Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Ipswich, Leeds and Leicester win again – a look at Championship promotion race

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 2 Apr 2024

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The Championship continues to head towards one of the most dramatic finishes in its history as the division’s three leading teams show no sign of slowing down.

With the Easter programme completed, Ipswich are a point clear of Leeds in the two automatic promotion spots, with third-placed Leicester a further point back.

The relentless form of the trio raises the prospect of all three finishing with more than 100 points and here, the PA news agency looks at how the race could play out.

Ipswich (First, played 40, points 87)

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

Two months ago Ipswich looked like they might be wobbling but, under the most intense pressure, they have stood up to the test. Given their incredible form it is easy to forget this is their first season back in the Championship and, when they scored a winner in the seventh minute of added time against Southampton, back-to-back promotions felt closer than ever. One worry boss Kieran McKenna may have is their defence – they have conceded 20 more than Leeds and 16 more than Leicester – and a derby against Norwich next up is clearly a huge game. They will go into it with no fear, though, having lost just five times all season.

Leeds (Second, played 40, points 86)

Run-in: Coventry (a), Sunderland (h), Blackburn (h), Middlesbrough (a), QPR (a), Southampton (h).

Daniel Farke’s men remain unbeaten in the league in 2024 and unbeaten at home all season. A depleted side drew at Watford in the first game back after the international break, before a late show saw them beat Hull 3-1 on Monday. In Crysencio Summerville they have the division’s outstanding player and, with his 17 goals and eight assists supplemented by Dan James’ 20 goal involvements and Georginio Rutter’s 21, they have attacking talents to burn. However, an injury to midfield workhorse Ilia Gruev has exposed some weaknesses, with Farke yet to find a way to replicate the fluidity he brings to Leeds’ midfield. They need him back, with the same going for Wales full-back Connor Roberts and Italy forward Wilfried Gnonto.

Leicester (Third, played 39, points 85)

Run-in: Birmingham (h), Millwall (a), Plymouth (a), West Brom (h), Southampton (h), Preston (a), Blackburn (h).

Monday’s come-from-behind win over Norwich was huge for Leicester. They looked virtually promoted two months ago and were 17 points ahead of Leeds at the turn of the year. However, a 3-1 loss at Elland Road was damaging and came as part of a run of two wins in seven. Victory over the Canaries put them back top, before Ipswich and Leeds retaliated to send them back to third. They have the benefit of a game in hand against Southampton which, with the Saints now looking out of the automatic race, may be less stressful than it could previously have been. Veteran Jamie Vardy continues to provide experience off the bench and that could come to the fore as the fixtures run down.

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