Championship winners and losers: Faltering Leeds United, Leicester City give Southampton fresh hope

Lewis Oldham
Championship winners losers
Daniel Farke and Enzo Maresca.

Promotion bottlers Leeds United and Leicester City are this week’s biggest losers in the Championship, while Southampton are given hope…


Championship winners

It was a very big weekend for Russell Martin’s Southampton, who are suddenly right back in the fight for automatic promotion.

A mid-season 25-game unbeaten run thrust the Saints into the promotion mix but a subsequent stretch of just three wins in eight Championship games threatened to end their top two chances.

Luckily for the Saints, their three nervy rivals for automatic promotion to the Premier League are on the ropes and at risk of fully bottling it. So the recent return to form for Martin’s side is timely and it’s breathed fresh life into their season.

Back-to-back victories – against tough opposition in Coventry City and Watford – leave Southampton just eight points behind league leaders Ipswich Town with two games in hand.

As proven by recent slip-ups, there are no easy games at this level (especially at this stage of a gruelling season) and Southampton would surely rather have points on the board instead of games in hand. But they are the one side at the top of the Championship showing any semblance of consistency and they can embrace the run-in with the freedom of being the underdogs, while the teams above them struggle in the face of mounting pressure.

Southampton’s final game of the season at Elland Road against Leeds United really could be something special…


Birmingham City
Down at the bottom, Birmingham City arguably picked up the stand-out victory of the weekend by earning a 3-0 home victory over play-off hopefuls Coventry City.

Sitting 23rd in the table before the weekend, the feeling at St Andrew’s would have been becoming increasingly desperate after this season started so promisingly following the takeover of Shelby Companies Ltd.

Most of the issues faced by Birmingham this season have been self-inflicted by their rash American owners who have been learning on the job. The failed Wayne Rooney experiment did a lot of damage as the Manchester United legend oversaw their freefall down the table.

Birmingham’s decision-makers have since attempted to make amends, with the appointment of Tony Mowbray a more sensible call given the situation they found themselves.

An unforeseen medical procedure ensured Mowbray’s spell in the dugout was short but sweet (we wish him a speedy recovery) and after Mark Venus’ winless stint as interim boss increased Birmingham’s relegation fears, former boss Gary Rowett was drafted in on a short-term basis until the summer.

Having been unlucky to lose his job the first time around in 2016, Rowett returned with a point to prove and while Birmingham were only heading in one direction under Venus, their survival chances were boosted by having the experienced former Millwall and Derby County boss back in charge.

Rowett has swiftly made Birmingham more difficult to beat and they were clinical with their chances in the 3-0 win over Coventry.

A run of two wins in five games under the 50-year-old leaves the Blues a point and a place above the relegation places with three games to go. They are not yet out of the mire, but Birmingham’s owners could still come out of this treacherous season without a relegation on their résumé.

READ MORE: Leicester, Leeds United gatecrash promotion places… Championship teams ranked by record signing


Championship losers

Leeds United
Daniel Farke’s team were among the losers last week
and they are back in the negative column this time around.

Leeds United were given a kicking in last week’s column following a disappointing but forgivable away loss to Coventry City, but matters have got worse for the promotion candidates in the past week.

Home games against Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers were expected to result in six points but Leeds United only managed to earn a solitary point and automatic promotion is now out of their hands.

Leeds are the lowest scorers of the top four sides but have Premier League-calibre attackers in Crysencio Summerville, Georginio Rutter, Wilfried Gnonto and Joel Piroe.

All four players have shone at varying levels of consistency this season but are enduring a sticky patch at a terrible time.

Not helped by the lack of goals in midfield, Leeds are coming off 180+ minutes of frustration as they failed to break down Sunderland and Blackburn, while a classy finish from Championship top scorer Sammie Szmodics saw John Eustace’s side leave Elland Road with all three points at the weekend.

It does not get any easier for Leeds with trips to Middlesbrough and QPR to come before that finale against Southampton so it is looking increasingly likely that they will have to settle for a place in the play-offs.


Leicester City
The Foxes’ situation is not quite as sticky as Leeds United, but they are making bloody hard work of getting over the line.

For much of this season, Leicester were putting forward a case to be one of the greatest teams in Championship history and given the abundance of quality at the disposal of head coach Enzo Maresca, it’s easy to see why that was the case.

Channeling Manchester City, Pep Guardiola disciple Maresca was making the Championship look easy as Leicester robotically earned win after win to place them on course to finish the season with more than 100 points comfortably.

But Leicester City’s faulty parts have been exposed in recent weeks and they now must win their four remaining games to reach the 100-point mark.

Maresca’s side appeared to be over their run-in stumble by beating Norwich City and Birmingham, but they have since followed with 1-0 losses in away games against relegation-threatened Millwall and Plymouth Argyle.

Like Leeds, Leicester have been struggling in front of goal as misfiring striker Patson Daka has let his side down in vital moments.

It really is a good job Leicester were dominant for as long as they were because they just remain on track to win the league even after losing six of their past ten Championship games.

Trailing table-toppers Ipswich Town by one point with a game in hand, Leicester *should* still stumble to promotion but this season will not be looked back on as triumphant as expected ahead of an FFP-impacted summer and points deduction-affected Premier League return.

READ MORE: Leicester City stars reassigned due to FFP… Man Utd land £25m target, Newcastle solve defensive crisis


Hebdomadal losers

Rotherham United
They lost a Championship away game, again. Relegated in April and 21 points adrift of 23rd-placed Sheffield Wednesday. It really is a miserable time to be a Miller…