As the extended Championship season reaches its climax, with four matches remaining, it’s tight at both ends of the table. At the summit, it appears to be a two-horse race between Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion, as to who will finish champions and who will gain automatic promotion to the Premier League. Further down in the standings, any one of six could still realistically snatch that final play-off place, while at the wrong end of the table, just three points separate Huddersfield Town in 18th and Middlesbrough who sit in the dreaded drop zone. With time running out, let’s see who’s most likely in EFL Championship odds to go down to League One.
Ahead of the season resuming from its COVID-enforced suspension, the Hatters renamed Nathan Jones as their manager in a bid to stay in the division. As things stand, Luton are bottom of the table and since the restart, have won just one match in five. A recent 5-0 humbling against Reading gave Luton their worst result since Brentford put seven past them at Griffin Park and consequently, they boast the most goals conceded, and worst goal difference, in the Championship.
Their final run of games sees the Hatters up against Huddersfield and Hull City, both of whom are looking to avoid the drop themselves, as well as ending the campaign against Blackburn Rovers, who could still mathematically reach the play-offs. Their other fixture comes against QPR, who have nothing to play for and sit pretty in midtable. It’s likely that after back-to-back promotions, Luton will find themselves back in League One after a solitary season in the second tier.
After all the highs of last year, which saw the Tykes return to the Championship from League One, via automatic promotion, this season is one to forget. Barnsley have sat in the relegation zone for the majority of the campaign, and the chopping and changing of managers seems to have done very little to arrest their slide. Other than a spell back in February when the team put three wins together, there’s been little to get excited about.
And Barnsley’s run-in isn’t kind, either. Up next is Wigan Athletic – a side that have more pressing matters off-the-pitch, and could well be relegated come the end of this campaign, regardless of where they finish. Fixtures against the top five complete their showing – Leeds, Nottingham Forest and Brentford. It’s hard to see where points will be won, let alone matches – and the yo-yoing between the second and third tiers of English football continues for the South Yorkshire outfit...
After the disappointment of last season and missing out on the play-offs, having occupied a place for vast spells of the campaign, Middlesbrough are a shadow of their former selves. Their sorry plight has seen them go from an established Premier League club, to one that could drop down to the third tier of English football for the first time in 33 years. Two wins in 15 matches has seen them flirt precariously with the drop zone and the Teessiders are currently a point from safety – so have all to play for.
Facing three midtable clubs with nothing to play for could well be Boro’s saving grace – although they’re also yet to play Cardiff who will be keen to get points on the board, in order to cement their place in the play-offs. With a handful of points separating six clubs in and around the drop zone, Middlesbrough are the likeliest of the relegation-threatened sides to stave off their demise.
They may be sitting in 16th in the Championship table, but the recent news that the Latics had entered administration saw them punished with a points deduction – although it’s believed they will appeal the decision. Currently on 50 points and six-clear of the drop zone, a 12-point deduction would see them rooted to the foot of the table. If at the season’s conclusion, Wigan aren’t in the relegation places, the points deduction will stand this campaign.
However, if they do drop down to League One, they will begin the following term with the deduction – leaving them with a mountain to climb, come the opening weekend of the 2020-21 season. Despite remaining fixtures against three struggling clubs in Barnsley, Hull and Charlton, sadly, it looks like the writing’s on the wall for Paul Cook’s side.