As we have been accustomed to with the Championship, nothing is straight forward, and last season proved this again, with surprises left and right. The top two were Norwich and Sheffield United, and neither of these were among the favorites at the start of the season, but their underlying feats were very impressive. Norwich ranked as the third best team according to expected goals, while Sheffield United ranked second best. Aston Villa, who appointed Dean Smith halfway through the season, impressed after he took over, and they managed to secure a return to the Premier League beating Derby in the play-off final at Wembley. The biggest losers without a doubt were Leeds United – arguably the best team in the division but lost in the play-offs to Derby.
The English championship kicks off on Friday at Kenilworth Road between newcomers – Luton Town and Middlesbrough. The Hatters achieved successive promotion in two seasons from League Two to the Championship and can dream of a third this term. Jonathan Woodgate will put his managerial skills to test as he leads Boro for the season with the objective of returning to the top flight since they went down in 2017.
Will Cardiff City, Fulham and Huddersfield Town make an immediate return to the Premier League? Will Luton Town, Barnsley and Charlton Athletic build on promotion momentum from League One?
The 2019/20 campaign is set to be one of the most open for a while with several candidates for the top two automatic promotion places. Norwich won the Championship last season but who will lift the trophy in May 2020?
Leeds United finished third in the English Football League Championship last season, but bookmakers have made the Yorkshire club favorites to win promotion to the Premier League come May 2020. It has been a relative quiet summer in terms of expenditure but Helder Costa’s loan acquisition from Wolverhampton Wanderers is a bit of coup for Leeds. Marcelo Bielsa would have learnt from last season burnout which saw Leeds miss out on automatic promotion. El Loco will not be taking anything for granted this season despite making his team an entertaining side.
When you have a veteran campaigner like Neil Warnock, there is a good chance of securing promotion. Cardiff City spent a season in the Premier League but went down immediately. The Bluebirds have plenty of experienced Championship players who have won promotion to the Premier League before. A couple of good signings have bolstered their squad and they could be genuine contenders if things go right for them. Warnock’s knowledge of the Championship is apparent having taken Notts County, Queens Park Rangers and Sheffield United to the top flight in the past.
Fulham heavy spending strategy didn’t work in the Premier League; the Cottagers had a season to forget. Under Scott Parker, the approach is different and they’ve trimmed down the huge outlay but were able to secure the services of exciting Ivan Cavaleiro on a loan deal from Wolverhampton Wanderers. Anthony Knockaert’s arrives with promotion experience under his belt having helped Leicester City and Brighton and Hove Albion win promotion to Premier League in past. Keeping Aleksandar Mitrovic would be vital as they could be genuine contenders.
Can Huddersfield bounce straight back? The Terriers needs to put the disappointing Premier League campaign behind them and rebuild for life in the Championship. Keeping Aaron Mooy, Alex Pritchard and Terence Kongolo is fundamental for the club with the addition of Tommy Elphick from Bournemouth as they push for instant return. Karlan Grant scored 14 goals in the first half of the season for Charlton in League One before being snapped up by Huddersfield. He scored four Premier League goals and looked lively in the top flight and could be key to their chances this season.
West Brom season ended in disappointment when they were beaten by Aston Villa in the play-offs. Plenty of players have left over the summer but the expectations will still be to make the top six and that might be more of a struggle this season. New manager Slaven Bilic will need to work on the defense if the Baggies are to improve on last season’s fourth-placed finish. The Albions conceded the joint-most goals in the top ten teams of last campaign.
Derby reached the play-offs final but will start the new season under Philip Cocu after Frank Lampard move to Chelsea. The Dutch man is Derby’s seventh manager in four years. But Derby supporters will hope his team performs with panache as their manager who exudes class. Middlesbrough have set a new course under rookie manager – Jonathan Woodgate who will hope to emulate Frank Lampard’s entry into management. It has been a quiet transfer window for Boro and the lack of activity should be a cause of concern for fans. Nottingham Forest replaced Martin O’Neil with Sabri Lamouchi as they target promotion. Club owner, Evangelos Marinakis believes the French man is the right man for the job. It would be interesting to see how things unfold at City Ground. Bristol City have brought in good players and will definitely want to push for the play-offs this season. They came close to the playoffs last time out and paid a club record fee to sign Tomas Kalas from Chelsea. Brentford are one of the play-off hopefuls; despite losing Ezri Konza, they have reinvested well with the money from the sale. Keeping hold of Maupay and Said Benrahma will be the Bees this season.
Graeme Jones will be charged with keeping Luton Town momentum from League One. The Haters had a fantastic season in League One last year and consolidation in the Championship will be the goal. In Callum McManaman, Ryan Tunnicliffe and Martin Cranie, they have are good signings with plenty of experience at this level coming in on a free transfer. It is likely to be a long season for Barnsley on their return to the second tier of English football. There has been lot of movements, players coming in and players leaving the club over the summer. Daniel Stendel will need Kieffer Moore and Cauley Woodrow to make the step up to the level required in the Championship but overall, it will be a season of struggles. Lee Bowyer has earned high commendation for his extraordinary work at Charlton considering his lean budget but the former midfielder has consistently deflected turning the praises to Steve Gallen – the club’s head of recruitment. The Irishman has brought in more shrewd acquisitions – Chuks Aneke, Macauley Bonne, Tom Lockyer, Deji Oshilaja. If Lee Bowyer can get them firing then the Addicks could look towards a mid-table finish.
Despite Leeds and Fulham being favorites, predicting the winner isn’t a smart thing to do as we anticipate another season with high drama. With the high turnover of managers in this league, the unpredictability is at an unprecedented level.
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