This is it. The business end of the EFL season. Promotion can be won or lost, relegation can be suffered or avoided. The difficulty of each team’s remaining fixtures can play a big factor in deciding things, but which teams across the three EFL divisions have the easiest run-in and which look set to have a difficult end to the 2022-23 campaign?
Using the Opta Power Rankings, we can gauge the difficulty of remaining league fixtures for teams in the Championship, League One and League Two by averaging the ranking of their opponents between now and the end of the season.
With Burnley pretty much the champions elect in the Championship, it’s now a case of whether Middlesbrough or Luton Town can catch Sheffield United in second place. The general feeling is that Paul Heckingbottom’s side have done it, with a six-point gap and a game in hand, but based on the strength of opponents left to play, it seems that Luton would be the most likely challenger to that second automatic promotion spot.
It looks like Luton and Middlesbrough have at least done enough for a play-off spot, meaning the final two places – currently occupied by Millwall and Blackburn Rovers – are realistically the only two still up for grabs.
Millwall have the third “easiest” run-in of all 24 Championship sides, based on the average ranking of remaining opponents in the Opta Power Rankings. Blackburn have the fourth “hardest” of all teams but do have an extra game on Millwall and most of the chasing pack.
Of that chasing pack, Norwich City look the best bet to sneak in, with the second easiest run in – and that includes a meeting with Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on Good Friday.
At the bottom, QPR, Cardiff City and Rotherham all have tough run-ins – all three clubs are currently within three points of the relegation zone but have been helped out by Reading’s six-point deduction in midweek.
Plymouth Argyle suffered a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Bolton Wanderers at Wembley last weekend in the EFL Trophy final, but with the easiest run-in of all League One clubs, maybe they can give their fans a promotion party to make up for it at the end of 2022-23.
Plymouth are currently tied on points with Sheffield Wednesday at the top of the league, but with a game in hand. Ipswich Town are chasing both down, just two points behind, but the average quality of their remaining opponents is much higher, based on the Opta Power Rankings.
Of the teams fighting to survive the drop to League Two, Morecambe have the toughest run-in – they are currently one point off safety but have played more games than every other League One side (40).
Leyton Orient may have the second hardest run-in of League Two clubs, but they have a seven-point lead at the top of League Two. Surely promotion is near-enough sealed for the London club, now?
Stevenage have slumped over the past few months, but still hold third place. Steve Evans’ side will be buoyed by their run-in, however – the second easiest according to strength of remaining opponents in the Opta Power Rankings. Compare this to fourth-place Carlisle United – the third hardest run-in – and it only adds to the Hertfordshire clubs hopes for promotion back to League One.
Crawley Town’s form has picked up of late and the Crypto Kings might now avoid the drop to the National League, at the expense of Hartlepool and Rochdale. Crawley hold a two-point lead over 23rd place Hartlepool, but they have the fifth-easiest run-in. Sorry Jeff Stelling.