Championship run-in: Where the top four stand in race for automatic promotion

Leicester took a giant step towards automatic promotion from the Sky Bet Championship on Tuesday night by thrashing Southampton.

The Foxes opened up a four-point gap at the top of the table and all but dashed the Saints’ own hopes of a top-two finish, leaving Leeds and Ipswich as their rivals in a three-horse sprint to the finish.

Here, the PA news agency looks at who needs what as the automatic promotion race looks set to go down to the wire.


Leicester City’s Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall (left) and Abdul Fatawu at the end of the Sky Bet Championship match. Photo: PA

(1st, played 44, 94 points, +47 goal difference)

Remaining games: Preston (a), Blackburn (h).

Leicester will seal a swift return to the top flight with victory in one of their last two matches, or if Leeds lose at QPR on Friday night, after recovering their composure in the nick of time.

Enzo Maresca’s Foxes looked certain to bounce straight back to the Premier League – they were 17 points clear of Leeds at the turn of the year – before an almighty wobble saw them lose six times in 10 matches through February to April.

But a 2-1 win over play-off hopefuls West Brom last Saturday took them back to the top of the table and Tuesday’s 5-0 triumph over Southampton suggests they will ultimately hold their nerve.



Leeds United’s Crysencio Summerville (left) celebrates scoring their side’s fourth goal of the game during the Sky Bet Championship match at the Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough. Picture date: Monday April 22, 2024.

(2nd, played 44, 90 points, +43 goal difference)

Remaining games: QPR (a), Southampton (h).

As with Leicester, Leeds have suffered a wobble at the most inopportune moment.

A 2-1 defeat at Coventry on April 6 was their first in the league since the turn of the year and, having seen Sunderland leave Elland Road with a point three days later, Daniel Farke’s men lost on home soil for the first time this season on April 13 when Sammie Szmodics fired Blackburn to victory.

But they came out on the right end of a seven-goal thriller in Teesside on Monday, claiming a 4-3 win over Middlesbrough that Farke will hope can be a springboard for their final two fixtures.



Ipswich Town’s Conor Chaplin (second left) and team-mates celebrate victory after the final whistle in the Sky Bet Championship match at Portman Road, Ipswich. Picture date: Tuesday March 5, 2024.

(3rd, played 43, 89 points, +32 goal difference)

Remaining games: Hull (a), Coventry (a), Huddersfield (h).

Ipswich’s unlikely tilt at back-to-back promotions has hit the buffers in recent weeks after a remarkable run of nine wins in 10 Championship outings was brought to an end by derby rivals Norwich.

A 1-0 defeat at Carrow Road on April 6 was followed by home draws with Watford and Middlesbrough, and Town must rediscover the form which earned manager Kieran McKenna the accolade of Championship manager of the season on Sunday evening if they are to reach the top flight.

However, all three of their remaining opponents still have something to play for, with Hull and Coventry on the fringes of the play-off race and Huddersfield battling desperately to avoid the drop.



Southampton’s Will Smallbone (2nd right) celebrates scoring his side’s first goal of the game with teammates during the Sky Bet Championship match at St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton. Picture date: Saturday April 13, 2024.

(4th, played 44, 84 points, +24 goal difference)

Remaining games: Stoke (h), Leeds (a).

Southampton’s automatic promotion hopes were all but ended by their hammering at Leicester, the south-coast club suffering back-to-back defeats having climbed back into top-two contention.

The Saints recovered from a bad patch in February – they lost to Bristol City, Hull and Millwall – to string together three straight wins, but conceded a stoppage-time goal to lose at Cardiff on Saturday and imploded at the King Power Stadium.

Russell Martin’s side can still finish level on points with Leeds, but the Yorkshire club have a vastly superior goal difference and the Saints could be mathematically out of the running when they head to Elland Road on the final day.

Remaining Championship fixtures Ipswich, Leeds & Leicester. Infographic PA Graphics.


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