Who will win promotion to the Premier League? Who will make the play-offs? Who will suffer relegation to League One? We look at all the key questions with our Championship 2023-24 season predictions via our trusty Opta supercomputer.

Championship Season Predictions: The Quick Hits

Favourites for Promotion: Middlesbrough and Leicester City
Top Six Dark Horses: Swansea City
Relegation Favourites: QPR and Plymouth Argyle

We tasked the Opta supercomputer with simulating the 2023-24 Championship season 10,000 times to see how it believed the campaign may pan out. Predicting the Championship is a tough job, with the English second tier being one of the most unpredictable and exciting leagues going – a case in point being Luton Town’s astonishing promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs last season.

To show the potential craziness of the Championship season, 23 of the 24 teams won the title at least once in the Opta supercomputer 2023-24 simulations – Queens Park Rangers the only team failing to do so (it must have something against hoops) – while all 24 teams finished bottom of the league on at least one occasion. Compare this to the Premier League, where our simulations saw only nine teams win the title and 15 of the 20 teams finish bottom of the league at least once across the 10,000 simulated seasons.

Here, we run you through the key results of the Opta supercomputer Championship 2023-24 simulations.

Championship Predictions 2023-24

Who Will Win Automatic Promotion from the Championship?

Across our 10,000 season simulations, no side finished in the top two places more often than Middlesbrough, who occupied a top-two spot in 33.4% of them. Michael Carrick’s side also won the title more often than any other side in these simulations (19.9%).

Middlesbrough lost out in the play-off semi-final last season to Coventry City, but they were one of the best teams in the Championship across 2022-23 once Carrick was appointed. Only promoted sides Burnley (69) and Sheffield United (65) won more points in the league than Boro’s total of 58 from Carrick’s first game in charge on 29 October 2022.

Middlesbrough Record under Carrick

The Teesside club still have 2022-23 Championship top scorer and Player of the Season Chuba Akpom in their ranks, and were the top scoring side (65 goals, 60 non-penalty goals) and the team to create the highest quality chances overall (51.9 xG) in the league last season from Carrick’s first game onwards.

Unsurprisingly, considering they are our favourite for automatic promotion, Middlesbrough also won the title the most often in our season simulations (19.9%), ahead of Leicester City (17.2%).

Leicester will be playing in their first Championship season since 2013-14, when they won the title with 102 points – a tally only beaten by two clubs in English second-tier history (Reading in 2005-06 and Sunderland in 1998-99).

They’ve lost key players following relegation, with James Maddison, Harvey Barnes and Youri Tielemans all departing during the summer, but new signings Harry Winks and Conor Coady should perform well in the Championship in addition to the existing quality that remains from 2022-23. Jamie Vardy, Kelechi Iheanacho and Patson Daka are all still at the club at the time of writing and will all be a huge threat to opposition defences.

Coventry City won automatic promotion in a quarter of our season simulations, but losing 21-goal Viktor Gyökeres to Sporting CP this summer could hinder their promotion charge. However, influential midfielder Gustavo Hamer – who scored in the Championship play-off final defeat to Luton – remains, while they’ve made some astute transfer acquisitions before this season, including Everton striker Ellis Simms. If he can replace Gyökeres’ goals, then Coventry could be cooking.

The following four sides to feature as the next most likely for automatic promotion consist of two relegated clubs – Leeds United (15.8%) and Southampton (13.1%) – plus two of the Championship’s most technically efficient sides from 2022-23; Swansea City (18.8%) and Sunderland (15.7%).

Swansea have lost manager Russell Martin to Southampton this summer, but replaced him with Michael Duff, who saw his Barnsley side suffer a cruel, late extra-time defeat to Sheffield Wednesday in the League One play-off final. Their inclusion as the fourth-most promoted side among our season simulations is arguably the biggest surprise in this list, but they finished just three points outside the play-offs in 2022-23 and ended the season strongly. They picked up 23 of a possible 27 points in their final nine Championship games last season (W7 D2 L0), which was more than any other club in that period.

youngest Champ sides 2022-23

Sunderland lost to eventual play-off winners Luton Town in the semi-finals, but they reached the play-offs despite having the youngest average starting XI age in the Championship in 2022-23 (24 years, 174 days). With more experience under their belt, smart summer signings in Bradley Dack and Jobe Bellingham plus Ross Stewart’s return from injury, they should be a force to be reckoned with in 2023-24.

The seven clubs listed above all finished within the top six in more than 40% of our Championship season simulations for 2023-24, but other clubs worth noting for top six finishes based on the Opta supercomputer simulations are Millwall (31.9%), Blackburn Rovers (31.0%), West Brom (29.0%) and Bristol City (21.0%).

Both Watford and Norwich City struggled last season following relegation from the Premier League, however recent seasons have seen clubs bounce-back to the top-flight in their second Championship campaign after relegation – Bournemouth’s in 2021-22 and Sheffield United last season both finished second after failing to win promotion back straight away. Our simulations aren’t too hot on either side, with Valérien Ismaël’s team winning automatic promotion just 2.9% of the time and ending in the top six in 14% of our 10,000 simulations, with Norwich’s totals at 3.3% and 17.1%, respectively. But if all predictions were correct, life would be boring.

Championship Promotion Prediction

Who Will be Relegated from the Championship?

We’re not going to be popular with Queens Park Rangers fans, but the Opta supercomputer fears for you in 2023-24. Across the 10,000 season simulations, no side were relegated from the Championship (62.0%) or finished bottom of the league (31.6%) more often than QPR.

Not only this, but the west London club were the only side who didn’t finish inside the automatic promotion spots in our simulations at all, with their highest finish being third across 0.02% of season simulations.

QPR have it all to do under Gareth Ainsworth. From his first game in charge of the club on 25 February, only Reading (nine – ignoring points deductions) won fewer points than they did (11) in the Championship, while they conceded more goals (25) than any other team in the division. They haven’t played in the third tier of English league football since 2003-04, with their last relegation from this level coming in 2000-01. A 5-0 friendly defeat on Saturday at League One side Oxford United won’t have improved confidence, either.

Not only have their results been unimpressive under Ainsworth, QPR’s style of play has changed dramatically. Since his appointment, no side have played faster or more direct football in the Championship than QPR have – a hallmark of Ainsworth’s successful time in charge of Wycombe Wanderers.

QPR Playing Style under Ainsworth

Plymouth Argyle will be playing their football in the second tier of the English league for the first time since 2009-10. The Opta supercomputer projections give them just over a one-in-three chance of relegation at the first time of asking (33.8%), while they finished bottom of the league in 11.7% of the simulations. However, some positive news for Plymouth fans: they won the league eight times across our 10,000 simulated 2023-24 Championship seasons. Birmingham City (31.9%), Sheffield Wednesday (31.2%), Rotherham United (31.0%) and Cardiff City (30.3%) all follow close behind, while Ipswich Town (21.3%) and Hull City (10.1%) could be considered outside bets for relegation based on the season simulations at this present time.

Championship Relegation Prediction

Opta-Simulated Championship Table

After simulating the Championship 2023-24 season 10,000 times, we’re able to average the points total of every club across those simulations and therefore rank teams positionally. Here’s the Opta supercomputer results from those simulations:

1st: Middlesbrough – 75.79 average points
2nd: Leicester City –74.95
3rd: Coventry City – 73.92
4th: Swansea City – 71.62
5th: Sunderland – 71.12
6th: Leeds United – 70.95
7th: Southampton – 69.78
8th: Millwall – 67.53
9th: Blackburn Rovers – 67.48
10th: West Bromwich Albion – 66.89
11th: Bristol City – 64.42
12th: Huddersfield Town – 64.09
13th: Norwich City – 63.31
14th: Stoke City – 62.82
15th: Watford – 62.47
16th: Preston North End – 62.25
17th: Hull City – 61.28
18th: Ipswich Town – 56.63
19th: Cardiff City – 54.14
20th: Sheffield Wednesday – 54.05
21st: Birmingham City – 53.67
22nd: Rotherham United – 53.69
23rd: Plymouth Argyle – 53.28
24th: Queens Park Rangers – 47.54

How Does the Opta Supercomputer Model Work?

• Opta’s League Prediction model estimates the likelihood of teams finishing in each position in the competition. We can therefore see how successful a team’s season is likely to be, whether it’s their relegation or title chances.

• The model estimates the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) by using betting market odds and Opta Power Rankings. The odds and rankings are based on historical and recent team performances.

• The model considers the strength of opponents by using these match outcome probabilities and simulates the remaining fixtures in the competition thousands of times. By analysing the outcome of each of these simulations, the model can see how often teams finished in each league position to create our final predictions.

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