Championship play-off final combined XI: Leeds United edge out ...

26 May 2024
Leeds United

The Championship play-off final is here! Here is our combined XI of Leeds United and Southampton stars, with the edge being given to Daniel Farke’s side…

GK: Illan Meslier (Leeds United)
The fragile Frenchman – who was not helped by Leeds United‘s awful defence – was somewhat exposed last season as his side suffered relegation from the Premier League, but he has stepped out of the flames to redeem himself this campaign. If the West Yorkshire side win on Sunday, he should give a better account of himself in 2024/25.

RB: Kyle Walker-Peters (Southampton)
It was surprising that the former Tottenham Hotspur full-back was not the subject of more significant interest following Southampton‘s relegation as he was one of the better players in a poor team last season. He’s proven this term that he’s too good for the Championship.

CB: Ethan Ampadu (Leeds United)
I thought Leeds were overspending when they paid £7m to sign Ampadu from Chelsea last summer after he previously failed to set the world alight while on loan at Sheffield United. Always a player with great potential, it seemed the 23-year-old Welshman would end up being a letdown, but he has come of age this season as he’s silenced his doubters to emerge as a vital leader for Farke.

CB: Taylor Harwood-Bellis (Southampton)
Saints pulled off a coup to secure the Manchester City youngster’s services on loan for the season, as he was deserving of a chance in the Premier League following his breakout (but injury-disrupted) campaign with Burnley last term. A tad unlucky to miss out on the Championship Team of the Year (with Ampadu and Hull City’s Jacob Greaves making the cut), Harwood-Bellis is primed for a top flight and eventual England bow in the coming months.

LB: Ryan Manning (Southampton)
Another summer transfer coup for the Saints, Manning followed Russell Martin to St Mary’s after the head coach helped to bring the best out of the versatile wing-back. He’s not been quite as good this season as he was in 2022/23, but he’s still done enough to edge himself ahead of defensive liability Junior Firpo.

CM: Archie Gray (Leeds United)
Leeds United’s most-used XI this season has not been as academy product-centric as I had expected
, but 18-year-old Gray has firmly established himself as a first-team mainstay this term, while proving his versatility and slotting in seamlessly at right-back for most of the campaign. A move to a Big Six club for a huge fee is inevitable in the future if he can avoid injuries.

CM: Flynn Downes (Southampton)
A £12m signing of West Ham in 2022, Downes was only a bit-part player for the Hammers last term but he’s benefitted from having another season in the Championship and has arguably been Southampton’s most consistent performer in the secondtier.

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RW: Wilfried Gnonto (Leeds United)
The Italy international endured a stop-start beginning to this season after missing out on a summer move to Everton, but his stature as a key asset has been restored in recent months and at the age of 20, he’s only going to get better.

CAM: Georginio Rutter (Leeds United)
Slammed as a big flop after struggling following his £35m move to Leeds United in January 2023, Rutter has still had his critics at times this season but he has shown what he’s capable of when operating in his favourite position, which certainly is not as a centre-forward.

LW: Crysencio Summerville (Leeds United)
The best player in the Championship this season, Leeds United did bloody well to keep Summerville but they will have no chance of retaining the talented Dutchman if they fail to get promoted; Arne Slot’s Liverpool and others in the Premier League are reportedly keen to sign him.

ST: Adam Armstrong (Southampton)
The Championship specialist has proven that he is exactly that this season, grabbing 23 goals and 13 assists in his 48 second-tier appearances. He’ll likely be far less good next season if Southampton are in the Premier League, but there are few forwards better than him at this level.

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