Crunch time is upon us in the 2022/23 Championship season which means the most exciting time of the year awaits.
The Championship play-offs have delivered some of the sport's most memorable and iconic moments over the years, with so much at stake for those that progress into what could be described as the 'post-season'.
We're closing in on the conclusion of the season, with a whole host of teams in contention to secure a return - or maiden berth - to the Premier League. Here's the current state of play at the top of the Championship.
How does promotion and relegation work in the Championship?
Three teams are promoted from the Championship to the Premier League each season. The title winners and runners-up go up automatically with the final place determined by two-legged semi finals and a final at Wembley. Those three teams are replaced by sides relegated from the Premier League.
The three teams that finish 22nd, 23rd and 24th drop out of the Championship and down to League One, which sends up another three sides as their replacements.
Who could qualify for the 2023 Championship play-offs?
With most teams having played 35 games at the time of writing, there's still nine matchdays left in the 2022/23 Championship season. Thus, no teams have yet secured their place in the play-offs, but runaway leaders Burnley have all but secured automatic promotion back to the Premier League.
Sheffield United are expected to join them, but Middlesbrough and Blackburn Rovers are hot on their heels. The Blades need to win their game in hand to build a healthy advantage over the chasing pack.
Both Boro and Blackburn are among the hottest sides in the second tier right now and have put themselves in a great position to qualify for the play-offs at least. Coventry have also shot up the table but are currently three points adrift of sixth-place Norwich. Luton and Norwich will be hoping to hold off the surging Coventry, with Millwall, Watford, Sunderland, and West Brom also in contention.
As of Monday 6 March
Key fixtures ahead of the 2023 Championship play-offs
Here's a list of some key fixtures that could determine how the 2023 Championship play-offs will shape up:
- 11/03/23 - Sheffield United vs Luton Town
- 18/03/23 - Sunderland vs Luton Town
- 01/04/23 - Luton Town vs Watford
- 01/04/23 - Norwich vs Sheffield United
- 01/04/23 - West Brom vs Millwall
- 07/04/23 - Blackburn Rovers vs Norwich
- 07/04/23 - Millwall vs Luton Town
- 15/04/23 - Middlesbrough vs Norwich
- 19/04/23 - Blackburn Rovers vs Coventry
- 22/04/23 - Luton Town vs Middlesbrough
- 25/04/23 - Blackburn Rovers vs Burnley
- 29/04/23 - Blackburn Rovers vs Luton Town
- 29/04/23 - West Brom vs Norwich
- 08/05/23 - Millwall vs Blackburn Rovers
- 08/05/23 - Middlesbrough vs Coventry
Every game is pivotal down the stretch for those pushing for a play-off spot, but there are several distinct crunch games that could determine the make up of the top six.
The first week of April is a huge weekend in the play-off race with six contenders facing off against each other, and we could be in for some final day drama with Millwall playing host to Blackburn and Middlesbrough taking on Coventry.
The in-form Blackburn will fancy their chances of ending the season strongly after they beat Sheffield United 1-0 at the weekend. The majority of their remaining key fixtures are at Ewood Park.
However, the likes of Coventry, Luton, and Norwich will have to be impressive on the road if they're to pip their rivals to a play-off spot.
When are the 2023 Championship play-offs?
The final day of the 2022/23 Championship season will take place on 6/7 May. Once the regular season table is finalised, the semi final dates will be announced. The semi finals normally kick off around a week after the final league fixtures, so the first legs should take place on the weekend of May 13/14.
The team that finishes third takes on sixth place, leaving a more balanced tie between fourth and fifth.
When is the 2023 Championship play-off final?
The winners of those two-legged clashes will face off at Wembley for the chance to reach the Premier League. The EFL has confirmed the playoff final will be played between May 27 and May 29, with an afternoon kick-off expected to be confirmed.
Source : 90min