Promotion prognosis: Which clubs will go from Championship to Premier League this season?

The race for promotion to the Premier League has been wild this season, as big names look to go right back to the top flight and some surprising contenders have made the fight an open one.

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The Championships is always weird but usually gets weirder at this stage of the season. Buckle up.

Leicester City, Leeds and Southampton have unsurprisingly been favorites in the race to seize the two automatic spots in the Premier League but there has been a lot of stumbling in recent weeks.

And most of the competitors for those playoff places are clubs who’ve been Premier League in the last decade or so, with Ipswich Town the biggest outlier. The Tractor Boys are more than two decades removed from the top-flight and were in League One just last year but are pushing for the top two as we enter the final weeks of the season and lead the way.

Here we’ll go through the candidates to earn promotion this year.

Premier League promotion prognosis, 2023-24: Top-two challengers

*only the top two teams go up automatically to the Premier League

Ipswich Town (1st place, 89 points, +32 goal difference) – 3 games remaining

Last season in Premier League: 2001-02

The Tractor Boys have had an amazing season under Kieran McKenna and lead the way with three games to go. Can they hold on for a top two spot? They’ve not won any of their last three games and have stumbled at a bad time as the nerves of getting back to the Premier League appears to be impacting. That said, they recovered masterfully from a similar spell a few months ago so never rule out this Ipswich side who seem to have destiny on their side with so many late winners. I will repeat it again: Ipswich are in the hunt for the title with just a few weeks of the season to go. Who would have predicted that? Nobody. What a story.

Leicester City (2nd place, 88 points, +41 goal difference) – 4 games remaining

Last season in Premier League: 2022-23

Enzo Maresca’s side are struggling and have seen their huge lead at the top evaporate after spending most of the season leading the way. They’ve lost back-to-back games to relegation struggles Millwall and Plymouth and although they have a game in-hand, it is against in-form Southampton and they have a very tough finish to the season with West Brom, Preston and Blackburn also on the schedule. But they have three double-digit goal scorers in league play: Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Stephy Mavididi, and a guy named Jamie Vardy. Remember him? The Foxes also have some questions about Profit and Sustainability Rules to answer too, so it is a huge few weeks for them on and off the pitch.

Leeds United (3rd place, 87 points, +42 goal difference) – 3 games remaining

Last season in Premier League: 2022-23

Leeds just saw the end of a 14-game unbeaten run and they are slumping badly. They have won just one of their last five and have lost two of their last three as they suffered a shock defeat at home, their first at Elland Road this season, against struggling Blackburn Rovers. Crysencio Summerville and Georginio Rutter are Premier League talents doing it big in the second tier and although Leeds have so many attacking talents Daniel Farke’s men have run out of steam at the wrong time. Can they recover? They have the quality and Farke has the knowhow to get a team up from the second tier. Their home game against Southampton on the final day feels like it will be what a gruelling campaign comes down to.

Southampton (4th place, 81 points, +27 goal difference) – 5 games remaining

Last season in Premier League: 2022-23

After an incredible 25-game unbeaten run came to an end, Saints slumped but they’re hanging in there in the push for the top two and have two games in-hand over Ipswich and Leeds and one over Leicester. Forward Adam Armstrong leads the way with finishes (20 goals), while the likes of Che Adams (13 goals) and loan signing David Brooks are chipping in with big goals too. Jan Bednarek and Flynn Downes have been key to the season as Russell Martin’s Saints average the division’s best possession by some margin with their free-flowing possession-based style which usually ends in chaotic high-scoring games. Saints still have to go to Leicester and Leeds in their final five games so their destiny could be in their own hands. If they win their game in-hand in midweek against Preston, and the aforementioned trip to struggling Leicester, it will cause chaos at the top heading into the final two games of the season.

Premier League promotion prognosis, 2023-24: Playoffs or bust

*Teams who finish third, fourth, fifth and sixth in the table qualify for the playoffs. Third plays sixth home and away and fourth plays fifth home and away in the semifinals. The winners of the two semifinals then play in the playoff final at Wembley and the winner of the final is promoted to the Premier League.

West Bromwich Albion (5th place, 72 points, +24 goal difference) – 3 games remaining

Last season in Premier League: 2020-21

One of the Championship’s best defensive units, trailing only Leicester and Leeds in the race to concede the fewest goals. The Baggies have Marcelo Bielsa’s former assistant Carlos Corberan as their manager and he worked wonders taking Huddersfield to the playoffs a few seasons ago. West Brom are a robust side but they have run out of steam in recent weeks with just one win from their last five.

Norwich City (6th place, 71 points, +16 goal difference) – 3 games remaining

Last season in Premier League: 2021-22

Goalkeeper Angus Gunn has been very good, and both USMNT star Josh Sargent and Jonathan Rowe have been free-scoring when healthy and/or in-form this season. Borja Sainz has scored some bangers recently, while Sargent has been in red-hot form in recent weeks as the Canaries are pushing hard to get back in the big time. Head coach, former USMNT player David Wagner, knows all about getting a team out of the Championship and they are surging. If they get over the line, perhaps Norwich are the team you don’t want to play in the playoffs?

Hull City (7th place, 65 points, +8 goal difference) – 4 games remaining

Last season in Premier League: 2016-17

Liam Rosenior is a wonderful young manager and Hull have leaned on so many talented loan players to propel them towards the playoffs. If they win their final four games they have a chance and they can definitely win three of them (Plymouth, Watford and Coventry) and they will push Ipswich all the way in the other game. Loanees Tyler Morton, Fabio Carvalho and Anass Zaroury, plus the addition of Jaden Philogene and the likes of Jean Michel Seri and Ozan Tufan mean this squad has great balance to it. Even if they don’t make the playoffs this season, there is something special going on at Hull under their Turkish owners.

Coventry City (8th place, 63 points, +14 goal difference) – 4 games remaining

Last season in Premier League: 2000-01

There has been something good brewing at Coventry City for a while. USMNT striker Haji Wright leads the team in goals and assists (and expected goals per 90, and expected goals on target, and shots per 90) and when you’ve got a team that can score, anything’s possible in a winner-take-all game. Ellis Simms has also been terrific in attack for the Sky Blues too. But the playoff final losers from last season have seen their late season surge stall as they’ve lost two on the spin. Perhaps reaching the FA Cup semifinal, where they face Manchester United at Wembley, has impacted them? They have a lot to do to get into the playoffs now.

Middlesbrough (9th place, 63 points, +5 goal difference) – 3 games remaining

Last season in Premier League: 2016-17

Michael Carrick’s side have rebounded brilliantly after a poor start to the season and even though injuries have hit ‘Boro hard in recent weeks they are putting in some good displays against some of the big boys. Top scorer Emmanuel Latte Lath is back from injury and banging the goals in and Middlesbrough should be towards the top of the table next season if they don’t sneak into the playoffs.

Preston North End (10th place, 63 points, -1 goal difference) – 4 games remaining

Never been in Premier League; last season in top-flight: 1960-61

Preston is a physical, ornery team that’s going to have to find better finishing to surge to finish in the top six. They love being the underdogs but their home defeat to Norwich was a hammer blow. Still, PNE are overachieving massively under Ryan Lowe and they have a match-in-hand on most of the field, though that is away to strong Southampton.

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