The appointment of Russel Martin was promising, the 37 year old had brought entertaining football at Swansea but defensive frailties and inconsistency saw a win ratio of just 37% last season. This focus on attack has been evident this season with the Saints shipping 26 goals from their first 16 games and they have looked a very hit and miss team.

However, Martin has Adam Armstrong back to his best after two underwhelming seasons in the Premier League the 26 year old has nine goals in 16 games and looks like the clinical striker Southampton invested £20m on in 2021.

Southampton haven't tasted defeat in eight games and they are quietly building momentum away from the headlines which could make them dark horses in this long season ahead. Whether they have the quality and manpower to challenge fellow relegated rivals Leeds and Leicester is questionable but they do have young squad boasting potential.

Preston North End - 

Preston were the surprise anomaly at the precipice of the table at the start of this season. Six straight league victories saw them challenging Leicester City and Ipswich Town, with fans excited by the prospect of promotion for the first team in years.

However, the wheels have quickly fell off for Ryan Lowe's team after a seven game winless streak propelled them 11 points away from the automatic promotion places.

They have recorded back to back victories for the first time since mid September, could this be the start of their second push towards the top although it looks to be too late now to really mean anything.

Written by - Lewis Eadie

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