Who will survive the Championship relegation dogfight with eleven games remaining?

Published on 5 March 2024 at 16:00

This EFL Championship season appears to be entertaining from the bottom end of the table with six points separating 12th from the relegation zone. Stoke City, Birmingham City, Huddersfield Town and QPR are all locked on 38 points after a weekend of shock results and the emergence of Sheffield Wednesday to form means that all of the teams above are looking over their shoulder nervously. Looking ahead to the next round of fixtures on Tuesday night we analyse the four teams at the bottom to see who has the best chance at staying up.

Stoke City

This summer promised to be a new dawn in north Staffordshire for Stoke City supporters, as the club provided financial injection in the transfer market to strengthen Alex O'Neil's squad. 19 new faces arrived at the Bet 365 including a plethora of former Premier League quality including; Enda Stevens, Ben Pearson, Sead Haksabanovic and Wesley. However, seven months later the optimism of a new direction at the club has fizzled away with the Potters currently in the relegation zone with a new manager at the helm in Steven Schumacher. Stoke City have only had as few as 35 points after 33 games in a season on 10 occasions, surviving just five times. 

One of the significant reasons, the West Midlands club have struggled to find form this season is because of there bloated squad containing up to 29 players which has led to a divided dressing room, repeated managerial changes and a lack of cohesion on the field. They have one of the strongest squads in the entire division with individuals such as Lewis Baker and Tyrese Campbell but it has been extremely difficult to produce consistency and rhythm on the pitch.

Recently, the Bet 365 stadium has been a harrowing place to play with a toxic atmosphere from frustrated fans who are fearful of seeing their team relegated to League One for the first time since 2002. This has not helped this new fusion of players gel together and build relationships and the managerial switch in December will only have further disrupted the squad's morale.

After four successive defeats, Schumacher earnt a vital three points at relegation rivals QPR in February but his side then succumbed to back to back defeats against play-off chasing Coventry and Cardiff City. After experimenting with his squad recently it appeared the former Plymouth Argyle manager found a winning formula in the impressive 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough at the weekend, but they face a buoyant Leeds United on Tuesday night who are unbeaten in 10 straight league games. 


Sheffield wednesday

The jubilation of the EFL's greatest ever Play-off final comeback against Peterborough United was burst when three weeks later promotion leading manager Darren Moore was dismissed. His predecessor Xisco Munoz endured a torrid three month spell at Hillsborough, winless in 10 games with Wednesday firmly at the bottom of the Championship. The appointment of Danny Rohl, who became the youngest manager in the second tier at 34, raised eyebrows initially with supporters believing a unproven radical attack-minded German was the last thing they needed.

Instead, he has galvanised the fans and instilled belief into them with his distinct 5-4-1 tactical approach and he has brought unity on the field amid the turmoil at the club behind the scenes. In November, Dejphron Chansiri demanded that fans pay £2m for an outstanding tax bill to save the club financially and he has been at the centre of the managerial rollercoaster which threaten to de-rail Wednesday's championship comeback.

While, Rohl had a mountain to climb to catch up with the pack since the new year the team has switched into form and they currently have four wins from their last five games. The win at the weekend against Rotherham was detrimental to their hopes of surviving and the 1-0 win narrowed the gap to within three points of safety. Ike Ugbo has six goals in his last five Championship appearances and he become a talisman for Wednesday under Rohl, the former Chelsea academy striker has contributed some huge goals and will be key in the final run in.

The Lancastershire club face a tough March with Leeds United and Ipswich Town, but have a crucial game at home to Plymouth tomorrow which could further build momentum and depending on other results lift them out of the relegation zone for the first time this season.


Huddersfield town

Last season, Huddersfield Town relied on 75 year old pensioner Neil Warnock to rescue their season. This season the capture of surprise Sheffield Wednesday dismissal Darren Moore brought much needed optimism at Huddersfield Town that they were going to have progressive season away from another relegation scare.

The Terriers have only lost thirteen games matching them with Play-off teams but they have the highest number of draws in the division with 14. They have drawn 1-1 on eight occasions this season which has driven fans into despair because they're team just cannot take their chances and lack that clinical ability in front of goal. Their top scorer surprisingly is 28 year old centre-back Michael Helik with nine goals which shows how threatening they've been from set-pieces and their direct long-ball approach.

After conceding a 95th minute equaliser to  fellow strugglers QPR Darren Moore was sacked and instead former Hoffenheim manager Andre Breitenreiter was appointed in mid February. They have found form in recent match week's beating Sunderland 1-0 and recording a 2-1 away win at Watford to revive their survival hopes.

The most important result was the 1-1 draw against second place Leeds on Saturday where they had to survive an entire 45 minutes without captain Jonathan Hogg who was sent off before half time.

Breitenreiter has brought solidity in defence, but it will be the next few games after this honeymoon period which will show whether they have the ability to escape relegation.


birmingham city

The announcement of US-based Shelby companies limited's (SCL) takeover of Birmingham City in late July promised a new era, at a football club tarnished by debt, dictatorial owners and managerial mayhem. John Eustace propelled the Blues to sixth by October, but his visionary owners craved a star name and abruptly sacked the 43 year old to appoint Wayne Rooney.

Eustace appeared to embody the Birmingham spirit and build a harmonious relationship with fans, so the decision shocked fans and led to animosity instantly towards new manager Wayne Rooney. In his 15 games in charge they won two league games and tumbled down towards the relegation zone. It appeared the players were not playing for him, dismayed by the decision to sack Eustace and quickly the atmosphere at St. Andrews turned sour.

The appointment of household name Tony Mowbray and a financial splurge in January bringing in quality midfielders Andre Dozzel and Alex Pritchard signalled a U-turn to get back on track and up the table.

However, Mowbray will be sidelined through illness for months meaning his assistance will take over and recently the teams form has stuttered suffering successive losses to Ipswich and Southampton which has left them in a precarious position.

Birmingham have a very strong squad and if they can overcome this difficult run of fixtures including Hull City on Tuesday night then they should start to build momentum and secure safety. It's certainly a season which looks to have been void of any purpose once again and the owners managerial decision will be at the core of the reasons why.


The return of  former player Gareth Ainsworth in the dug-out might have delivered safety last season, but has hampered QPR in 2023-24 with 10 losses from their opening 15 Championship games. The club took a radical approach to appoint Marti Cifuentes in late October, the Catalan arrived at Loftus Road unknown to supporters and with a insurmountable challenge ahead.

His tenure has been exacerbated with prolonged of field problems and financial fair play obstacles producing a 2023 account of - £24 million, meaning the club could not spend money in January. So while relegation rivals Birmingham City and Stoke City reinforced in the winter window, Cifuentes has been left with an ageing squad to galvanise. Lately, three successive wins in a row including a crucial away win at Championship leaders Leicester City has got supporters back behind the club and it has seen them leapfrog Stoke City out of the dropzone.

The Spaniard has impressed since becoming QPR manager recording eight wins, six draws and eight losses and his positive approach has encouraged fans to belief their club can claim a great escape once again. They have a squad brimming with experience including high profile veterans like Asmir Begovic, Steve Cook, Jack Colback and Albert Adomah, as well as gamechangers in Joe Willock and Illias Chair but the key will be to keep these players fit, and to keep grinding out results.


Written by Lewis Eadie

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