As the 2017/2018 Sky Bet Championship season is just days away from commencing, the talk among fans once again turns to who will push for promotion, and finish in one of the illusive top six positions.
You could make a case for 11/12/13 teams to push for promotion this campaign, and it appears like this season will be another one that is as close and competitive as it gets.
Although at this stage it’s almost too hard to call, I’ve given it a go, and these are the six teams I believe will finish in the top six.
After a hugely impressive season with Leeds United, Gary Monk opted to leave Elland Road for a new challenge with relegated side Middlesbrough, in a shock move.
Since his arrival there has been lots of activity, and the Teesside club have spent over £40 million on strengthening this summer window, with impressive additions such as Britt Assombalonga, Ashley Fletcher, Jonny Howson, and Martin Braithwaite now on the books at The Riverside.
The club have one of, if not the best squad on paper in the league, and although ‘football isn’t played on paper’ it will stand them in good stead for a finish at the business end of the table.
2. Aston Villa
After what can only be described as two catastrophic back to back seasons, which saw ‘The Villans’ get relegated from the Premier League, finishing rock bottom during the 2015/16 season, and then only managing a mid-table finish last season in their first campaign in the Sky Bet Championship, things haven’t been too great for the Villa Park faithful in recent years.
However, this upcoming season there is renewed optimism that it could be a successful season for the club, and I think it will be too.
The club have secured the services of Premier League and Chelsea legend John Terry, which is a real statement of intent by the Midlands club, and other notable signings such as Chris Samba, and Glenn Whelan will bring a wealth of experience, and could be what Villa need to push or promotion.
3. Norwich City
Norwich City have been fairly active in comparison to other Championship clubs during this summer window, signing seven players, however, they have spent very little indeed, with two of the new arrivals arriving on loan, two signing as free transfers, and the other three costing a combined total of less than £5 million.
This, combined with the fact that there is a new manager at the helm at Carrow Road in the form of Daniel Farke, and star man Jacob Murphy has left for Newcastle United could suggest that Norwich are a fairly risky bet for a top six finish, but I disagree.
The main spine of the squad is still very much in tact, and it has more than enough potential to challenge for promotion, plus although Farke is a left field appointment, these types of managers are tending to do well in the English leagues, with a prime example being Huddersfield Town manager David Wagner, who moved to England from the Borussia Dortmund second team like Farke.
4. Sheffield Wednesday
Sky Bet Championship side Sheffield Wednesday have been on the cusp of promotion for a while now, having finished 6th during the 15/16 season, before eventually losing 1-0 to Hull in the play-off final, and finishing 4th last season, before losing to Huddersfield in the play-off semi final.
There hasn’t been that much activity in the market for Wednesday this summer, but they have made some solid additions, with George Boyd from Burnley being the most noticeable.
With the likes of Forestieri and Rhodes on the books as well as a solid midfield and defence, the squad is one of the best in the league and, in my opinion, will challenge for promotion again this upcoming season.
5. Leeds United
After a great season last time out, many thought that it could finally be time for Leeds to return to the top-tier of English football, but capitulation in the last five games saw any hopes of promotion dashed, as the Yorkshire giants slipped out of the play-off places and into seventh, and things looked like they had gone from bad to worse, when manager Gary Monk left the club for Championship rivals Middlesbrough.
However, the Elland Road faithful have been given new hope, with new manager Thomas Christiansen looking promising.
A total of nine signings have also already been made by new owner Andrea Radrizzani, with more still expected to arrive, and things are once again looking up once again.
They go into the new season with a real hope that this campaign could finally be the one where they return to the Premier League, and I think the ‘The Whites’ have a real chance.
6. Wolverhampton Wanderers
With the huge influx of players that Wolves have brought into the club, such as promising youngster Ruben Neves from Portuguese giants Porto, as well as new manager Nuno Espirito Santo, many people consider Wolves to have a squad good enough to challenge for promotion, and are looking forward to seeing how the midlands based club fares this upcoming campaign.
With a wealth of new signings, who are undoubtedly of real quality, on paper their squad has a real chance of promotion, and I believe Wolves are a great shout for a top-six finish.