Leeds United's potential final-day boost after Sheffield Wednesday and Cardiff City twists

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Leeds United will likely need to beat Southampton on the final day to achieve automatic promotion.

Leeds United put themselves back in the Championship’s automatic promotion places with Monday’s 4-3 win at Middlesbrough but Daniel Farke’s side are by no means home and hosed. Three points from the Riverside Stadium saw the Whites leapfrog Ipswich Town but they and Leicester City remain favourites for a top-two finish, given their respective games in hand.

That Leeds can pull four points clear of Ipswich with victory at Queens Park Rangers on Friday will do little to change the fact they are chasing. Kieran McKenna’s side will have two games in hand at that point and while trips to Hull City and Coventry are no walkover, a result in either would take it to the final day. Equally, the only way Leicester won’t be fighting on the final day is if they are already promoted.

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The visit of Southampton to Elland Road had long been tipped as a potential promotion decider but that may now only be true for Leeds. Russell Martin’s side can still mathematically finish in the top-two but need everything to go their way from now until the end of the season. Should they lose at Leicester on Wednesday, Leeds win at QPR or Ipswich win at Hull and it’ll be play-offs for the Saints.

If it ends up being three into two on that final day, Leeds will have the hardest fixture of the automatic promotion hopefuls on paper. But football is not played on paper and at this point of the season, there is far more to consider than the level of opposition in isolation.

All three teams will be at home on the final day, with Leicester and Ipswich hosting Blackburn Rovers and Huddersfield Town respectively. United’s opponents are undoubtedly better than both on their day but could arrive in West Yorkshire with nothing to play for.

After ending Leeds’ unbeaten home league run earlier this month, Blackburn managed to lose 3-1 at home to Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday. Defeat saw them drop from virtually safe to right back in the mix for relegation, with just three places and as many points separating them from the relegation zone. They host play-off chasing Coventry City on Saturday and defeat in that game would leave it all on the line for that final-day trip to the King Power Stadium.

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Similarly, Huddersfield’s 4-0 loss at home to Swansea city saw them plunged deeper into trouble but manager Andre Breitenreiter issued a rallying cry earlier this week and the consensus is that nothing has been decided. The Terriers host fellow relegation candidates Birmingham City on Saturday and, as with Blackburn, could feasibly go to Portman Road with survival on the line.

Both Blackburn and Huddersfield have proven they can take points off top teams by doing it to Leeds themselves in recent weeks. Daniel Farke’s men were unable to break down a 10-man Terriers side in March and endured similar struggles at home to Rovers before eventually losing. The battle to survive can do strange things.

Southampton are not expected to throw in the towel at Elland Road and Russell Martin’s side will be keen to make a statement against a potential play-off final rival. But having nothing concrete to play for can make the difference when it comes to split decisions.

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Martin also admitted earlier this week that he had been playing Flynn Downes through a slight fitness issue. The likelihood of him doing so with play-offs to plan for, whether it be Downes or anyone else, is unlikely. For Huddersfield or Blackburn, that final day could be bang or bust.

Leeds will hope it doesn’t go that far, and three more points at QPR on Friday would heap pressure on Ipswich. In the event that they only take a point from trips to Hull and Coventry, promotion would be all but secured for the Whites on account of their superior goal difference. Two defeats and it’s game over.

Farke will be planning for a final day in which it is all to play for, however, and while Southampton present a huge hurdle to jump, Blackburn and Huddersfield could be tougher. In this craziest of Championship seasons, anything can happen.