In a season that has been marked by events completely bizarre, a conclusion is to be reached with the ball being set rolling both in the top two divisions of English football.
While the Premier League resumed on Wednesday, the Championship will restart on Saturday.
Things cannot get more complicated than they already are in the Championship, with not only the promotion race but the relegation battle also heating up as a result of lack of breathing space between the sides.
While just 10 points separate the teams placed between fourth and 13th on the table, there is an eight-point gap between 17th-placed Stoke City and Barnsley, who are rock-bottom in the standings.
The top two teams though, do not look like slipping up, in spite of the unpredictable nature of the division.
League leaders Leeds United hold a seven-point advantage over third-placed Fulham, while second-placed West Brom is six ahead of the Potters.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side were on a five-game winning run when the action was brought to a halt in early March, and there are multiple reasons to believe that the Whites are not going to slip up in their bid to win the Championship and gain automatic promotion to the Premier League.
Leeds United players are desperate not to slip up – again
After plodding through their agonising stay in the Championship for nine long years, Leeds United came close to earning promotion back to the Premier League last season, only to lose a two-legged playoff against Derby County.
In a recent interview, Leeds defender Gaetano Berardi, who received a red card in the all-crucial second leg against Derby, said that the memory still pains him.
“That’s easy [to speak about the most difficult moment of my career at the club]. It was after the play-off game against Derby. It was really difficult for everyone, but if I have to say about me, it was really hard to take. It was the first time I had felt like this.”
A chance to redeem themselves has come in front of the Whites, with veteran Argentine manager Marcelo Bielsa showing his skills to make the club look like the favourites to clinch the league title.
The players know very well that it’s difficult to get out of the Championship, and hence, will look to win the league and ensure an automatic promotion to the Premier League as early as possible without any hiccups.
Patrick Bamford’s form is key
Leeds United’s premier goalscorer, Patrick Bamford has failed to live up to the expectations that had been entrusted on him by his manager and the club.
Over the course of the 2822 minutes he has been on the pitch, the 26-year-old has scored 13 goals, which is 10 less than Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Bamford himself admitted back in October that he should have scored more goals this season.
“I am probably more critical of myself than the fans are. I have got four [goals] but I should have ten goals. I look at one [goal] per game, that’s the target I try and set myself.”
The striker had managed to find the back of the net in Leeds United’s last match before the break, following a seven-match barren run.
Patrick Bamford will, therefore, hope that the break helps him start fresh, forgetting all about his past troubles, not only with the lack of form but also with injuries.
A comparatively easier run of fixtures
While Leeds United are to restart their campaign with a long away trip to South Wales to play Cardiff City, not all the games are going to be as tough.
Of The nine games, the Whites are set to play this season, three are against Luton Town, Barnsley and Charlton Athletic – the bottom three clubs in the division.
Stoke City, who are also due to face Leeds United, have struggled this season, and a possible 12 points from those four matches will take the Whites’ overall tally to 83 – 11 behind last season’s winners Norwich City.
And there is no reason to believe that Marcelo Bielsa’s side are ill-equipped to notch up another 11 points from the remaining five matches.
A points-per-game analysis also puts Leeds United at the top.
Averaging 1.92 points-per-games, the Whites can take their overall tally to 18 points. Adding that to the 71 they already have, Bielsa’s side will have 89 points, two more than second-placed West Brom, who average 1.89.
A return to the Premier League would be the just reward for the hard work the team have put in over the course of the last two years.
The Murderball training sessions and the Spygate controversy will all come to their fruition if Leeds United manage to win the Championship at the end of it all.
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