Championship

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Leeds edge closer to Premier League return

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Leeds United are edging closer to a return to the Premier League.

Whisper it.

Leeds are top of the Championship table and have an eight-point cushion over third place Brentford as automatic qualification seems all but certain heading into the final seven games of the season. Leeds have four games left and they all come against teams battling against relegation. If Leeds win their four home games, that will all but secure promotion.

We’ve been here before, many time, with Leeds over the last 16 years, including last season under current boss Marcelo Bielsa as they lost in the playoffs.

Leeds side brushed aside fourth-place Fulham at Elland Road Saturday, with Patrick Bamford giving them an early lead then Ezgjan Alioski and Jack Harrison sealing the win in the second half in empty stadium.

The 3-0 victory means they are three points clear at the top as they recovered from losing to Cardiff City last week in their first game since the restart in England’s second tier.

Leeds United fans will not need reminding that they haven’t been in the top-flight since 2004 and they are now agonizingly close to a long-awaited return.

Elsewhere in the Championship, Cardiff City grabbed a big win away at playoff rivals Preston North End to remain in sixth place, while third-place Brentford beat second-place West Brom to stay in the hunt for the automatic promotion spots as the Bees are five points behind the Baggies.

Neil Warnock won his first game in charge of Middlesbrough to boost their survival hopes, while Charlton, Wigan and Luton all won as Swansea and Blackburn Rovers lost ground in the playoff hunt.

Derby County are lurking ominously close to the playoffs too, as Wayne Rooney scored what turned out to be the game-winner from the penalty spot right on half time in a heated clash. USMNT and Reading center back Matt Miazga was sent off after the final whistle as he clashed with Derby’s Tom Lawrence and both were shown red cards.

Championship results

Brentford 1-0 West Brom – Friday
Preston 1-3 Cardiff
Swansea 0-1 Luton
Charlton 1-0 QPR
Barnsley 0-0 Millwall
Derby 2-1 Reading
Stoke 0-2 Middlesbrough
Birmingham 3-3 Hull
Wigan 2-0 Blackburn
Leeds 3-0 Fulham

USMNT: Robinson returns after heart issues

Antonee Robinson USMNT
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USMNT left back Antonee Robinson has returned to action and is ready to play after he was diagnosed with heart issues in January.

Robinson, 22, was due to move from Wigan Athletic to AC Milan for $8 million on transfer deadline day in January but he failed a medical at the Italian giants as an irregular heart rhythm was picked up.

The Everton youth product returned to Wigan and has undergone careful testing, had a heart procedure in March and has been working his was back to full fitness over the last six months. Robinson is now ready to return on June 20 when the Championship season resumes.

“I would like to thank everyone who has supported me over the last few months, with a special thanks to club doctor Jonathan Tobin, the club’s medical staff and all of the team involved at the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital,” Robinson said. “I can’t wait to get back to doing what I love. It has been a challenging time but I have good people around me. I am glad to be able to get back to training with the lads and to have the opportunity to play for Wigan Athletic again.”

The USMNT defender has been through a very tough time as he went from being on the verge of a dream move to AC Milan, to not playing at all due to these heart issues.

It is great to hear that he has now made a full recovery and USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter will be able to take a good look at Robinson in upcoming squads.

After leaving Everton from Wigan permanently after a loan spell, Robinson has been praised by many for his speed and skill down the flank and he is an attack-minded left back.

USMNT fans will be intrigued to see him in action for the rest of the Championship season as Robinson will help Wigan battle against relegation.

Liverpool step up restart progress, hammer Blackburn in friendly

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Liverpool do not look like they will be slowing down when the Premier League restart arrives as they hammered Blackburn Rovers 6-0 in a friendly at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp’s side — who lead the Premier League by 25 points in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past six months — played a friendly at Anfield last weekend between their own squad but in their first friendly against opponents they waltzed past the Championship side.

Sadio Mane opened the scoring and then Naby Keita and Takumi Minamino scored before half time as the Reds were rampant throughout in the Anfield sunshine.

Joel Matip, Ki-Jana Hoever and Leighton Clarkson all added a goal each in the second half to complete the rout as Klopp’s side are warming up nicely for their return to action. Plenty of academy products featured late on but Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino, Virgil van Dijk and James Milner all featured heavily.

Mohamed Salah and Andrew Robertson did not feature but Liverpool said they do not have any current injury concerns.

Should Man City lose against Arsenal on Wednesday, June 17 (Watch live, 3:15 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), Liverpool would secure the Premier League title by winning the Merseyside Derby at rivals Everton on Sunday, June 21 (Watch live, 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Merseyside Derby will take place at Goodison Park after both Everton and Liverpool were given the green light to host home games, as the local Ground Safety Advisory Group (GSAG) granted a safety certificate for games to be played in empty stadiums at both Goodison Park and Anfield.

After falling just short of clinching their first league title in over 30 years before the Premier League was suspended on March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Liverpool seem eager to get the job done as soon as possible when the Premier League returns.

Jurgen Klopp was certainly impressed with what he saw as he team continue to rev their engines before the restart.

EFL: Promotion, relegation will remain

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The English Football League (EFL) have released details on how they plan to play out the Championship, League One and League Two campaigns as promotion and relegation will continue between the second and fifth tiers of English soccer.

League Two had previously asked for relegation to be removed by the governing body of the second to fourth tiers has dismissed that request.

The EFL have accepted that it may not be possible to finish the season in the lower leagues and if that is the decision the final table will be determined on unweighted points per game, with promotion and relegation kept in place and a four-team playoff will decide the final team promoted from each division.

Clubs in each league will vote next week on the guidelines, which only need a simple 51 percent majority to be ratified.

After separate leagues met in recent weeks to discuss options, League Two and National League clubs have decided to end their respective seasons, while League One clubs cannot agree on the next step and Championship clubs plan to restart their campaign alongside the Premier League in June.

If points per game is used in League One and League Two, here’s how the top and bottom of the tables will look:

League One
1. Coventry City (promoted automatically)
2. Rotherham (promoted automatically)
3. Wycombe (playoffs)
4. Oxford (playoffs)
5. Portsmouth (playoffs)
6. Fleetwood (playoffs)

21. Tranmere (relegated to League Two)
22. Southend (relegated to League Two)
23. Bolton (relegated to League Two)

League Two
1. Crewe (promoted automatically)
2. Swindon (promoted automatically)
3. Plymouth (promoted automatically)
4. Exeter (playoffs)
5. Cheltenham (playoffs)
6. Colchester (playoffs)
7. Northampton (playoffs)

24. Stevenage (relegated to National League)

Several clubs across the lower leagues in England are in a dire financial situation due to the coronavirus pandemic and curtailing the season would release much-needed funds, as they will not be able to play in safe environments and afford to following the safety and testing protocols needed. However, there is a real concern that the lower leagues may not be able to start the 2020-21 campaign due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

Below is a look at the statement in full from the EFL, as they say there is “strong desire to remain as faithful as possible to the Regulations and ensure there is consistency in the approach adopted across the EFL in all divisions.


1. Resuming the 2019/20 season with the existing format remains the most appropriate course of action from a sporting integrity perspective, but the Board accepts there are circumstances that may lead to curtailment (as has been demonstrated with League Two) or a situation subsequently transpires whereby the season is unable to conclude.

2. This means that, in the event of an early curtailment:

Final divisional placings should be determined on unweighted points per game (if required).
b. Promotion and relegation should be retained.
c. Play-Offs should be played in all circumstances but should not be extended (beyond four teams).

3. If a scenario arises whereby the Play-Offs cannot be played, the EFL Board will determine the appropriate course of action.

4. The Board considers that the majority required to curtail the 2019/20 season in any division should be 51%. Determining whether or not to curtail the season is a decision for each division to take.

5. The principle of relegation across all three divisions is integral to the integrity of the pyramid, from the Premier League down to the National League, provided we have assurances that the National League will start season 2020/21 (i.e. the relegated Club in League Two has somewhere to play).

6. Any regulatory solution should be relevant and specific to the current challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak and reach a conclusion that is clear and effective with the impact and justifications easy for all stakeholders to understand.

Norwich against promotion, relegation until clarity arrives

VAR deprives Norwich City of two-goal lead
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Norwich City believe that both relegation from the Premier League and promotion to the Premier League should be scrapped if the final 92 games of the 2019-20 season cannot be played.

Remember: Norwich are bottom of the Premier League table, five points from safety with nine games to go.

The Premier League have admitted that for the first time they’ve discussed the plan on how the season will be decided if games cannot be played (a points-per-game model could be used to finalize the table) but the will of all 20 clubs is to finish the 2019-20 season.

Speaking to our partners Sky Sports, Norwich’s sporting director Stuart Webber revealed his thoughts on promotion and relegation being decided by points-per-game.

“In my opinion, it needs to be settled on the pitch, not off the pitch,” Webber said. “A big question we have around restarting is, it’s fine if we restart and three teams get relegated. We look at it as though we’re only six points off 16th rather than being adrift. But if we do [go down], that’s fine, because that’s where football should be played. Football should be played on a pitch and not in the boardroom.”

“But the Championship has to restart and play all their games also. What we could not accept is a situation where we play out all our games, get relegated but then the Championship can’t play – because we don’t even know if the government are going to let them play – and then they automatically promote some teams who haven’t finished the season. It’s a bit like saying, we can’t complete the FA Cup, but we’re in the quarter-finals, we’ve beaten a Championship top-six team away, we’ve beaten two Premier League teams away, so does that mean we win the FA Cup then and qualify for Europe and we all get a medal, because the level of games we played were harder than the other teams left in the quarter-finals? That’s a really important sporting point – it needs to be settled on the pitch, both coming up or going down.”

Webber actually brings up a very, very good point.

If it is hard enough for the Premier League to restart and ensure the safety of players, how on earth are the Championship going to get started again? They have more teams (24) and less resources than the PL and it seems like that the seasons in both the third and fourth tiers in English soccer will be canceled in the coming days.

Norwich are correct. The Premier League and Championship both have to go ahead and if they can’t, then promotion and relegation shouldn’t. Is it fair to promote Leeds United and West Brom, who currently sit in the two automatic promotion spots, if they aren’t able to finish the season? What are the ‘fair’ options? Who gets to decide?

The English Football Association (which is the governing body in England, while the PL and EFL are the governing bodies of the different leagues) has said promotion and relegation will stand and the final Premier League table must be decided on sporting merit if the games cannot be decided. That means a points-per-game scenario and that means the bottom three in the Premier League will be relegated and Leeds and West Brom will be promoted, with potentially a shorter playoff format in the Championship to decided the third promoted team.

We all love promotion and relegation but in this instance it is causing an almighty headache.