Championship, The72: Championship Season Preview

The72: Championship Season Preview

The Play-Off hopefuls

Fulham (Prediction – 9th)

The Cottagers will be hoping that they can be in and around the play-offs this season. The arrivals of Tomáš Kalas and Lucas Piazon from Chelsea will be welcome additions to what is an already strong side. Oliver Norwood will be spending the season on loan at Craven Cottage from Brighton and the signing of Ibrahima Cissé from Standard Liege appears to be a good piece of business. Slavisa Jokanovic has managed to keep hold of key assets, Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon and if Fulham can recapture last season’s form, they will be in for a fantastic season. The worry is that the teams below them last season have strengthened massively, and it will make Fulham’s ambition to finish in the play-offs a much harder task.

Championship, The72: Championship Season Preview
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Reading (Prediction – 8th)

Last seasons beaten play-off finalists may find it hard to recapture their form from last season, but you’d still expect them to be challenging in the top-half of the table. With ex-Royals midfielder Danny Williams opting to sign for Premier League Huddersfield Town, the Royals have a huge loss in central midfield and one in which it may be rather tough to find a like-for-like replacement. Reading still boast some real quality in Jaap Stam’s side though with Gunter, Blackett, McShane, Liam Moore and Jordan Obita all offering some quality at the back. Yann Kermorgant’s goals will be relied on once again and if the club’s midfielders can chip in with some input, Reading should finish once again in and around the play-offs.

Championship, The72: Championship Season Preview
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Leeds United (Prediction -7th)

Leeds enjoyed somewhat of a resurgence last year under the guidance of Garry Monk.

Chris Wood was pivotal to the Whites’ success and the Kiwi will be heavily relied on this season in helping Leeds’ push to finish inside the play-off positions with his goals an invaluable asset during his time at Elland Road so far.

This summer, Victor Orta has managed to help Leeds United attract some fantastic players to Elland Road with Ezgjan Alioski appearing to be the pick of the bunch, considering his remarkable 16 goals and 14 assists for FC Lugano during last season. Samu Saiz, Felix Wiedwald and Matthew Pennington all appear to be some very strong signings and the mark of an ambitious owner who has now bought Elland Road and appears to be bringing the good times back at Leeds United.

Leeds will certainly be hoping to make an impact at the top of the table this season, but with an unproven manager in Thomas Christiansen; it’ll be hard to see them really hit the summit of the Championship but the play-offs seem relatively likely.

Championship, The72: Championship Season Preview
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Sunderland (Prediction – 6th)

After a dismal campaign in the Premier League, Sunderland find themselves back in the Football League although they may not find it incredibly tough to readjust to life outside of England’s top tier. Sunderland still boast some real quality in their side though; former Premier League winner John O’Shea is still with the Black Cats and young Everton loanees Tyias Browning and Brendan Galloway will occupy the full-back positions for the Black Cats. The experience of Sunderland’s midfield who have mostly played top-tier football will be key in this upcoming campaign with Jeremain Lens, Jack Rodwell, Lee Cattermole, Darron Gibson and Aiden McGeady all part of Sunderland’s squad. Up front, the Black Cats will be hoping to cause problems with James Vaughan and Lewis Grabban leading the line for the Wearsiders.

Simon Grayson has gained promotion with every single team who he has managed during his career and he will be hoping that his time in charge of Sunderland is no different. After leaving Preston North End, Grayson now has a real job on his hands, restoring the confidence in a relegated side and also doing the one thing which he’s never managed in his career; getting a side promoted into the Premier League.

Championship, The72: Championship Season Preview
Sunderland AFC ground before the Premier League match between Sunderland and Leicester City at the Stadium Of Light, Sunderland, England on 3 December 2016. Photo by Ian Lyall.

Wolves (Prediction – 5th)

Wolves have spent a fortune during this transfer window and the signing of Ruben Neves for a fee of £15.8 million managed to surprise a number of Football League fans. Wolves will be hoping their other signings in the window such as John Ruddy and Ryan Bennett can offer consistency in a Wolves side that failed to hit the heights last season; but had a steady campaign non-the-less. You can imagine with Wolves’ strength in depth, they could be set for a strong season with the hope that the loanees that have been brought to Molineux can manage to make a significant impact.

Nuno Espírito Santo has managed to take Rio Ave to second place in the Portuguese league and was also offered a managerial job at Valencia. The Portuguese boss enjoyed an exceptional first season at Valencia, taking the club into the Champions League. During the 2015/16 season, Santo failed to live up to the expectation his first and quite a remarkable season in La Liga had created and he left Valencia during his second season with the club. Wolves’ new boss has incredible experience and is assembling a very impressive squad; expect them to be up there.

Wolverhampton Wanderers
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Derby County (Prediction – 4th)

The Rams will be hoping for an exciting season in the Championship after a very disappointing campaign last season. There has been some significant losses at the iPro in this transfer window. with last seasons’ top goalscorer Tom Ince leaving to join Premier League Huddersfield Town, Will Hughes has joined Watford and right-back Cyrus Christie moved to Middlesbrough. The signings of Curtis Davies, Andre Wisdom and Tom Huddlestone though will bring Premier League experience and quality to Derbyshire for this upcoming season. With the quality that Ikechi Anya, Chris Martin, Jonny Russell and Bradley Johnson to name a few possess, it isn’t hard to see that Derby County should be; and will be in the mix for the play-offs this season.

Gary Rowett made his name at Burton Albion, leading the club into the play-offs in his first season in charge of the club and then to the play-off final in the following 2013/14 season. Rowett moved to Birmingham City in 2014 after impressing again at the Pirelli Stadium but left in somewhat controversial circumstances after his time at St. Andrews. Derby’s boss is under no illusions that the Rams will need to perform this season and in order to do so, they are going to have to get the best out of their top players. As a fantastic man manager and with some great players at his disposal; it’s of paramount importance that Rowett hits the ground running with this Derby County side.

Championship, The72: Championship Season Preview
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