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Championship Review: Leeds the Latest Leaders After Canaries Clipped
Aaron Rogan
Aaron Rogan
December 16, 2018
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Before becoming a Sports Journalist for Free Super Tips, Aaron spent three years studying Sports Journalism at the University of Sunderland while taking in the Black Cats' 'glory years' under Martin O'Neill. Now back in Northern Ireland he turns niche stats into predictions for FST, while he's one of the few people on this island who is equally comfortable at Windsor Park and the Aviva.

Norwich’s reign at the top of the Championship came to an end this weekend after they were dethroned by Leeds United. The second tier had seen a revolving door at the very top until the Canaries moved forward to make top spot their own. The season could change from this point on, but will Norwich remain contenders for the title?

Following a busy round of matches in the Championship, we’re looking back at the biggest talking points and results from Saturday’s action. We’re also looking at the latest betting odds, and asking what these results mean for the remaining months of the season, and the race for the Premier League.

Leeds in the Lead

Leeds managed to move in front with their narrow win away to Bolton. They claimed a 1-0 over the Trotters – who were beaten by Norwich last weekend. Another defeat leaves Phil Parkinson’s side in the bottom three, but it put Leeds clear in the fight for the title. Having been early leaders of the pack this term, Marcelo Bielsa’s side are the only real consistent title challengers.

That’s after Norwich saw their winning run come to an end. The Canaries had bounced back from winning one of their first six, to storm the standings and spend a month in first place. However, a 2-2 draw at Bristol City was a blow to their hopes, which leaves them a point shy of Leeds. They struggled at times at Ashton Gate, and they had trailed 2-1 before fighting back to claim a point. While things could have been worse for the Canaries, they were pushing to take their lead into the Christmas period. Now, they’re left facing questions about their ability to bounce back.

That has left Leeds as the clear favourites for the title, sitting a shade under 2/1 with most bookies. Meanwhile, Norwich are second favourites best priced at 7/2. There’s a gap between the top two and the rest, which points to a title race between the current leaders. While there’s still a long way to go, we have two clear favourites for the automatic promotion places. The only issue is that Leeds may struggle with fatigue over Christmas given their style of play. Obviously, the fight is far from over. However, the pressure in now on Norwich to show that they can carry on in spite of that setback.

Can the Chasing Pack Keep the Pace?

The top two continue to fight for the title, but will the pair secure the automatic promotion spots this term? The chasing pack clearly need to do more. Their slip-ups this weekend have opened up a five-point gap between second and third, despite the Canaries dropping points this weekend. Without more consistency, the teams chasing a top-two finish will miss out on Premier League football.

That includes both Middlesbrough and Sheffield United. Both sides suffered defeats this weekend. The Blades lost 2-1 at home to West Brom, who managed to move into third place themselves. However, the Baggies have had their issues in making a push for the top two places. Meanwhile, a key loss for Sheffield United raises questions over how far they can go this term. A second-half collapse has left them seven points shy of Norwich, after leading the way earlier this term. With Chris Wilder’s side falling away in the second-half of last season, they have a lot to move across the coming months.

The same goes for Tony Pulis and Middlesbrough. They have drifted out to 14/1 to lift the Championship trophy, following a 2-1 loss at QPR this weekend. With a nine-point gap between them and the leaders, it’s not hard to see why. Having started the season as the main challengers to Leeds, Boro have fallen away, to the point that they could easily finish the round outside of the play-off spots.

The Play-off Hopefuls

There’s little between the sides in the play-off spots, but there’s also a queue forming behind them. After Saturday, there are only three points between seventh and 13th. The chasing pack includes both Aston Villa and Stoke, who played out another thrilling contest this weekend. The pair drew 2-2 at Villa Park, leaving them both still inside the race for the top six.

Back to back wins have lifted Swansea into ninth, after they beat Sheffield Wednesday this weekend. That leaves the Welsh side in the mix to return to the top flight, along with Stoke and West Brom. All three coming straight back up is incredibly unlikely. However, with parachute payments backing them up the trio have to be considered contenders to win the play-offs. With former Premier League sides like QPR, Blackburn, Birmingham and Nottingham Forest also in the mix, the promotion fight seems promising.

Bee-line for the Bottom

Meanwhile, at the bottom, there was a big switch this week. A 2-0 victory for Hull on Saturday pushed Brentford into serious trouble. The one-time leaders of the Championship have fallen down to 19th, leaving them just three points above the drop zone. Thomas Frank has had a torrid time in charge, he’s now leading one-time promotion candidates into a fight for survival.

Brentford may be only three points off the bottom three, but they still seem unfancied for the drop. Despite winning once in their last 16 games, the Bees are a massive 25/1 with BetVictor to go down this season. They’ve done well in the second tier after a few years at this level, but they have also been fighting against their lack of resources to stay up. In a season where they were set to challenge for the top flight under Dean Smith, they’re at risk of relegation. If their torrid run of form continues, those odds are likely to tumble.

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