It’s been a long seven weeks since our last EFL Championship Power Rankings were published on 11 November during the last international break. Then life intervened, and the leagues didn’t seem to take a break, and suddenly, it’s February. But fear not! Our Power Rankings have returned with roughly one-third of the season remaining, and should be published on the first Monday of each month over the remainder of the season.
At that point, the clubs had played 16 times; now, that tally is at 30, and with the number of matches completed between the rankings, there’s been some shuffling up and down the chart. Only three clubs check in where they did in November, and three-quarters of the clubs are at least two spots different than they were previously.
The league remains as tight as ever, with leading West Bromwich Albion only a point ahead of Leeds United in second, and only six points ahead of Bristol City in the final playoff spot. Only three clubs have failed to crack 30 points thus far, and one of them – Wigan Athletic – is coming off a stunning win on the road against the aforementioned Leeds that knocked the Whites from the top of the table.
Here’s where we have the clubs about 65% of the way through the season, with action through 30 matches and 1 February 2020:
Note: Records presented as W-D-L
|3||West Bromwich Albion||15-11-4||2||1↓||1|
|10||Preston North End||13-8-9||1||9↓||7|
|15||Queens Park Rangers||11-5-14||5||10↓||16|
The Battle for Promotion
Beyond the top six clubs – those with over 50 points at the moment – there are an additional seven clubs that have 40 points thus far. Preston North End, November’s top club (at least in our rankings), have tumbled a bit, falling to tenth in our Power Rankings despite holding onto the seventh spot on the table. This was primarily due to a four-match losing immediately after our previous rankings, including a 4-0 loss to Hull City. They’ve gone 4-4-6 overall since those rankings, but are still only three points out of the final playoff spot. This is a marked improvement from the 14th place finish last season, so failing another losing stretch, they seem poised to improve on that this season.
Right behind Preston is Welsh club Swansea City with 46 points. They’ve done one point better than Preston since November – 4-5-5 – with four of their five losses coming to clubs currently in the top ten. A missed opportunity for the full three points had to be in a home match against Barnsley to close out 2019, a match that ended in a scoreless draw. Had they managed to find a goal in that one, they’d find themselves even closer to the top six in their quest to return to the Premier League for the first time since their seven-season run ended with relegation in 2018.
Finally, speaking of a club that has failed to turn draws into victories, Millwall is currently one point behind the Swans, mostly due to their 12 draws, the second-most – behind Cardiff City (13) and tied with Middlesbrough (12) – in the league. Millwall barely avoided relegation last season, so their current position five points out of the playoffs is a welcome development. They’ve gone 6-6-2 since our November rankings, and a 21 December loss at home to Barnsley is an ugly blemish on an otherwise stellar performance over the past two months. Nevertheless, if they continue to draw 40% of the time down the stretch, it will be hard for them to reach the playoffs, let alone the Premier League for the first time (their last trip to the top tier was during the 1989-90 season, prior to the Premier League era).
The Fight to Avoid Relegation
As mentioned previously, there are three teams that have yet to break 30 points and are currently in the relegation zone. Wigan Athletic is coming off of a 1-0 win at Leeds, albeit on a Leeds own goal. It was their second win in a row, and third victory in their last five matches. Unfortunately, the 1 January victory at Birmingham City that started that stretch was their first victory since October, which helps to account for their current position in the standings.
The two clubs below them – Barnsley and Luton Town – were expected to struggle in their return to the Championship despite their success in League One last season. And indeed they are both tied with 24 points with, unsurprisingly, the worst goal differential in the league. Barnsley has actually won four matches since our November rankings, helping them to leapfrog Luton Town at the bottom of the table. Nevertheless, they are 4-3-7 since those rankings, including losing their last three matches. Expect them back in League One next season.
Joining them will likely be last season’s League One champion Luton Town, who has lost ten times since November – against three wins and a draw. Their goal differential is almost a goal a game (-28), so even if they are able to start finding some wins down the stretch, they need to start closing that gap in order to leapfrog the clubs ahead of them. However, perhaps as evidence of the up and down nature of the Championship this season, both clubs will likely exceed the points score by the bottom finishers last season, with only eight points needed to exceed the 32 points that Bolton Wanderers managed last season
Until next time…