The Premier League may have barrelled manically back into our homes like football’s answer to the Cat in the Hat, but Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and co. are not the only ones making a comeback.
The Championship is also about to return with a full round of fixtures this weekend. It may be behind closed doors but there is finally going to be a resolution to the season.
It’s been one the wildest campaigns in recent memory and, while an enforced three-month hiatus may have disrupted the frantic momentum, there is still everything to play for at both ends of the table.
Will Leeds United make their long-awaited return to the top flight? Who’s going to win the play-offs? And who is going to be dragged, screaming in horror, down to the murky depths of League One?
Let’s take a look.
Who’s getting automatic promotion?
Before the season was suspended on account of coronavirus, Leeds were in excellent form.
After an almighty wobble during the winter months in which it looked like the “Leeds, Leeds are falling apart again” chant might end up getting another outing, Marcelo Bielsa masterminded five wins in a row from mid-February onwards and his side re-ascended to the summit of the table.
Leeds supporters could be forgiven, then, for feeling a nagging anxiety at the interruption to what looked like it could be a triumphant run-in.
There will also be disappointment at the fact that they cannot be there to roar themselves hoarse, with Bielsa saying ahead of the restart: “Not being able to share this last period of nine matches with the supporters, with the fans, is something I never wished.”
That said, Leeds still have the best chance of winning the title and Bielsa is still their strange, silent talisman. Form may have gone out the window but the same applies to every side. Their objective is clear: to win what is essentially a nine-game mini-league.
Leeds only have to play one more side from the current top six in the form of Fulham, while they will also come up against all of the bottom three. Second-placed West Brom, meanwhile, are one point behind the league leaders and six points ahead of Fulham in third.
Having run into difficulties before the campaign was suspended, Slaven Bilic’s Baggies side have been given the chance to press the reset button.
Without form to go on it’s hard to say whether they can overtake Leeds at the top of the table but, whoever wins the title, they would have to stumble badly to miss out on automatic promotion.
Who’s going to win the play-offs?
Judging by the table, everyone down to QPR in 13th is still in the play-off picture.
Again, without any meaningful form to go on it’s hard to say who will come out of the blocks fastest but, of the teams currently outside the play-offs places, Bristol City, Cardiff City and Swansea City probably have the most dynamic squads.
As for the teams currently occupying the play-off spots, Fulham can field the strongest team but were widely perceived to be punching below their weight before the season was put on hold.
Brentford, meanwhile, were shaping up to be one of the big success stories under Thomas Frank.
Presuming they can rediscover their form, the Bees would be a good bet for the Championship Play-Off Final in August.
Nottingham Forest and Preston have done well to end up in fifth and sixth spot respectively, but Brentford are a well organised side and have some standout talents in Ollie Watkins, Said Benrahma, Josh Dasilva and Ethan Pinnock.
Who’s going down?
Seven points from safety, Barnsley look a sure bet to go back down to League One after what has been a turbulent season.
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