Analyzing the EFL Championship Playoffs 2023: Who Will Be Promoted to the Premier League
The Championship is the league that never disappoints, and even if the race for the automatic promotion spots was wrapped up in a straightforward manner, the playoff chase boiled down to the closing seconds of the season.
With the runners all known, there is a case to be made for each coming out on top at Wembley on May 27, although Middlesbrough start as favourites.
Four Very Different Candidates
Luton, the only member of the quartet never to have tasted Premier League football before, were comfortably the strongest over the course of the Championship campaign, underpinned by a defence that conceded fewer than a goal per game.
If the Hatters are solid and dependable, then Middlesbrough are the most spectacular of the competitors. Only acclaimed title winners Burnley scored more than Michael Carrick, who is earning a reputation as an expert tactician as he cuts his coaching teeth in English football’s second tier.
Coventry and Sunderland, meanwhile, come into the post-season in better form than either of the sides that finished above them in the standings, each winning 11 points in their last five games to win what was a frenetic race to finish in the leading four.
— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) May 9, 2023
What Does History Tell Us?
Interestingly, only Boro have had playoff success in the past, but that was way back in 1988, when they overcame Chelsea at home to earn a place in the old Division One. Of the last 24 League One playoff winners, only seven were not first-time winners of the competition.
Meanwhile, finishing position can give some limited insight into the potential playoff winners. This represents bad news for Sunderland, with the fourth seed having failed to win any of the last 11 finals.
— Luton Town FC (@LutonTown) May 9, 2023
League position of last 11 playoff winners:
On the other hand, though, there is little to separate the first and second seeds over the 34-match history of the playoffs. The club finishing highest has won 12 of 33 tournaments whereas Nottingham Forest’s success over Huddersfield last season means that second seeds have won 11. Advantage Luton and Coventry here, then.
One of the curious playoff curses, meanwhile, has been firmly exorcised over the course of the last couple of years. Teams in red and white had a historically terrible record in the playoffs, losing 17 straight finals across second, third and fourth tiers before Brentford’s success two years ago. Forest then followed suit last year, giving heart to Sunderland.
This is the time of the season where anything can happen, but historically the playoffs favour the top three seeds. Middlesbrough’s scoring power has to be respected, though, and with a serial winner in the dugout in the form of Michael Carrick, their marginal favouritism should be respected. There is little to pick between the sides, though.