Who will get promoted to the Premier League?
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Who will get promoted to the Premier League? Your Championship primer

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The Football League Championship returns on Saturday, as Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion look to keep hold of their automatic promotion places.

It won’t be easy.

[ MORE: Spurs-Man Utd recap | JPW’s 3 Things ]

Here is your guide to the final nine matchdays of the season for England’s second tier.

The top two

Marcelo Bielsa’s Peacocks and Slaven Bilic’s Baggies have 7- and 6-point cushions on third place with nine matches to go, a congested fixture list ready to tax the benches of all of the sides.

The playoff race

Third through sixth in the Championship will contest the playoffs for the third promotion spot to the Premier League.

Third-place Fulham will learn a lot about whether it’s in the race for automatic promotion or just a playoff probability within one week’s time. The Cottagers host fourth-place Brentford at 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday and go to Leeds one week later.

Fulham has 64 points, six back of second place and nine clear of seventh place. It would be very surprising if the Londoners didn’t keep hold of a playoff spot.

Brentford (60) and Nottingham Forest (60) have five-point advantages on seventh, nice but not too comfortable, while Preston North End’s one-point-above-sixth-place footing is uneven.

Six teams are within two wins of Preston’s 56 points. Seventh-place Bristol City has 55, Millwall and Cardiff City have 54, Blackburn and Swansea City have 53, Derby County has 51, and QPR’s on 50.

Who will get promoted to the Premier League?
Rooney’s Rams are six points behind the playoff places (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Americans Abroad

Speaking of QPR, USMNT veteran Geoff Cameron is a fixture for Mark Warburton’s London side. The 34-year-old has played 28 times this season.

Derby County has seen a fine season out of Duane Holmes, who has three goals and three assists. Not American, but ex-DC United man Wayne Rooney is Holmes’ teammate.

No American has played more Championship minutes than Fulham’s Tim Ream (3142). Next up are Wigan’s Antonee Robinson (2587) and Hull City’s Eric Lichaj (2546).

Matt Miazga is handling center back duties for Reading, while Cameron Carter-Vickers’ latest loan stint at Luton Town has gone well individually.

Luca De La Torre (Fulham) has seen neglible minutes this season.

English-born MLS and NCAA star Jack Harrison is with Leeds.

Manchester United academy product Jack Harrison of Leeds United went to school at Wake Forest before playing for NYCFC in Major League Soccer (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images).

The relegation scrap

Three clubs will go down to League One next season. Two of the three teams in the bottom three will need a massive change in fortunes to avoid that fate.

Barnsley is seven points back of 21st and Luton Town sits six points back of safety.

Charlton Athletic is currently in 22nd with 39 points, but it can look to a single win as chance to move ahead of any of the five sides ahead of it (depending on how goal differential goes).

Hull City, Wigan Athletic, and Middlesbrough are just two points above the drop zone, while Stoke City and Huddersfield Town have three-point distances above the drop.

Charlton can pass Hull with a win at the KC Stadium on Saturday, though it’s only other chance to affect a fellow struggler is July 18 versus Wigan.

This week’s schedule

Fulham v. Brentford — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Middlesbrough v. Swansea City — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Millwall v. Derby County — 8 a.m. ET Saturday
West Brom v. Birmingham City — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Huddersfield Town v. Wigan Athletic — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Hull City v. Charlton Athletic — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Sheffield Wednesday v. Nottingham Forest — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Luton Town v. Preston North End –10 a.m. ET Saturday
QPR v. Barnsley — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Reading v. Stoke City — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Blackburn Rovers v. Bristol City — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Cardiff City v. Leeds United — 7 a.m. ET Sunday

Transfer rumor roundup: Grealish ready to move; Fraser, Ferguson in PL links

Grealish to Manchester City
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There are plenty more names in the transfer rumor mill on a day the Premier League added a new striker via Timo Werner’s move from RB Leipzig to Chelsea.

[ MORE: Werner to Chelsea official ]


Free transfer finds Fraser and Ferguson

The Scottish Daily Record brings reports that Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser is eyeing a move to Everton when his contract expires, and may not play for the Cherries again this season.

Fraser, 26, has had a rough season after sticking it out with the Cherries despite transfer interest last summer. The Premier League’s 2018-19 assist leader has just a goal and four assist this season.

The diminutive winger has 11 caps for Scotland with a single goal. He’s previously been linked with Tottenham and was subject to Liverpool rumors in November.

Two London clubs are after West Bromwich Albion defender Nathan Ferguson, says Football.London, with Crystal Palace in “pole position” to beat Tottenham and German clubs to the 19-year-old.

Ferguson has been with the Baggies since his youth, and the club is primed to find promotion to the Premier League.

He has a goal and an assist this season, and Ferguson has repped England at three youth levels.

The 6-foot back has played mostly left and right back this season but is also a center back. He’s out of contract at the end of the month

Ferguson to Everton
Nathan Ferguson of West Bromwich Albion (Photo by Adam Fradgley – AMA/WBA FC via Getty Images)

Grealish ready to leave Villa regardless of finish

The Athletic says Jack Grealish has decided to leave boyhood club Aston Villa after this season regardless of whether the Villans are relegated or stay in the Premier League.

Grealish, 24, has nine goals and eight assists in 32 PL matches for Villa this season, his most productive offensive season in his career despite coming on his biggest stage.

The Irish and English youth international has 35 goals and 47 assists in 260 appearances between Villa and Notts County, most of them coming with the former.

Grealish leads Villa in goals, assists, yellow cards, key passes, fouls drawn, minutes. He’s second on the team in shots per game, dribbles, and passing percentage.

Social media wrap: All 20 Premier League clubs, many players stand against racism

Premier League social media
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The protests in the United States have inspired anti-racism statements from around the world, including all gestures from all 20 Premier League clubs and many players and managers.

There have been ongoing protests and horrible violence in the U.S. since the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes even after he stopped moving and pleaded for air in Minnesota.

Newcastle United’s American defender DeAndre Yedlin issued an emotional thread (below) as one of a great deal of players to express hopes for change and solidarity, while Schalke’s Weston McKennie explained his wearing a black armband reading “Justice For George” in the Bundesliga this weekend.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

From Ancelotti to Zaha, Antonio to Yedlin, Arsenal to Wolves, we’ve collected many of their sentiments below in what we hope serves as universal disdain for racial prejudice.

Some players like Leicester City’s Wes Morgan and even entire clubs (Arsenal) changed their online identity photos to reflect these troubled times.

All PL clubs issued messages of solidarity, many using the Black Lives Matter hashtag and making no bones about where they stand.

And we’ll start with a longtime PL club currently in the Championship, who blasted a season ticket holder’s rejection of their unifying Tweet.

Here are some other clubs and players worldwide to have noticed what’s happening in the United States.

 

EFL: Promotion, relegation will remain

League One
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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.

EFL letter recommends clubs prepare for return ‘at short notice’

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The English Football League has sent a letter to all clubs advising they return to training in mid-May and prepare for a return to play from the coronavirus shutdown at what the EFL described as “relatively short notice.”

The letter from EFL chairman Rick Parry, which was sent to all 72 clubs before it was obtained by The Independent and shared by the BBC, notes that while the EFL does not have the power to enforce training schedules for clubs, it interestingly advises that clubs may suffer public relations damage should they return to training earlier than the advised May 16 date. The letter then addresses a rumored start date in early June without confirming or denying the viability of that date.

“By advising a mid-May return to training,” the letter reads, “it has inevitably led to speculation that the season will recommence on June 6 – three weeks later. No date has been discussed and we continue to work with the government and health authorities to help identify the date where we can resume our season. Our planning needs to be agile enough to allow us to be as prepared as possible for a return at relatively short notice.”

The letter is intentionally vague, leaving room for multiple possibilities, but does admit that “these [scenarios] are expected to take further shape over the course of the next two weeks and clubs will receive an appropriate briefing once these plans are at an advanced stage.”

The letter also invites clubs to share their thoughts and possibilities as the EFL notes “collaboration is key to achieving success in these challenging times.” It notes that many clubs have already expressed their thoughts about playing behind closed doors, admitting that is a very likely possibility for when the games recommence.

The Premier League is likely to follow suit shortly after videoconferencing Friday with all 20 clubs to discuss plans for the next few months and how to potentially return to play.

While it was not discussed in the letter openly, The Telegraph reported Friday morning that the EFL is considering its return to play using a limited number of Championship grounds – more specifically 10 stadiums – while closed-door games remain at the forefront.