Leeds United will do it, but Sheffield Wednesday owe it to fans - Sue Smith

A couple of midweek matches got English football up and running again but it is this weekend when things really restart after the coronavirus.

While the Premier League title race is done and dusted, the Championship is such an exciting division because the race for the title, for the play-offs and to avoid relegation are so tight.

Everyone has nine games to play, and it is going to be brilliant seeing Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield Town, Middlesbrough, Hull City and Barnsley back.

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The one I would most like to be playing for at the moment is Leeds, whose self-belief has shone through during lockdown.

Down to the wire: Huddersfield’s Danny Cowley is one of six White Rose managers with everything to play for. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

They are top of the Championship and if the division had been abandoned they would have won it, but the fact they want to play again and win it the right way says a lot about Marcelo Bielsa and his team.

That self-belief, confidence and togetherness has to come from within the players but also the coaching staff.

The refresh should help them because they play at such a high intensity.

There are plusses and negatives to playing behind closed doors but I would much rather there were fans at Elland Road to celebrate with the players because promotion will be a monumental achievement they have waited so long for.

Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate

The fans I feel most sorry for are Sheffield Wednesday’s and although on paper, the Owls have least to play for, they owe their fans a good finish.

I watched them win at Leeds and knock Brighton and Hove Albion out of the FA Cup. You never really felt they could beat Manchester City in round five but holding one of the best teams in Europe to 1-0 must have made Wednesday fans so proud. Then they were 3-0 down at home to Brentford at half-time in their last game. You do not know what team you will see.

I cannot see them getting dragged into the relegation battle – unless a big points deduction comes into play – or being in the promotion picture so it is just a case of finishing as positively as possible and building consistency for next season.

Huddersfield looked like they were starting that process when the pandemic began.

Barnsley's head coach Gerhard Struber. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe )

One point from their first eight matches made you wonder if they had a losing mentality after relegation. I hear so many people saying relegation can be a good thing but the Championship is so difficult to get out of.

It felt like things had picked up under Danny Cowley and they will be hoping that momentum is not lost. I really like Emile Smith Rowe, Jonas Lossl and Lewis O’Brien. Karlan Grant’s 16 goals this season included three in his last three games.

The break might have been more beneficial for Middlesbrough because it has allowed them to get Patrick Roberts fit again.

Their lack of goals and creativity has been a big concern all season, particularly when they lost goalkeeper Darren Randolph. Now they will be without centre-back Daniel Ayala for the run-in after he turned down a new contract.

Although Roberts, on loan from Manchester City, only played four times before injuring his hamstring, you could see what he is going to bring. He wants to run with the ball and make things happen in the final third, and can see a pass. He could help bring the best out of Britt Assombalonga.

Hopefully Hull have had time to look at what they can do differently without Kamil Grosicki and Jarrod Bowen. Sometimes losing team-mates like that makes everyone up their game, but the Tigers look to have really missed them.

They have to avoid defeat at home to Charlton Athletic today.

The positive is their long injury list has cleared, the negative is losing five players whose contracts or loans have not been extended.

The biggest task, though, is Barnsley’s, seven points adrift with nine games left.

They have three games against relegation rivals and winning all of them will be crucial. Players have to believe they can get out of it or there is no point playing.

There is no pressure because I do not think anyone believes they can. They are a young, developing team and I hope they finish on a high, even if I cannot see them avoiding relegation.

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