Championship play-off permutations: Leeds, Aston Villa & who could finish in top six

Marcelo Bielsa Leeds Jack Grealish Aston Villa
Getty/Goal composite
With the league phase of the 2018-19 season approaching a conclusion, we take a look at the possible final outcomes

The composition of 2019 Championship play-offs is almost set as England's second-tier heads into the final gameweek of the season.

Leeds United, West Brom and Aston Villa have already secured their places in the mini-tournament, with three teams - Derby County, Middlesbrough and Bristol City - still fighting it out for the final slot.

Final league position is a crucial aspect of the play-offs as it is used to decide which teams play each other in the semi-finals and a lot could potentially change in the last gameweek.

The team which finishes third plays the team which finishes sixth in one semi-final and fourth-place is paired with fifth place in the other semi-final.

Here is how the table looks going into gameweek 46, plus the relevant fixtures:

Pos Team MP W D L GD Pts
1 Norwich City (P) 45 26 13 6 +35 91
2 Sheffield United (P) 45 26 10 9 +37 88
3 Leeds United (Q) 45 25 8 12 +24 83
4 West Brom (Q) 45 23 11 11 +27 80
5 Aston Villa (Q) 45 20 16 9 +22 76
6 Derby County 45 19 14 12 +13 71
7 Middlesbrough 45 19 13 13 +7 70
8 Bristol City 45 19 12 13 +6 69
Date Game Kick-off (BST)
May 5 Aston Villa vs Norwich City 12:30pm
May 5 Derby County vs West Brom 12:30pm
May 5 Hull City vs Bristol City 12:30pm
May 5 Ipswich Town vs Leeds United 12:30pm
May 5 Rotherham United vs Middlesbrough 12:30pm
May 5 Stoke City vs Sheffield United 12:30pm

At the top, as you can see, Norwich City and Sheffield United are already assured of promotion to the Premier League as they are both guaranteed a top-two finish, but the Blades could potentially leapfrog the Canaries to clinch the title. In order for that to happen, Sheffield United need to beat Stoke City away from home and Norwich must lost to Aston Villa away.

In the play-off spots, Leeds United hold the advantage over West Brom in third, but the Baggies can overtake Marcelo Bielsa's men if results go their way. While three points separate the sides, West Brom's superior goal difference means that if they beat Derby and Leeds lose to Ipswich Town, they will clinch third place - and, therefore, the right to play the team which finishes sixth.

Aston Villa won't be shifting from their place in fifth, regardless of results, because the Birmingham outfit are five points ahead of Derby and four point behind West Brom. That means they will definitely play the team that finishes fourth - which, as noted, will be either West Brom or Leeds.

Possible play-off semi-finals 1st Leg 2nd Leg
Aston Villa (5th) vs West Brom / Leeds United (4th) May 11, 12:30pm May 14, 7:45pm
Derby County / Middlesbrough / Bristol City (6th) vs West Brom / Leeds United (3rd) May 11, 5:15pm May 15, 7:45pm

In contrast, the battle for sixth place is much more volatile, with Derby, Middlesbrough and Bristol City all in with a chance.

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Derby are in pole position, but they have a tough opponent in the form of West Brom, even if they are at home. If Derby win the match it is straightforward: they will secure the final play-off spot. However, if they draw or lose and Middlesbrough beat Rotherham, Boro will progress. Only a win will suffice for Middlesbrough.

Further down, Bristol City have a slim chance of reaching the play-offs. They are two points behind sixth-placed Derby so, ideally they need to win away to Hull City and hope that the Rams lose to West Brom. Of course, in order for it to happen they will also need Middlesbrough to draw or lose. They could potentially reach the play-offs if Derby and West Brom draw, but they will need to beat Rotherham by a margin of eight goals, which is highly unlikely.

Championship play-offs permutations summary

To summarise, the positions which can be altered on the final day of the season are third, fourth and sixth.

How Leeds can finish third:

  • Win or draw against Ipswich Town.
  • Lose to Ipswich Town and West Brom fail to beat Derby County.

How West Brom can finish third:

  • Beat Derby County and Leeds lose to Ipswich Town.

How Derby County can finish sixth:

  • Win against West Brom.
  • Draw against West Brom and Middlesbrough draw or lose, Bristol City draw, lose or win by margin less than plus eight.
  • Lose against West Brom and Middlesbrough and Bristol City draw or lose.

How Middlesbrough can finish sixth:

  • Beat Rotherham and Derby County draw or lose.

How Bristol City can finish sixth:

  • Beat Hull City and Derby lose and Middlesbrough draw or lose.