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    The race for promotion is the closest in years, with three teams struggling to reach the finish line

    Leeds United boast Championship Player of the Year Crisencio Summerville but their bid for automatic promotion has suffered a blow in their last three games. Photo: PA/John Walton

    The exciting race for the Premier League title has been much talked about this season, but the chase for automatic places in the Championship promises to be just as dramatic.

    Leicester City, Ipswich Town, ” Leeds United and Southampton are battling for the top two spots with just three matches remaining. It looks set to be one of the most exciting finals England's second division has ever seen.

    Just two weeks ago, fourth-placed Southampton appeared to be out of the race, three behind leaders by eight points.

    However, none of the top three teams seem capable of pulling away, with all three consistently dropping points when it matters most, opening up an unlikely opportunity for Southampton to get back into the game.

    Telegraph Sport ranks each club here before the final matches of the season.

    Ipswich Town

    Newly promoted with a modest wage bill, Ipswich have been the surprise team in this season's promotion race. The side, coached by former Manchester United assistant manager Kieran McKenna, are hoping to secure a place in the Premier League for the first time since 2002.

    After an impressive run of nine wins in ten games, Ipswich looked in fine form , entering the field. running-in But they have stumbled at the wrong time: they have taken just two points from their last three games, although they have conceded just two goals.

    Chance creation and efficiency in front of goal, which have been strengths all season, have become weaknesses .

    They averaged 4.7 expected goals (xG) across four games in April, their second lowest total of the season. per month this season. April is also only the second month in which McKenna's side have underperformed their xG, scoring 15 more goals than expected throughout the campaign.

    Ipswich still have away trips to two teams with an outside chance of reaching the play-offs. The final day's match at home to 22nd-placed Huddersfield looks favorable, but they are currently just a point away from safety and won't go down without a fight.

    Upcoming matches

    Hull ( a) – April 27
    Coventry (e) – April 30
    Huddersfield (e) – May 4

    Leicester City

    It has been a strange campaign for Leicester City. In the first 23 games, Enzo Mareschi's side were on track to record a record number of league points. They have been in relegation form recently, losing six of their last ten. Automatic promotion, which until recently seemed a foregone conclusion, is now in question.

    A closer look at the numbers reveals that Leicester's stunning pace in the first half of the campaign has been unsustainable. At Christmas they had 58 points from 23 matches, 12.1 more than their expected total points (xP). Since then, in 19 matches they have accumulated just 30 points, seven points short of their experience points. Simply put, they return to their true level.

    Nevertheless, Leicester's fall from grace was remarkable. Just two months ago they were leading the top of the table by 12 points. They now find themselves in second place (albeit with a game in hand), with two other teams behind them.

    Promotion is especially important for Leicester given their financial problems. They recorded a loss of £89.7 million for the 2022-23 season and could face penalties for alleged breaches of Premier League and Football League rules.

    With three home games remaining and a good chance that neither Preston nor Blackburn will have anything to play for, Leicester could well turn the tide and finish strong. They will hope that Jamie Vardy, who has scored eight goals in his last 13 matches, will benefit them as he has often done.

    Upcoming matches

    West Brom (h) – April 20< br />Southampton (h) – April 23
    Preston (a) – April 29
    Blackburn (a) – May 4

    Leeds United

    Leeds trailed Leicester and Ipswich by 13 and seven points respectively at mid-season, but a 15-game unbeaten run in the league before the start of 2024 has put them back in automatic promotion contention.

    However, While their opponents made mistakes to give Daniel Farke's side the chance to take the lead, Leeds themselves slumped, taking just one point from their last nine available.

    The main problem was a faltering attack: in April, Leeds fell three goals short of his xG (four goals on 7.0 xG), which is the worst performance of any month this campaign.

    Star player Crisencio Summerville (17G, 8A), recently named the division's player of the season, remains silent. And Patrick Bamford, who scored 17 goals in 2020-21, missed some big chances.

    Crisencio Summerville has been in brilliant form ” Leeds this season: 18 goals and nine assists. Photo: Pennsylvania/John Walton

    Leeds still have to play mid-table Middlesbrough and relegation-threatened QPR before a potentially crucial home game against Southampton on the final day.

    They will look to avoid a repeat of the 2018/19 season, when then Marcelo Bielsa's side took just one point from their final three games, falling from second to third before eventually losing to Derby County in the play-offs.

    Upcoming matches

    Middlesbrough (a) – April 22
    QPR (a) – April 26
    Southampton (a) – May 4


    Russell Martin's team should not have entered this race. After a 97th-minute defeat to Ipswich on 1 April, their dreams of reaching the top two appeared to be dashed. At this stage, Opta gave them just a 0.9% chance of automatic promotion.

    That number has since risen to 7.7 percent, even before accounting for the convincing win over Preston. with a score of 3:0.< /p>

    At a time when the teams around them were falling apart, Southampton stepped up. They have now won three games in a row and scored eight goals.

    During this time, only Che Adams has scored as many goals as Ipswich, Leicester and Leeds in nine matches combined: four.< /p> p>

    With three away games remaining, including a trip to Leicester in midweek and a trip to Elland Road on the final day, Southampton undoubtedly have their toughest fixtures left. However, games with direct rivals give them a chance to catch up in the race for the top two places.

    Upcoming matches

    Cardiff (a) – April 20
    Leicester (a) – April 23
    Stoke (a) ) – 27 April
    Leeds (d) – 4 May


    Only one Championship team has ever reached 90 points without being promoted. There could be two this season, which shows how special this campaign will be and how small the profits are.

    The Opta model gives Leicester and Ipswich the edge in the fight for automatic promotion, but don't count out Leeds and even Southampton.

    Russell Martin's side have three more points (nine) in their last three games than the top three combined. The table leaders will have to prove that their recent poor form is just a blip, otherwise Southampton can and will take advantage.

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