By 90Min
May 11, 2019

The regular Championship season is over, and we now know the four teams that will be contesting for the third and final promotion spot this season.

One of Leeds United, West Brom, Aston Villa or Derby County will join Norwich City and Sheffield United in the Premier League next season through the dreaded play-offs.

But which of those sides are the best equipped to win the proverbial lottery, and whose weaknesses are more prominent than others?


Leeds United

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Strengths 

Marcelo Bielsa's vast managerial experience far exceeds that of his play-off rivals, and his side have totally bought into his unique and hugely entertaining style of play – with the former Argentina manager giving the Yorkshire club a huge lift from the bottom up with his relentless hard work.

Where Leeds have thrived most this season has been in defence. Centre-backs Pontus Jansson and Liam Cooper were both named in the PFA Championship team of the year and they've conceded only 50 league goals in the campaign; only Sheffield United and Middlesbrough conceding fewer.

The development of holding midfielder Kalvin Phillips has also been a huge contributing factor to that mean defence, with the youth academy product effortlessly dropping into defence to essentially create a back three, while also regularly igniting attacks.

Weaknesses


As great and refreshing as Bielsa's side have been this season, they do look like a team who have quite simply run out of gas.

They have slipped up at precisely the wrong time, going from three points clear of the Blades with four games to go to finishing six points behind their neighbours, mainly thanks to poor defeats against strugglers Wigan and Ipswich, both of whom were reduced to ten men.

But their biggest problem all season has simply been finding someone to finish off the chances  they create. Their total of 73 goals is far fewer than anyone in the top five, with top scorer Kemar Roofe striking 15 times – but only once since the new year.


West Bromwich Albion

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Strengths


The Baggies have plenty of Premier League quality in their squad – particularly in attack, with the likes of Jay Rodriguez and Dwight Gayle, who have 45 strikes between them for the campaign.


Only Norwich have bettered West Brom's total of 87 goals, and they have played a style of football which will almost certainly guarantee goals.


Top flight experience oozes through this collection of players, so they should be able to handle a big occasion better than the others, especially with Mason Holgate and Kieran Gibbs as full backs and three centre-halves who are comfortable with the ball at their feet.

Weaknesses

The Black Country club's attacking prowess and bravery will often leave them exposed at the back, and their figures for the season show this.

No team in the Championship's top half have conceded more goals than West Brom over the campaign, and they've kept a shockingly low nine clean sheets in their 46 games, with only the three relegated sides keeping fewer.

Their decision to sack Darren Moore in February seemed a harsh one at the time, but when you realise that they clearly had no replacement lined up, it now seems even more odd that they didn't stick with him.

Caretaker boss Jimmy Shan has done a decent job of steadying the ship, but their away record in recent weeks doesn't make for pretty reading, with four defeats in their last six.


Aston Villa

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Strengths


Villa are the Championship's in-form side, with their defeat against champions Norwich on the final day their first loss in 13 games, and even that was without a number of key players.

Dean Smith has done an excellent job since his arrival last October, and has managed to unite a club by playing excellent, passing football and breaking a 109-year-old club record by winning ten consecutive matches to fire them into the play-offs for the second year in a row.

They arguably have the best squad in the league, with Jack Grealish's ability now far exceeding the second tier, John McGinn's relentless workrate, Tyrone Mings' immense presence at the back and a natural finisher up front in Tammy Abraham, who is the league's second top scorer with 25 goals to his name.


Weaknesses

They may have dramatically improved in recent weeks, but Villa's defence is still something of a problem, conceding 61 goals over their 46 games, often due a lack of concentration.

Villa fans will also be concerned by their record against the division's better sides, failing to win any of their eight games against the four teams who finished above them, and losing six of those of clashes.

There also seems to be an alarming lack of pace in the side, particularly in the wide areas – with Albert Adomah and Anwar El Ghazi often not being able to beat a man, while Ahmed Elmohamady and Neil Taylor could be caught out at full-back.


Derby County

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Strengths


The Rams sneaked into the top six on the final day having found form again at just the right time with a run of just one defeat in twelve games, scoring 26 goals in the process.

Frank Lampard also seems to have found the right blend of youth and experience in his side, with exciting prospects such as Mason Mount and Harry Wilson grabbing public attention over the past nine months with some eye catching performances, while Martyn Waghorn and Richard Keogh have shown their class and maturity to keep Derby's season alive.

They also have the fourth best home record in the division, better than any of the sides in the play-offs, with a league low three defeats at Pride Park this season. 

Weaknesses

Derby have plenty of experience in the Championship play-offs, having reached them a record eight times.

However, they've only won them once (back in 2007). They have also scored fewer goals than their three opponents, with winger Wilson their only player to reach double figures for the campaign.

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