The Champions, Promotion Hopefuls, And Remaining Relegation Battlers As The English Football League Season Draws To A Close
A congested Easter fixture list across English football could have understandably left many a bit breathless, as soccer fans begin to immerse themselves in observing the final sprint of the season; here’s a breakdown of what has so far been decided, the promotion potentials, and the fight against relegation from across the four divisions of the Football League, as well as the bonus of the top tier of the National League thrown in for good measure.
You know what it is, Liverpool and Manchester City have been engaging in the tightest, most exhilarating Premier League title race in years, with the former suffering defeat just once this season, whilst the Blues don’t seem to have changed gear from their record-breaking blockbuster campaign last year. It’s looking increasingly projected that one side will unfortunately collect the highest ever point tally for a runner-up in the English top tier, with 97 and 98 points anticipated, respectively, and therefore with the strong potential of besting the 89 second-place Manchester United collected in the 2011/12 season. It’s a massive contrast from the breezy, 19-point winning margin for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side in 2017/18. The Cityzens remain odds on, at around 4/7, to bag their second successive title.
Three points separate Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester United in the fight for a Champions League qualifying spot below. Fulham have made a swift return to the Championship after a single season in the top tier, but will Cardiff City be joining them? The Bluebirds have the Seagulls in their sights, but with a far inferior goal difference to struggling Brighton & Hove Albion, whilst Southampton still aren’t mathematically safe.
It’s been four defeats in seven games for Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United who have now clearly slipped into the play-off places to the benefit of table-toppers Norwich City (themselves on a peculiar run of four straight draws), and Sheffield United, on 88 and 85 points, respectively, with two games remaining. Looks like the crown is going to the Canaries, who have Blackburn Rovers and Aston Villa in their remaining games. Villa incidentally are comfortably in a play-off spot, alongside the Whites and fellow Midlands club West Bromwich Albion, with Derby County, Middlesbrough, and Bristol City jostling beneath them for the remaining place.
At the bottom of the table, Rotherham have just two games left to stop themselves from suffering the same fate as Bolton Wanderers and Ipswich Town, already consigned to League One for next season. Rotherham are three points adrift of Millwall, who have a 15 goal margin advantage, and a game in hand.
Luton Town are two points clear of Barnsley with a game in hand, on course for their perhaps their best - or certainly most enjoyable - season in over three decades. With three games remaining Portsmouth can continue to make a push for automatic promotion, though it might be too much of an ask for Sunderland at this late stage. Regardless, those two, as well as Charlton Athletic, are confirmed for the playoffs. Doncaster Rovers and Peterborough United are in a tussle for the remaining spot, with Posh denting their chances of later with two consecutive draws, meaning four points dropped.
In theory, incredibly, anyone from 14th and under can suffer the drop, joining rock-bottom Bradford City. Walsall have an almighty task of climbing out of that dreaded bottom-four, and they’re not going to do it by extending a winless run that has stretched across eight games all the way back to the beginning of March.
Lincoln City are champions! A home draw with Tranmere Rovers was enough to secure the Imps the crown, and their second promotion in three seasons under manager Danny Cowley; a truly remarkable achievement. Bury’s poor run that have seen four losses in five would have been extended had it not been for a Gigg Lane comeback against Northampton Town in gameweek 44. Together with Mansfield Town they occupy the two other promotion spots, though MK Dons and Forest Green can make a final charge.
Sol Campbell’s Macclesfield Town sit precariously - just two points - above Yeovil Town and Notts County to avoid slithering down and out of the Football League.
And what about those trying to enter the Football League? Ambitious Salford City’s bid for back-to-back promotions (and their fourth in five seasons) hit a massive stumbling block with a home loss to Fylde - a fellow occupant of the playoffs- in their penultimate game of the season, but the attempt could be summed up by the fortuitous goal afforded Leyton Orient in a baffling goalkeeping display from Sutton United in the dying embers of an important match, the three points making it almost certain for them to be crowned champions unless they suffer a loss, Salford or Solihull Moors win and overturn a massive five and eight goal difference swing.