EFL Championship Play-Offs, The Contenders

01 May 2019 08:29 am, by YorkshireSquare

Going into the final game of the Championship season the two automatic promotion places have already been snapped up by Norwich City and Sheffield United and the participants of the play-offs are all but secured with Derby ahead of Middlesbrough on goal difference with a game in hand. This years play-offs are set to be some of the most competitive and exciting in the competitions history with four of the top teams in the division involved, all with plenty of Premier League experience behind them. Let’s have a look at the contenders.

3rd) Leeds United

Leeds United have been in the automatic promotion places for most of the season, favourites to win the Championship with the betting top 10 for a large proportion of the season. The team has been a revolution under Marcelo Bielsa and has payed some of the most exciting football in the Championship. Top at Christmas 2019 has not been so kind to Leeds with inconsistent form and some title ending performances. Loses to both title rivals Sheffield United and Norwich cost them top spot and recent loses to Wigan and Brentford saw Leeds drop out of contention for automatic promotion.

Leeds have a good record against their play-off rivals with a 4-1 victory over Derby at Pride Park setting the tone for the season early on. The return fixture in the midst of the spygate saga saw Leeds 2-0 winners in a fairly comprehensive victory. Leeds’ first major setback in the season cam during a 4-1 loss to West Brom but they responded well with 7 victories on the bounce and restored pride with a 4-0 victory over the Baggies in March. A thriller at Villa saw Leeds come back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 in the 95th minute. In the controversial return fixture Leeds were on top and it will have given them confidence going into the play-offs following poor April form.

4th) West Bromwich Albion

One of the teams relegated from the Premier League expectations were high on West Brom for the 2018-2019 Championship season. They have been fairly throughout the season, always there or thereabouts but couldn’t keep the pace with Leeds and Norwich. In a surprise move they sacked head coach Darren Moore in March despite being fourth. Form under caretaker boss Jimmy Shan has been much the same. They have a mixed record against their play-off rivals having lost to both Leeds and Derby but having beaten Villa and Leeds too. They have the chance for revenge over Derby on the final day of the season. The Baggies boast one of the most potent strike forces in the season with Dwight Gayle on 23 and Jay Rodriguez on 22.

5th) Aston Villa

There is no doubting that Villa are the form side in the Championship in 2019 coming into the play-offs notching up ten straight victories before their draw with Leeds United in the penultimate game of the season. After a lacklustre start under Steve Bruce they have been revived under Dean Smith. They have lost once and drawn once against each of their main rivals West Brom and Leeds United but have done the double over Derby County this season. Despite Jack Grealish making most of the headlines striker Tammy Abraham is up there with the top scores in the league on 25 goals, only 3 behind leader Teemu Pukki and Conor Hourihane has 8 goals and 10 assists to his name.

6th) Derby County

Derby, or should I say Frank Lampard’s Derby, are the surprise package for the play-offs having sneaked in ahead of Middlesbrough and Bristol City in recent weeks. They are back on form having lost only once in their last ten games and now have a relatively injury free squad. Leeds and Villa have both done the double over Derby this season however they did beat West Brom 4-1, the return fixture is on the final day of the season. Harry Wilson, on loan from Liverpool, has been their star man this season netting 14 times for the Rams. Their place in the play-offs isn't secure yet, victory over Swansea tonight should seal it for them but Middlesbrough and Bristol City are breathing down their necks should they slip up.

Championship play-offs dates for the diary…

• Championship A 1st Leg, Saturday 11th May 2019, 12:30pm
• Championship B 1st Leg, Saturday 11th May 2019, 5:15pm
• Championship A 2nd Leg, Tuesday 14th May 2019, 7:45pm
• Championship B 2nd Leg, Wednesday 15th May 2019, 7:45pm
• Championship Final, Monday 27th May 2019, 3:00pm

The EFL will confirm which ties are A and B for each division after consulting with police at the end of the regular season.