Leeds or West Brom: Who Will Snatch the Championship Title?

The Championship returns

The exciting race to climb into the Premier League and earn all the financial benefits of doing so has come down to two teams; two teams that have embarked on very different paths in recent times as they duel for the Championship crown.

West Bromwich Albion got promoted to the top flight of English football under Roberto Di Matteo back in 2009/10 and stayed in the division for eight successive seasons before being relegated back to the Championship. They lost in the playoffs a year ago, but have returned to the fore after hiring Slaven Bilic last summer – can he lead them to not only the promised land of the Premier League, but to the title? Only Leeds United stand in their way – and the sleeping giants have taken a very different route to their title contenders.

Leeds United have not experienced top flight football since their relegation from the Premier League in 2003-04, which was followed up by a second drop to League One – the third tier of English football – just two years later. After three seasons, Leeds returned to the Championship, where they have languished since. Since hiring influential manager Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds have flirted with promotion but they are within touching distance with nine games remaining in 2019-20 and currently lead the Championship race, one point ahead of the Baggies.

Who will win the title and return to the Premier League in style? Well, leaders Leeds United are sitting at 4/11 whilst rivals West Brom are 9/4.

Championship Betting Tips

skybet

FULHAM TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP @ 33/1

The Form thus far

Leeds United entered the break in fine form. Since losing 2-0 away to Nottingham Forest on the 8th of February, the Yorkshire-based side have been undefeated and have won each of their five last games – with an aggregate score of 9-0. They have conceded just 30 goals in a 37-game campaign thus far, which is the lowest conceded in the Championship. Bielsa may be known for intuitive attacking football, but he has moulded Leeds into a brilliantly defensive team that is difficult to breakdown.

In the other corner, West Brom have been in admirable form themselves. The Baggies lost 2-1 away from home to Cardiff City in late January, before going on a run of six straight wins This run was ended in a shock 1-0 loss to Wigan, before closing out the league with a goalless draw at Swansea. In contrast to Leeds, West Brom have scored the most goals in the Championship this season with 64 – a number matched only by fourth-placed Brentford.

The Baggies will be desperate to hit the ground running and return to their goal-scoring form as they look to put the pressure on Leeds ahead of the final nine games of the season.

The run-in

Leeds are set to close the season with a kind run of games. The Whites face four of the bottom eight, including relegation candidates Luton and Barnsley as well as a final day clash at home to Charlton Athletic.

The run-in is not without its thorns, however, and Leeds will face third-placed Fulham at home in just the second game back. This mammoth, top of the table clash could set the tone for both clubs ahead of the season’s conclusion, and Leeds will be desperate to increase the gap between the automatic promotion spots and the fateful playoff positions.

Looking at West Bromwich’s schedule, they play more mid-table teams – as well as crucial battles against Brentford and Fulham. They have very winnable games against struggling Hull City and Huddersfield Town, but it will be the games against the chasing duo, Fulham and Brentford, that may well decide their season.

The Baggies drew both earlier games against the promotion hopefuls, but will be looking to translate stalemates into wins as they aim to put pressure on Championship leader Leeds.

How soon can the title be won?

Mathematically, the very earliest Leeds could secure a Premier League return is the July 4 by beating Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park. If both Leeds and West Brom win all of their remaining games, the title will go down to the wire and be decided on the final day.

The earliest possible date for Leeds to win the Championship would be the 9th of July, at home to Stoke City – with four games left to play. Of course, this is assuming that fellow contenders West Brom will lose all their games whilst title outsiders Fulham (33/1) make up no ground either.

With one point between the two sides, both league leaders Leeds and contenders West Brom are hoping to first secure automatic promotion to English football’s top flight before focusing on the title battle that is very much on the cards.

West Brom might have a slightly more difficult run-in, but the Baggies were in scintillating form before their loss to Wigan. If the Baggies can find that gear again, it will be incredibly tight to call.

By Andrew Gamble

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