The second tier of English football is known for being one of the world’s most unpredictable leagues. With each team enduring 46 gruelling encounters a season, it’s one of the toughest leagues to escape.
With that being said, three teams manage it every year, with three teams also facing the drop down to League One.
You’ll get kicked about, knocked down, screamed at – and that’s just Millwall away.
You’d have to be crazy to predict the final standings with so many unknown quantities within the league each year, but I’m going to brace myself for the inevitable ‘you’re clueless’ comments and give it a go.
Let’s hope that I have more luck than I did in 2017, when I lazily predicted Wolves to finish thirteenth, only for them to romp the league, finishing as champions with a nine-point cushion.
- Wycombe Wanderers
Fresh off the back of a League One campaign that saw them finish third via a points-per-game system and then beat Oxford United in the play-off final, Gareth Ainsworth’s men come into the season full of hope.
Unfortunately for them, I don’t see their first Championship season in the club’s history going down a success. Stranger things have happened, but the Chair Boys’ squad just doesn’t look up to the pristine standards of the second tier.
- Rotherham United
Rotherham have been doing their best impression of a sugar-high 10-year-old on a trampoline in the last few years, bouncing between League One and the Championship.
I fully expect this trend to continue, despite a crucial opening day victory against Wycombe. Unless they largely strengthen their squad in the remainder of the transfer window, I can see Championship survival being too big a task for the inexperienced Paul Warne.
- Huddersfield Town
Huddersfield endured a miserable 2019/20 campaign, finishing 18th and not looking at all convincing throughout the season. It’s clear for all to see that they need new players if they are to move forward.
But have they strengthened? Not really. They instead opted to get rid of the Cowley brothers and replace them with Carlos Coberan, a man who is vastly inexperienced in the managerial department.
Losing Karlan Grant – who scored 19 times last season – could be the final nail in the coffin for Huddersfield, who desperately need some attacking reinforcements.
- Coventry City
No doubt it will be incredibly tight at the bottom, as it always is, but I fancy Coventry to win the battle for survival. The West Midlands outfit endured an impressive 2019/20 season, finishing top of the pile with 67 points.
The creativity of Callum O’Hare combined with Matt Godden’s goals upfront I believe will give Coventry just about enough to retain their Championship status.
It’s hard to know what to expect from Barnsley this season, but one thing I do know is that Gerhard Struber has done wonders for the Tykes so far. They looked dead and buried last season, but a surge of late form – helped by Wigan’s 12-point deduction – kept them up.
If their new signings and the youngsters they have promoted gel quickly, then I expect them to pick up where they left off and avoid the drop again.
- Luton Town
Luton did excellently well to defy the odds and stay in the Championship last season. The likes of Harry Cornick, James Collins and Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu all stepped up seamlessly, and I have no doubt they will continue to do a job at a higher level this season.
A pre-season with their new but not-so-new manager, Nathan Jones – who was sacked by Stoke after a failed spell – could be the springboard that Luton need for a successful follow-up campaign.
- Sheffield Wednesday
As a lifelong Wednesdayite, it hurts to predict my team to finish so low. However, the Owls have been slapped with a 12-point deduction for breaking the EFL’s profitability and sustainability rules, putting us in a relegation scrap from the get-go.
As well as this, the team is currently undergoing a transitional period under Garry Monk, who aims to dramatically decrease the average age of the squad by bringing in more young, hungry players.
There’s no doubt it will be a tough season, but if we bring in a good target man I certainly wouldn’t rule out us finishing higher.
- Preston North End
Perhaps it’s very harsh to put them this low – it certainly feels this way. They have done very well in the last few seasons, edging closer every year to a play-off place.
Their squad is currently being guided by one of the best managers in the league: Alex Neil. Unfortunately for the Lilywhites, I have a feeling this could be the season that a top Championship team gets rid of their manager and opts to appoint Neil. If this happens, then I could see Preston struggling to find a like-for-like replacement.
- Blackburn Rovers
Blackburn’s season opener ended in disappointment, losing 3-2 to Bournemouth. Tony Mowbray has only added three new players in the shape of Tyrhys Dolan, Thomas Kaminski and Daniel Ayala, with a few also leaving the club.
Unless they add a few new faces in the last three weeks of the transfer window, I can see it being a tough season for Blackburn. Although, with the likes of Lewis Holtby, Bradley Dack, Ben Brereton and Adam Armstrong amongst their ranks, it could be foolish to write them off.
out of the four signings Millwall have made, only one guarantees quality, for me. Ryan Bennett and Scott Malone were both poor at Derby, Troy Parrott seriously lacks experience too. Signing him could turn out to be a masterstroke, but on the other hand, it could be too much too soon for the 18-year-old Spurs product. However, Ryan Woods is a top player at this level.
While Rowett is a good Championship manager, he has a track record of leaving clubs when a better opportunity comes along. Will he do it again? It’s anybody’s guess. I can see it being a below-par season either way for the Millwall.
- Queens Park Rangers
QPR have been very active in the transfer window, signing the likes of Rob Dickie and Lyndon Dykes for sizeable fees, along with three others. However, they have lost two key players from last season: Eberechi Eze and Jordan Hugill.
While I rate Mark Warburton highly as a manager, I think his team are set for a mundane season. The Hoops have lost a large portion of their attacking threat in Eze and Hugill, and I think they will find that very hard to replace.
- Stoke City
On paper, Stoke have one of the strongest squads in the league, but over the last few seasons, they have become living proof that football doesn’t work that way.
I expect Michael O’Neill to keep improving them, but for me, they still have too many players in their squad who are likely to underperform. Despite this, they have utilised the free-agent market well so far this summer.
- Bristol City
After getting rid of Lee Johnson back in July, the next weeks were filled with speculation as to who would take the reins. With the likes of Chris Hughton and Paul Cook strongly linked, In the end City went with Dean Holden, who many saw as the cheap option.
He was very unconvincing in his short stint as head coach at Oldham, so I don’t think it’s unfair to say it’s an uninspiring appointment. However, he has added well to what was an already-strong squad, so it will be interesting to see how he does.
Reading are another team going into the season with a young, inexperienced gaffer – he goes by the name of Veljko Paunovic.
As well as this, they have lost a large chunk of their squad, only bringing two through the door. However, they’re reportedly ready to splash the cash after their soft transfer embargo – imposed on them at the end of last season – was lifted at the end of August.
If Paunovic can get the best out of the likes of Lucas Joao, Ovie Ejaria and George Puscas, then they could be a force to be reckoned with. But I see this being a transitional season for Reading, with a midtable finish likely.
- Derby County
Derby have lost six of their last seven games in what has been a truly dismal run of form. The Rams have never really convinced me under Phillip Cocu and their transfer business so far hasn’t particularly impressed me either.
They need to spend the money they gained from selling Max Lowe and Jayden Bogle on a proven goal scorer – much like Chris Martin, who they couldn’t tie down to a new contract – or else I don’t see them challenging for the play-offs.
- Nottingham Forest
Much like Derby under Cocu, I haven’t been massively impressed with Forest under Sabri Lamouchi. They had some good results last season and looked set to fight it out in the play-offs but somehow managed to throw it away.
Luckily for the Forest fans, they have made some important signings with Loïc Mbe Soh, Luke Freeman and Lyle Taylor being the pick of the bunch. For me, the cracks are starting to show under Lamouchi, so it’s important that their recruits hit the ground running.
So far, Bournemouth have had to concentrate all their energy on outgoings instead of incomings this summer. It’s been widely reported that the Cherries still owe transfer fees to some clubs and are therefore working on a tight budget.
Despite selling most of their star players, they still have a decent squad at their disposal. However, I think it’s a big ask for Jason Tindall – who has very little managerial experience – to get them play-offs this year, but I wouldn’t rule it out. The sale of key players could unsettle the squad, leading to more wanting to leave.
- Birmingham City
The Blues have had a very positive transfer window so far. From the appointment of the experienced Aitor Karanka to the signing of the highly-rated Ivan Sanchez, there is plenty for the fans to be excited about.
However, it could take a bit of time for the players to adapt to Karanka’s style of play, so I expect them to narrowly miss out on play-offs this year. But if not this season, next season could be their year…
- Cardiff City
After a disappointing first half of the season, Neil Harris came in and turned it around, firing them into the play-offs. Unfortunately for them, they fell just short.
Bar the signing of Welsh international Kieffer Moore, they haven’t strengthened their squad as much as they could have. Despite this, I still expect them to get play-offs, but no doubt it will be extremely tight, as it always is in this crazy league.
- Swansea City (POF)
Swansea are another team who have had a positive transfer window – they look to be a club on the up. Another team who didn’t look massively convincing last season but still made the play-offs, they will be looking to build on that, which I back them to do.
Despite selling one of their brightest attacking sparks in Bersant Celina, they will be happy with the additions of Morgan Gibbs-White, Korey Smith and Jamal Lowe. If they keep hold of Joe Rodon and Andre Ayew and add a goal scorer to their ranks, then it will be a very successful window for the Swans.
Neil Warnock. That’s all there is to it.
The former Sheffield United and Crystal Palace chief has proven over the years that there’s no one better at getting teams out of the Championship. No one has earned more promotions in the EFL than him (eight).
I fancy that Warnock could also be the man to get the best out of Ashley Fletcher and Britt Assombalonga: a partnership that’s always had plenty of promise. But if they are to compete at the top like I think they will, then they could do with another centre-back or two to add further depth and solidarity at the back.
- Brentford (POW)
Brentford came agonisingly close to the Premier League last season but were swept aside in the play-off final by a Joe Bryan masterclass. However, I predict they will go all the way this time, winning promotion to the promised land at Wembley.
Losing Ollie Watkins – the league’s second top scorer last season with 25 – will be a big blow, but I have a feeling Ivan Toney could also hit the 20-goal mark. If Saïd Benrahma leaves too, I wouldn’t put it past them to have a new gem lined up for when he goes.
I don’t think many would argue that Watford haven’t got the best squad in the league on paper. However, many don’t fancy a season in the Championship, with the likes of Roberto Pereyra and Ismaila Sarr likely to leave before the window slams shut.
If they can move on the players who don’t want to be there and sort out the players who do, then I think they will gain automatic promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. Certain players who look set to stay, like Ben Foster, Domingos Quina and Tom Cleverley, will be crucial to their success.
- Norwich City
In my opinion, the Canaries have won the transfer window so far and I don’t see anyone topping their work. the signings of Jordan Hugill, Kieran Dowell, Oliver Skipp and Ben Gibson show they are in it to win it. On top of these bits of business, Norwich have completed seven more signings.
This will be Daniel Farke’s third season in the Championship – the last of which he won the league – so it’s safe to assume he now knows how to succeed in the second tier.
What do you make of these predictions? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image credit pinkun