Phil Hay prediction: Where Leeds United and promotion rivals will finish in the 2016/17 Championship table

Leeds United fans certainly have plenty to shout about now - and maybe come the play-offs too.
Leeds United fans certainly have plenty to shout about now - and maybe come the play-offs too.
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THE state of play in the Championship – too close to call with fixtures running out – explains why Gordon Strachan felt like “a balloon deflating” when Leeds United won promotion from the second division in 1990. “The pressure’s been stored up over 46 games,” a relieved Strachan said and on that occasion it did not release until the final day.

Last season produced its own tension as Middlesbrough and Brighton fought for second place in in their last fixture and the Championship is heading that way again. Newcastle and Brighton are as close as each other to the title.

Huddersfield, with a game in hand, are still within reach of a top-two finish and a 2-2 draw between Fulham and Blackburn Rovers on Tuesday night left a gap of five points between Leeds United in fourth and Fulham in seventh, with Reading and Sheffield Wednesday in between.

Here, the YEP looks at the clubs’ respective run-ins and how the division might look on May 7.

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Newcastle United

The expectation that Newcastle would run away with the league was a little excessive but they are at the front of the field and their next three games are precisely what Rafa Benitez would want: away at a brittle Birmingham side before home matches against Burton and Wigan.

Those fixtures should yield at least seven points provided Newcastle play well and they ought to be on the brink before they stray into difficult meetings with Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds next month.

Expect the last closing weeks to be carnival time on Tyneside.

Remaining games: Birmingham (a), Wigan (h), Burton (h), Sheff Wed (a), Leeds (h), Ipswich (a), Preston (h), Cardiff (a), Barnsley (h).

Predicted finish: 1st.
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Brighton & Hove Albion

Saturday’s visit to Elland Road can set the tone for Brighton, one way or the other.

t is, all things considered, the most trying of their remaining matches and although Chris Hughton’s side haven’t quite been able to shake off Huddersfield, their run-in is favourable enough and games against Blackburn, Birmingham, Wolves, Wigan and Bristol City suggest that they’ll gather enough points to edge over the line, avoiding the final-day let-down they suffered at Middlesbrough last season. Huddersfield will not be far behind, though.

Remaining games: Leeds (a), Blackburn (h), Birmingham (h), QPR (a), Wolves (a), Wigan (h), Norwich (a), Bristol City (h), Aston Villa (a).

Predicted finish: 2nd.
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Huddersfield Town

The only remaining threat to the top two but breaking into the automatic promotion places is going to take a supreme streak of results.

Huddersfield are capable of it.

The club have won nine of their last 12 league matches and lost only to Newcastle and Sheffield Wednesday and the fixtures they have left do not show a single meeting with any other side in the top six.

But they are six points behind Brighton and their game in hand, away at Molineux, will not come into play until the penultimate week of the season. They need a combination of flawless football and help from elsewhere – and if that eludes them, they will be the big threat in the play-offs.

Remaining games: Bristol City (a), Burton (h), Norwich (h), Forest (a), Preston (h), Derby (a), Fulham (h), Wolves (a), Birmingham (a), Cardiff (h).

Predicted finish: 3rd.
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Leeds United

The club’s next five matches look extremely demanding – four top-eight clubs either side of a midweek trip to Brentford – and much rests on United’s next two.

If Leeds can take points from Brighton and Reading then the weeks beyond the start of April will look considerably less stressful.

Lose both and Garry Monk’s players will have clubs swarming all over them.

But even in those circumstances, the saving grace might be the helpful sequence of matches which takes Leeds to the finishing line.

Wolves have struggled from the off, Burton are still threatened with relegation, Norwich’s season is effectively over and Wigan are highly likely to be down by the time United contest the last of their 46 matches at the DW Stadium.

Remaining games: Brighton (h), Reading (a), Brentford (a), Preston (h), Newcastle (a), Wolves (h), Burton (a), Norwich (h), Wigan (a).

Predicted finish: 4th.

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Reading

Their recent results must be a concern, showing two wins from eight, and tomorrow’s clash at Sheffield Wednesday is followed by the visit of Leeds to the Madejski Stadium on the other side of the international break.

Reading have produced wins in bursts this season and Jaap Stam needs another surge soon to stop his side dropping out of the top six.

But he will not be unhappy about a fixture list which pits Reading against Rotherham, Nottingham Forest, Wigan and Burton in the final three weeks.

If Stam is desperate for points then that spate of games is a glaring opportunity which might just ensure that Reading creep in.

They cannot rely on their poor goal difference to help.

Remaining games: Sheff Wed (a), Leeds (h), Blackburn (h), Norwich (a), Villa (a), Rotherham (h), Forest (a), Wigan (h), Burton (a).

Predicted finish: 5th.
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Fulham

Lucas Joao’s late equaliser for Blackburn at Craven Cottage on Tuesday was a setback and for all that Fulham are the Championship’s form team, they remain outside the play-off places and have not been in the top six since the earliest stages of the season.

Their games in hand have gone and their away schedule appears to count against them too – featuring Derby, Norwich, Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday, but given that Fulham routed Newcastle at St James’ Park last weekend, that might not be an obstacle for them.

Dropped points at Craven Cottage could count against them in the end but form matters at the this stage and Fulham, with one defeat in 10, have it in spades.

Remaining games: Wolves (h), Rotherham (a), Derby (a), Ipswich (h), Norwich (a), Aston Villa (h), Huddersfield (a), Brentford (h), Sheff Wed (a).

Predicted finish: 6th.
*********************

Sheffield Wednesday

So much firepower but Sheffield Wednesday are the most exposed of the clubs in the top six.

They are similar to Reading – capable of piecing winning runs together but also prone to losses of form, like the run they are on now.

Four points accrued from their last five games is one of the reasons why Fulham are still in the hunt and it has to be said that Reading’s run-in looks better than Wednesday’s.

Barnsley won’t do them any favours away from home and they have difficult matches at Hillsborough to come against Reading, Newcastle, Cardiff and Derby – without even mentioning a potentially decisive meeting with Fulham on the last day.

Might they fall short?

Remaining games: Reading (h), Barnsley (a), Rotherham (a), Newcastle (h), Cardiff (h), QPR (a), Derby (h), Ipswich (a), Fulham (h).

Predicted finish: 7th.

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Preston North End

The wild card in the pack and, if truth be told, a club with no real chance of reaching the play-offs.

Simon Grayson – the former Leeds United manager – thinks nine wins would be needed to take Preston into the top six and with his side on 56 points, he is not far wrong.

Given that North End are lined up to go to Leeds, Huddersfield and Newcastle before the season finishes, they are looking at another year in the Championship and the bookies make them as long as 20-1 to make the play-offs.

But they are good enough to cause a bit of trouble along the way.

Remaining games: Blackburn (a), Forest (h), Bristol City (h), Leeds (a), Huddersfield (a), Norwich (h), Newcastle (a), Rotherham (h), Wolves (a).

Predicted finish: 8th.

Last season produced its own tension as Middlesbrough and Brighton fought for second place in in their last fixture and the Championship is heading that way again. Newcastle and Brighton are as close as each other to the title.

Huddersfield, with a game in hand, are still within reach of a top-two finish and a 2-2 draw between Fulham and Blackburn Rovers on Tuesday night left a gap of five points between Leeds United in fourth and Fulham in seventh, with Reading and Sheffield Wednesday in between.

Here, the YEP looks at the clubs’ respective run-ins and how the division might look on May 7.

Newcastle United

The expectation that Newcastle would run away with the league was a little excessive but they are at the front of the field and their next three games are precisely what Rafa Benitez would want: away at a brittle Birmingham side before home matches against Burton and Wigan.

Leeds United head coach Garry Monk, Sheffield Wednesday boss Carlos Carvalhal and Huddersfield Town coach David Wagner.

Leeds United head coach Garry Monk, Sheffield Wednesday boss Carlos Carvalhal and Huddersfield Town coach David Wagner.

Those fixtures should yield at least seven points provided Newcastle play well and they ought to be on the brink before they stray into difficult meetings with Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds next month.

Expect the last closing weeks to be carnival time on Tyneside.

Remaining games: Birmingham (a), Wigan (h), Burton (h), Sheff Wed (a), Leeds (h), Ipswich (a), Preston (h), Cardiff (a), Barnsley (h).

Predicted finish: 1st.


Former Leeds United manager Simon Grayson has the slimmest of outside chances of steering Preston North End to the Premier League.

Former Leeds United manager Simon Grayson has the slimmest of outside chances of steering Preston North End to the Premier League.

Brighton & Hove Albion

Saturday’s visit to Elland Road can set the tone for Brighton, one way or the other.

t is, all things considered, the most trying of their remaining matches and although Chris Hughton’s side haven’t quite been able to shake off Huddersfield, their run-in is favourable enough and games against Blackburn, Birmingham, Wolves, Wigan and Bristol City suggest that they’ll gather enough points to edge over the line, avoiding the final-day let-down they suffered at Middlesbrough last season. Huddersfield will not be far behind, though.

Remaining games: Leeds (a), Blackburn (h), Birmingham (h), QPR (a), Wolves (a), Wigan (h), Norwich (a), Bristol City (h), Aston Villa (a).

Predicted finish: 2nd.


Huddersfield Town

The only remaining threat to the top two but breaking into the automatic promotion places is going to take a supreme streak of results.

Huddersfield are capable of it.

The club have won nine of their last 12 league matches and lost only to Newcastle and Sheffield Wednesday and the fixtures they have left do not show a single meeting with any other side in the top six.

But they are six points behind Brighton and their game in hand, away at Molineux, will not come into play until the penultimate week of the season. They need a combination of flawless football and help from elsewhere – and if that eludes them, they will be the big threat in the play-offs.

Remaining games: Bristol City (a), Burton (h), Norwich (h), Forest (a), Preston (h), Derby (a), Fulham (h), Wolves (a), Birmingham (a), Cardiff (h).

Predicted finish: 3rd.


Leeds United

The club’s next five matches look extremely demanding – four top-eight clubs either side of a midweek trip to Brentford – and much rests on United’s next two.

If Leeds can take points from Brighton and Reading then the weeks beyond the start of April will look considerably less stressful.

Lose both and Garry Monk’s players will have clubs swarming all over them.

But even in those circumstances, the saving grace might be the helpful sequence of matches which takes Leeds to the finishing line.

Wolves have struggled from the off, Burton are still threatened with relegation, Norwich’s season is effectively over and Wigan are highly likely to be down by the time United contest the last of their 46 matches at the DW Stadium.

Remaining games: Brighton (h), Reading (a), Brentford (a), Preston (h), Newcastle (a), Wolves (h), Burton (a), Norwich (h), Wigan (a).

Predicted finish: 4th.

Reading

Their recent results must be a concern, showing two wins from eight, and tomorrow’s clash at Sheffield Wednesday is followed by the visit of Leeds to the Madejski Stadium on the other side of the international break.

Reading have produced wins in bursts this season and Jaap Stam needs another surge soon to stop his side dropping out of the top six.

But he will not be unhappy about a fixture list which pits Reading against Rotherham, Nottingham Forest, Wigan and Burton in the final three weeks.

If Stam is desperate for points then that spate of games is a glaring opportunity which might just ensure that Reading creep in.

They cannot rely on their poor goal difference to help.

Remaining games: Sheff Wed (a), Leeds (h), Blackburn (h), Norwich (a), Villa (a), Rotherham (h), Forest (a), Wigan (h), Burton (a).

Predicted finish: 5th.


Fulham

Lucas Joao’s late equaliser for Blackburn at Craven Cottage on Tuesday was a setback and for all that Fulham are the Championship’s form team, they remain outside the play-off places and have not been in the top six since the earliest stages of the season.

Their games in hand have gone and their away schedule appears to count against them too – featuring Derby, Norwich, Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday, but given that Fulham routed Newcastle at St James’ Park last weekend, that might not be an obstacle for them.

Dropped points at Craven Cottage could count against them in the end but form matters at the this stage and Fulham, with one defeat in 10, have it in spades.

Remaining games: Wolves (h), Rotherham (a), Derby (a), Ipswich (h), Norwich (a), Aston Villa (h), Huddersfield (a), Brentford (h), Sheff Wed (a).

Predicted finish: 6th.


Sheffield Wednesday

So much firepower but Sheffield Wednesday are the most exposed of the clubs in the top six.

They are similar to Reading – capable of piecing winning runs together but also prone to losses of form, like the run they are on now.

Four points accrued from their last five games is one of the reasons why Fulham are still in the hunt and it has to be said that Reading’s run-in looks better than Wednesday’s.

Barnsley won’t do them any favours away from home and they have difficult matches at Hillsborough to come against Reading, Newcastle, Cardiff and Derby – without even mentioning a potentially decisive meeting with Fulham on the last day.

Might they fall short?

Remaining games: Reading (h), Barnsley (a), Rotherham (a), Newcastle (h), Cardiff (h), QPR (a), Derby (h), Ipswich (a), Fulham (h).

Predicted finish: 7th.

Preston North End

The wild card in the pack and, if truth be told, a club with no real chance of reaching the play-offs.

Simon Grayson – the former Leeds United manager – thinks nine wins would be needed to take Preston into the top six and with his side on 56 points, he is not far wrong.

Given that North End are lined up to go to Leeds, Huddersfield and Newcastle before the season finishes, they are looking at another year in the Championship and the bookies make them as long as 20-1 to make the play-offs.

But they are good enough to cause a bit of trouble along the way.

Remaining games: Blackburn (a), Forest (h), Bristol City (h), Leeds (a), Huddersfield (a), Norwich (h), Newcastle (a), Rotherham (h), Wolves (a).

Predicted finish: 8th.

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