Five Championship final day predictions: Leeds United go second (briefly), Birmingham City stay up

Lewis Oldham
Championship final day
Leeds United, Birmingham City and Plymouth Argyle set for a dramatic final day.

Here are five predictions for the final day of the 2023/24 Championship season with Leeds United and Birmingham City tipped to have contrasting afternoons.


Birmingham City stay up
Just a few weeks ago, eight teams were battling to avoid joining Rotherham United in being relegated from the Championship as the fight at the bottom – even for this league’s ludicrous standards – had gotten out of hand.

Normality has been somewhat restored ahead of the final day as Millwall, QPR and Stoke City are all safe, while 50-point duo Blackburn Rovers and Sheffield Wednesday are almost over the line.

Blackburn and Sheff Weds will be sweating over their goal difference if they are beaten by Leicester City and Sunderland respectively. If so, they will have eyes on 22nd-placed Birmingham City’s home game against Norwich City as the hosts need a win to make relegation possible for those two and give themselves any hope of survival.

One place below Birmingham (47 points) is Huddersfield Town (45 points), who – sorry Winty – are all but relegated as they need a win, 21st-placed Plymouth Argyle (48 points) to lose to Hull City AND a 15-goal swing to stay up. So no chance…

The relegation scene has the potential to be pretty undramatic on the final day if Birmingham quickly go a couple of goals behind against Norwich, but if they earn a miraculous win (and I reckon they will), it will be squeaky bum time for the couple of teams still in danger above.

Fifth-placed Norwich *should* be okay for the top six before Saturday as they are three points clear of seventh-placed Hull City with a goal difference advantage of seven. With David Wagner’s side potentially having one eye on what’s to come in the play-offs, a scrappy but priceless victory for Birmingham at home is certainly on the table.

As for who will be the final team relegated along with Rotherham and Huddersfield, I’ll go with Plymouth Argyle, who will come unstuck in defeat to Hull City as their opponents attempt to snatch sixth-place from West Brom.

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Rotherham United win
This is a selfish entry for me alone, but this season has been f***ing miserable for Rotherham United supporters, so please let me indulge as I throw myself a bone.

The Millers have just managed to surpass the record low points total (the South Yorkshire outfit set that in 2016/17 during a similarly miserable campaign) of 23 as they have nudged themselves to the 24-point mark ahead of their final day match at home against Cardiff City.

Everyone associated with the club have understandably been down in the dumps for much of this season, but the positivity is suddenly back as brash Scotsman Steve Evans has returned to The New York Stadium for a second stint as manager.

His first spell at Rotherham was somewhat bittersweet as he guided the club to back-to-back promotions and Championship survival. Yet a consequence of that success was a severe hit to the club’s finances as Evans was given free rein to offload and/or sign players on what felt at the time like a weekly basis.

Since Paul Warne left for Derby County, the club and supporters have gradually drifted apart so Evans’ return has been greeted with widespread excitement when that would not necessarily have been the case a year ago.

After a season of such bleak misery, Millers supporters are ready for some fun again. Evans’ pursuit of immediate success may fail and the chances of him being a good thing in the long term are low, but it certainly won’t be boring.

As for the final day, in perhaps the boldest of all the picks in this article, I’m succumbing to my blind optimism to say Rotherham will beat Cardiff on Saturday to earn their fifth (yes, FIFTH) Championship win of the season. Roll on the Evans circus in League One!


Nervy West Brom sneak into play-offs
In the Championship, there are very few certainties but West Brom finishing fifth had looked nailed on for much of this campaign.

But an end-of-season run of just one win (which came against bottom-placed Rotherham United) in seven matches has seen the Baggies slip to sixth and they are at risk of falling out of the play-offs completely on the final day.

Their blushes have been spared somewhat by seventh-placed Hull City’s recent inconsistency in the Championship, but Liam Rosenior’s team still have a sniff of the top six as they are two points adrift of West Brom.

As previously mentioned, Hull City visit relegation-threatened Plymouth Argyle this weekend and can approach this fixture with the freedom of knowing no-one realistically expects them to pip West Brom to sixth place and can attack their vulnerable opponents.

Especially given their inferior goal difference, Hull can only win and hope Preston do them a massive favour by beating West Brom at the Hawthorns to steal the final play-off spot.

There will surely be several final day foes West Brom would have preferred over Ryan Lowe’s gritty Preston side as they will know it’ll likely be a slog if the play-off chasers are to get the point they require to seal a sixth-place finish.

Another loss for West Brom would top off a quite extraordinary end-of-season collapse. Given their miserable run and what’s at stake, it’s difficult to imagine Carlos Corberan returning to form this weekend but whether it’s via a nervy draw or Hull slipping up, they should crawl over the line to book their place in the play-offs.

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Leeds United are second (briefly)
Daniel Farke’s side will reach 93 points if they beat Southampton this weekend and this tally is typically enough to earn a place in the automatic promotion places. But this season has been far from ordinary at the top and Leeds United are somewhat unfortunate that they are pretty certain to be pipped to second by Kieran McKenna’s Ipswich Town.

Ipswich’s narrow 2-1 win at Coventry City – a side suffering a hangover from their FA Cup semi-final exit – was a dagger in the heart of Leeds United supporters as their team heads into the final day with a three-point disadvantage.

However, there is still a speck of hope for Leeds United, who have a better goal difference than Ipswich.

The permutation for second place is quite simple: Leeds must beat Southampton and pray League One-bound Huddersfield Town defeat Ipswich Town at Portman Road; as for McKenna’s team, they only need a draw to get over the finish line.

Fans of the Championship were salivating at the prospect of Leeds United facing Southampton on the final day as the two sides took turns being favourites to finish second before their recent poor run of results. It had a chance of being a one-game shootout for second place, but the brilliance of McKenna-ball has upset the odds and made Saturday’s clash at Elland Road far less exciting.

The top four in the Championship have all struggled to varying degrees during the run-in and it seemed at one stage that none of them wanted to get promoted to the Premier League.

Common sense leads you to assume Ipswich will make light work of Huddersfield on Saturday to seal promotion without too much stress but final day nerves do funny things to players so the Tractor Boys may have to overcome one or two more hurdles if they are to secure their Premier League return.

I suspect Ipswich will get the point they require, but it will not be easy and it wouldn’t be a huge shock if Leeds United are second at one stage in the live table before having their faint hopes dashed once again.


Leicester City reach 100 points
The Foxes were running away with the Championship title for most of this season but were at risk of an almighty collapse during the run-in as a string of defeats made it tight at the summit.

Leicester City’s fears have since subsided as they have reverted to type, winning three matches in a row to seal promotion and the Championship title with a game to spare.

Enzo Maresca has done a brilliant job of transforming Leicester City into Manchester City-lite in his debut season as a manager and while their pre-promotion decline ruined their case to be one of the best Championship sides ever, they have certainly been the best team in the league this season and that is largely thanks to the expertise of their inexperienced head coach and some superb recruitment following the summer sales of James Maddison and Harvey Barnes.

Admittedly, Leicester City bent the Financial Fair Play rules to be in such a strong position and they are facing a more difficult season in the Premier League with Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall among their standouts who could leave to balance the books. But with their supreme on-pitch personnel and relentless consistency, they are deserving winners of the Championship title.

Facing lowly Blackburn Rovers at the weekend, Leicester should finish the season in style with a one-sided victory to reach the 100-point mark. Also, do not be surprised if Jamie Vardy bags a brace to take his Championship goal tally for the season to 20. There’s life in the old dog yet…

More: Championship | Leeds United | Leicester City | Ipswich Town | Birmingham City