Championship 2018-19: Leeds United & Norwich City confound BBC Sport prediction - so far...

Leeds United celebrate
Kemar Roofe (second right) has spearheaded Leeds' rise to the top of the Championship

It's the halfway point of the 2018-19 Championship season, and therefore a good chance to take stock of which clubs are exceeding expectations and which teams have been below par.

In August, a group of BBC Sport journalists predicted what the final Championship table will look like.

Did they foresee Norwich City's rise, the early-season struggles of Stoke City and Aston Villa, or Ipswich Town's fall to the foot of the table?

Find out below - there's also the chance for you to predict how you think the season will finish.

What were BBC Sport's Championship pre-season predictions?

  • Champions: Stoke City
  • Second: Middlesbrough
  • Play-offs: Derby County, West Bromwich Albion, Nottingham Forest, Leeds United
  • Relegated: Ipswich Town, Bolton Wanderers, Rotherham United

The surprises

Norwich City

2nd (predicted 11th)

Norwich City celebrate
Norwich City are in their third consecutive season in England's second tier following relegation from the Premier League in 2016

Did anyone see this coming?

The Canaries finished 14th in 2017-18 and sold their two brightest attacking talents, James Maddison and Josh Murphy, to Leicester and Cardiff respectively in the summer.

But Finland striker Teemu Pukki has proved to be an inspired addition, with 13 goals in 20 league appearances - not a bad return for a player signed on a free transfer from Denmark's top flight.

And Daniel Farke's side have regularly demonstrated that coveted ability of scoring crucial late winners. You can never, ever write them off.

Leeds United

1st (predicted 6th)

Of the 21 new managerial appointments made by EFL clubs during the summer, the arrival of Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds was one of the most eye-catching.

Impressive early-season wins over Stoke, Derby and Norwich quashed any fears that the former Argentina boss would not adapt to the Championship, while a run of six straight wins in November and December has put them top of the table at Christmas.

It may be that 15 is the magic number for Leeds - Bielsa is the 15th person to take full-time charge since their relegation from the top flight in 2004, and he could be about to oversee the end of a 15-year exile from the Premier League.

Sheffield United

6th (predicted 10th)

The Blades are in the mix for promotion from the Championship once again, helped by 12 league goals from talismanic captain Billy Sharp.

Last season, Chris Wilder's side won 12 of their first 17 matches to raise hopes of a second successive promotion, but fell away in the second half of the campaign to finish 10th.

Wilder has a deeper squad at his disposal this time around and, in on-loan midfielder Ollie Norwood, he has a player who has been promoted from the second tier in each of the past two seasons with Brighton and Fulham.

Birmingham City

8th (predicted 18th)

Birmingham City celebrate
Lukas Jutkiewicz (left) reached 10 goals for the season in November, having managed only six in total for Birmingham City last season

Birmingham escaped relegation on the final day of three of the previous five Championship seasons, so avoiding another scrap against the drop has been much welcomed at St Andrew's.

It took until 22 September for them to achieve their first win of the campaign - away at leaders Leeds, of all places. Since then, Garry Monk's team have picked up plenty of points and got Lukas Jutkiewicz and his strike partner Che Adams both scoring regularly to move within four points of the play-off spots.

The prospect of a hefty points deduction for breaching the EFL's profitability and sustainability rules still lingers over Blues, which could end any hope of a top-six finish, but for the moment they are performing above expectations.

An honourable mention should also go to 10th-placed QPR, who initially made their worst-ever start to a league season and were thumped 7-1 by West Bromwich Albion in August.

Steve McClaren's side have turned things right around and, like Birmingham, are only four points off the top six after 23 games.

The underperformers

Stoke City

9th (predicted 1st)

Was it any surprise that Stoke were predicted to end the season as Championship winners?

The bulk of their relegated squad was kept together and new boss Gary Rowett was given one of the biggest budgets in the division, if not the biggest, to achieve an immediate return to the Premier League.

For a while, nothing clicked. One game summed up their start - a 3-2 home defeat by Blackburn in September. They trailed 3-0, got it back to 3-2 and then wasted a stoppage-time penalty to miss out on an unlikely point.

There are signs, however, that things are beginning to turn. They are on a 10-match unbeaten run and only four points off the play-off spots, but too many draws have prevented them from breaking into the top six just yet.

However, as Fulham proved last season, you do not need a sparkling start in the Championship to achieve a glorious finish.

Brentford

18th (predicted 9th)

Richard O'Kelly, Dean Smith and John Terry at Aston Villa
Dean Smith (centre) left Brentford to replace Steve Bruce as Aston Villa boss in October

Had Dean Smith still been in charge of Brentford, it is unlikely that they would have been included on this list.

Boyhood Aston Villa fan Smith swapped Griffin Park for Villa Park in October with the Bees seventh in the Championship.

Since then, Brentford have collected only seven points from their subsequent 11 league matches.

Among it all, striker Neal Maupay is one of the Championship's leading scorers with 14 and the Frenchman is their biggest hope of escaping from trouble.

Sheffield Wednesday

17th (predicted 13th)

Like Brentford, Sheffield Wednesday made a bright start to the campaign - the Owls were in the top six during the October international break.

But seven defeats in 10 league games brought an end to Jos Luhukay's reign on Friday, a couple of days after owner Dejphon Chansiri put the club up for sale.

Saturday's win over 10-man Preston pulled them clear of the bottom three, but there is a huge degree of uncertainty around Hillsborough. An important few months ahead, on and off the field, for Wednesday.

Millwall

22nd (predicted 16th)

While not many of our reporters expected Millwall to repeat their run to the verge of the play-offs last season, not many expected them to be in the relegation zone at Christmas either.

The chief reason for their struggles in 2018-19 is their away form - the Lions have failed to win any of their first 12 games on the road in the Championship this season.

But the relegation battle is a close one. Preston, who are 15th, are only nine points above the bottom three and bottom club Ipswich's mini-revival in December means no team is cut adrift either.

Predict your own 2018-19 Championship table

There are still 23 matches to go and 69 points for all of the teams to play for, so it's far from over and plenty can change between now and 5 May.

Have a go at predicting the final table yourself...

Championship table predictor 18-19

How will the Championship table look at the end of the season? Pick how you think it will look at the end, placing all 24 teams in order. Have a go then share with your friends.

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