Football Features

Five things to expect from the Championship final day: Relegation battles and promotion chasers

By Squawka News

Five things to expect from the Championship final day: Relegation battles and promotion chasers

Published: 14:50, 3 May 2024

The Championship final day is upon us and there’s still so much left to decide at both ends of the table. 

Leicester City have already secured the Championship title, but there’s still a scramble to make the second automatic playoff spot between Ipswich and Leeds, while there’s a three-way battle for the playoffs and no fewer than five teams still in danger of occupying the final two relegation places.

All 12 matches kick off at 12:30pm (UK time) on Saturday and it’s sure to be a dramatic day full of tension and emotion. So, what should you expect from the action?

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1. Ipswich to secure automatic promotion

It’s been another brilliant season for Ipswich Town, who are on the cusp of securing a second successive promotion, which will return them to the Premier League for the first time since 2002. The Tractor boys ended a four-game winless slump by beating Coventry 2-1 away from home on Tuesday to climb back above Leeds and into second, with just one more point needed to confirm their place in the top flight.

Huddersfield are the side to visit Portman Road on the final day. The Terriers are in dire need of points themselves as they sit 23rd and three points adrift of safety with a whopping 15-goal swing needed to overtake Plymouth. Those chances are slim to put it lightly but you’ll not see Huddersfield go quietly.

That said, Ipswich have lost just one home match throughout this entire Championship campaign, scoring 57 goals in the process. That sole defeat will feel like a distant memory, coming way back in August in a 3-4 thriller against promotion rivals Leeds.

Surely, there’s no way they can slip up from here.

“Every point in the Championship is hard-fought,” said boss Kieran McKenna. “We’ve got a team of professional footballers with a lot of pride (Huddersfield) coming to Portman Road to try and finish their season off well and to try and stop us.

“It’s a football match, anything can happen but all you can do is control all the things you can control to put the odds in your favour and you do that by getting the details of your performance right. That’s what our focus will be, as it has been for the last 45 league games as well.”

2. Hull to pip faltering Baggies in playoff race

About a month ago, the Tigers were licking their wounds following back-to-back defeats to Stoke and Leeds; results that made a run for the playoffs extremely unlikely. But since then, it’s been an incredible rally with Hull taking 12 points from their last six games without loss — beating Cardiff, QPR and Coventry along the way — culminating in that incredible 3-3 draw with Ipswich where they came from behind three times to take a point.

As a result, Hull now sit just two points behind West Brom, who occupy that final playoff spot, while they’re only three points adrift of Norwich in fifth with seven goals to make up on goal difference. Hull face 21st-place Plymouth on the final day, with Argyle still needing another win to avoid relegation. Norwich travel to another relegation candidate in Birmingham, while West Brom host Preston who have nothing left to play for.

It’s the latter who should be really worried as they head into this match on a three-game losing streak with just one goal scored, while they’ve mustered just a single victory in their last seven Championship games. The Baggies are faltering at the worst possible moment and may well succumb to the pressure of trying not to throw away a top-six spot. That could leave the door open for Hull to crash the playoff party.

3. Illan Meslier to seal Golden Glove despite tough patch

Illan Meslier has just one clean sheet in his last seven Championship appearances and none in his last three. It’s a real testament, then, to his form earlier this campaign that the Frenchman still leads the way in the second tier on 18 clean sheets.

Now, chances are Leeds will concede a goal or two against Southampton, who won 3-1 in their last meeting. The out-of-form Whites may even lose. However, we still expect Meslier to hold onto the Golden Glove with West Brom’s Alex Palmer the only goalkeeper able to catch him, currently sitting on 17 clean sheets. We’ve already mentioned the troubles West Brom are going through at this late stage, so don’t hold your breath if you’re hoping for another Palmer shutout to share the award.

The Championship Golden Glove should be Meslier’s outright.

4. Birmingham to join Huddersfield in the third tier

Birmingham’s 1-1 draw in that six-pointer against Huddersfield has left them in a really sticky situation, especially having led 1-0 at half-time. In fact, that capped off a horrendous double-header for the Blues, who could only muster a 0-0 draw away at a Rotherham side with just 24 points and 29 defeats to their name this season.

The result is the Midlanders sitting 22nd heading into the final day, a point off safety and in need of a miracle.

First of all, they need to figure out how to turn over a Norwich side whose only defeat in their last nine came against title-winning Leicester, with the Canaries in absolutely no mood to surrender their playoff spot at this stage. And after that, Birmingham still need snookers. A draw coupled with a heavy Plymouth loss would be enough, but even a win would need slip-ups from any one of Argyle, Sheffield Wednesday or Blackburn.

It just feels like too much to do for a Birmingham side that has been threatening relegation from the Championship for about eight years now. If they do go, it’ll be their first time in the third tier since 1992.

Championship relegation odds with BetMGM

  • Birmingham City – 1/2
  • Plymouth Argyle – 9/4
  • Blackburn Rovers – 12/1
  • Sheffield Wednesday – 14/1

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5. Plymouth to hold on and Sheffield Wednesday to complete great escape

We’ve already mentioned Plymouth’s predicament but with teams below them left with so much work to do, they should just about be okay.

The most impressive escape artists in the Championship this season have to be Sheffield Wednesday, though. The Owls were rooted inside the bottom three from matchday two all the way until matchday 44, before back-to-back wins over Blackburn (3-1) and West Brom (3-0) to climb to 20th.

Wednesday are enjoying a run of just four defeats in their last 15 matches with eight victories during that time, in comparison to only six wins from their first 30 league matches this season. As a result, the Owls are on five points and just one more against Sunderland on the final day to absolutely confirm their survival in one of the most remarkable turnarounds in recent Championship history. After challenging for the playoffs all season, Sunderland have won just two of their last 14 matches and are looking to get on their summer holidays as quickly as possible, so this may be the perfect fixture for Sheffield Wednesday, even if it is away from home.