Ipswich Town’s season is done. The players and the fans will bask in the glory of promotion before turning their attention to the Premier League, but there’s still one last twist to come in this Championship campaign.

That’s because four teams – Leeds United, Southampton, West Brom and Norwich City – are set to compete in the play-offs for a place in the top flight. The Blues obviously won’t be involved, so they can sit back and watch with interest as the drama unfolds.

Alex Jones talks through the two ties and makes some predictions ahead of today’s games.

East Anglian Daily Times: Leeds have failed to win the play-offs in five attemptsLeeds have failed to win the play-offs in five attempts (Image: PA)

Norwich City (6th) vs Leeds United (3rd)

Ask a Town fan who they want to progress from this tie and they might struggle before reluctantly picking Leeds. Ultimately, Daniel Farke’s men have fallen short of their target, and their entire season will be decided by the play-offs.

The Whites hired him because of his track record of securing automatic promotion, which he hasn’t been able to do despite boasting arguably the strongest squad in the league. He’ll now come up against his former side, who’ve certainly surprised some fans and onlookers in securing a place in the play-offs.

Norwich looked destined for a mid-table finish around Christmas, but David Wagner deserves credit for the way that they’ve turned their season around. Their form in 2024 has been pretty remarkable, looking particularly impressive on home soil.

That’s partially due to the return of Josh Sargent, whose goal-to-game ratio fired the Canaries up the Championship table, while Gabriel Sara has been one of the standout players in the league this season. When comparing their squad to Leeds’, however, it’s chalk and cheese. There’s no reason why the likes of Crysencio Summerville, Georginio Rutter, Wilfried Gnonto and Ethan Ampadu should be playing below the top flight.

East Anglian Daily Times: Norwich are looking return to the top flight after two seasons awayNorwich are looking return to the top flight after two seasons away (Image: PA)

On the flip side, Norwich’s form is better, and more often than not, the form team heading into the play-offs usually end up securing promotion. Leeds, on the other hand, have limped over the line, allowing Ipswich to comfortably beat them to automatic promotion. They’ve won just one of their last six games, and their 4-3 victory at Middlesbrough was hardly convincing.

That being said, it’s hard not to back them over two legs. Norwich will know that they’ll probably need a positive result at Carrow Road given that only two teams (Blackburn Rovers and Southampton) have won at Elland Road this season.

Leeds, on the other hand, need to tighten up defensively, and Farke has hinted that he’ll use the week before the trip to Norfolk to fix their previously imperious back line. They might be hoping for a low-margin game before finishing the job in Yorkshire.

Wagner may have the play-off pedigree, having guided Huddersfield Town to the Premier League without scoring a single goal in the three games, but Leeds did the double over them this season and will feel confident if they can avoid defeat in the first leg.


Sunday, May 12th (12pm): Norwich City 1-1 Leeds United

Thursday, May 16th (8pm): Leeds United 2-0 Norwich City

Leeds United win 3-1 on aggregate to progress to the play-off final

East Anglian Daily Times: West Brom spent most of the campaign in the play-off placesWest Brom spent most of the campaign in the play-off places (Image: PA)

West Brom (5th) vs Southampton (4th)

These two teams are polar opposites of each other, which sets up for a fascinating battle.

West Brom are a strong defensive unit, boasting experienced players with hundreds of Championship games under their belt. The vast majority of their squad have been in this situation before and know what it takes to make it to the Premier League.

Southampton, however, are open and attacking. They score lots of goals but concede a fair few too, and that might not suit a play-off semi-final where the margins are tight and the games are often quite cagey. On top of that, their squad is much younger, albeit that their quality is clear for all to see. You don’t amass 87 points through sheer luck.

The Saints won both meetings between the two sides this season, winning 2-1 at St Mary’s and 2-0 at the Hawthorns. That being said, it wasn’t like they dominated either game. In fact, the Baggies probably deserved to win when the teams met on the South Coast.

There’s little to split the teams in terms of form. West Brom were unlucky in defeats to Sunderland and Leicester City, but their 3-0 loss at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday was particularly concerning. They made amends for it on the final day against Preston North End.

East Anglian Daily Times: Southampton are looking to make an immediate return to the top flightSouthampton are looking to make an immediate return to the top flight (Image: PA)

Meanwhile, Southampton took their foot off the gas once it became clear they weren’t going to secure automatic promotion, which led to them being thrashed by Leicester before losing at home to Stoke City. Like their upcoming opponents, they made up for it on the final day, beating Leeds at Elland Road.

In terms of individuals, Southampton probably have the upper hand. Adam Armstrong is a real match-winner, with 21 goals and 13 assists to his name in 46 league games this season. Che Adams and Kyle Walker-Peters are both Premier League quality, while the Saints are miles better when former Town midfielder Flynn Downes is fit to start – which he will be for the play-offs.

West Brom perhaps lack the X-factor in the final third, with talisman Jed Wallace struggling to maintain his red-hot form from the last two seasons. That means that they’ll be relying on Brandon Thomas-Asante, who’s scored 11 goals this season, while Celtic loanee Michael Johnston has been one of their best players since arriving in January.

For me, the deciding factor will be the managers. Russell Martin has never been involved in the play-offs and has never guided a team to a finish above 10th place. Carlos Corberan, however, took Huddersfield Town to the final in 2022 where they were controversially beaten by Nottingham Forest.

I’d back the Spaniard to formulate a game plan to beat Southampton over two legs. Tactically, he’s one of the sharpest managers in the league, and while his record against Martin leaves a lot to be desired, he’ll be totally in his element.


Sunday, May 12th (2:15pm): West Brom 2-0 Southampton

Friday, May 17th (8pm): Southampton 2-2 West Brom

West Brom win 4-2 on aggregate to progress to the play-off final

East Anglian Daily Times: Alex thinks West Brom will secure promotion at WembleyAlex thinks West Brom will secure promotion at Wembley (Image: Alex Jones)

The Championship play-off final

That means I’m predicting Leeds to face West Brom at Wembley on Sunday, May 26th, with a place in the Premier League on the line.

Leeds would be the heavy favourites coming into this. They have the star power and they’d thrive on the big pitch at Wembley. If the likes of Summerville, Gnonto and Dan James are at their best, they could have a lot of joy.

But like in the semi-finals, it’s hard to back against Corberan and the experienced squad at his disposal, and the narrative is there for him to beat his former club. The way they set up would surely cause the Whites some big, big problems, and it’s important to remember that they took four points off Farke’s men from the two games against them in the regular season.

With that in mind, I’d be backing the Baggies to win 2-1, setting them up to join Leicester and Ipswich in the Premier League. It’d be some story given all the off-field issues they faced before Shilen Patel completed his takeover of the club, and it’d be good to see them back in the top tier for the first time since 2020/2021.