With the Premier League and other top European leagues starting in the coming weeks, we first turn our heads towards what might be the most competitive, grueling, and hotly contested league in the world: the Scottish Premiership. Just kidding, Celtic is winning that. We’re talking about the English Championship. With the right to compete in the Premier League as the prize, the 46-match Championship season is a true grind. It doesn’t have the stars, glamour and glitz that the other leagues boast, but we all know that Messi wouldn’t be the same player on a rainy Tuesday night in Stoke and he almost surely wouldn’t last a season filled with away trips to The Den (Millwall) and Kenilworth Road (Luton Town). Or maybe he would score 75 league goals, we’re not sure.
So, who has the mettle to finish atop the Championship and who will get sent down to the pits of English football? Find out what will (might)(but probably not)) happen in the most unpredictable league below.
- The big question for Fulham will be whether young Scott Parker can steer this talented group towards a Championship title. Penning down skipper Tom Cairney and striker Aleksander Mitrovic to new contracts over the summer was a massive lift for a team that experienced a nightmarish return to the Premier League last season. The Serbian hitman will have his red-dot on the backs of the leagues defenses as he looks to improve on 12 goals in 18 Championship appearances last time out and an impressive 11 goals in the Premier League last term. The squad is full of players with Championship experience and promotion experience. Accompanying Mitrovic up top will be Ivan Cavaleiro and Anthony Knockaert to complete what is undoubtedly the most lethal front three in the league. Questions will arise at the back for Fulham who had one of the worst defenses in Europe last season. We’ll see if captain America Tim Ream can repeat his heroics in their promotion campaign in 17/18 where he won the clubs’ player of the season.
Runners Up: Leeds
- Leeds are notoriously known as being the biggest bottlers in English football as they continuously fail to live up to their lofty historical standards that saw them win three English top-flight titles and an FA Cup. This could be Leeds’ year for automatic promotion though and many have them pipping Fulham to the title. The return of Argentinian master tactician Marcelo Bielsa is a massive boost for a very strong Leeds side that have added to their ranks with the signing of Helder Costa on loan from Wolves. Leeds will be hungrier than anyone else for a return to the top flight of English football where they belong. Will they be able to do it without Bielsa’s espionage antics though?
Top 6: Brentford, West Brom, Cardiff, Bristol City
- Choosing playoff contenders is arguably one of the most difficult things to predict in football because of unpredictability of the Championship. These four teams are all certainly in with a shout. Brentford have kept ahold of their stars and will have to rely on Neal Maupay and Said Benrahma to provide the firepower if they are to achieve a top 6 finish. Pontus Jansson is a shrewd signing and gives them a solid leader in the backline. West Brom will miss out on the 46 goals that Dwight Gayle and Jay Rodriguez notched up last season, but with Slaven Bilic at the helm they should be very competitive. Neil Warnock knows how to win in the Championship and Cardiff City will be keen on a swift return to the Premier League. Bristol City are my surprise inclusion in the top 6 and I think that this could be their year to do it. Jay Dasilva and Tomas Kalas will strengthen their defense and Lee Johnson is an adept manager that believes in them.
Relegated: Birmingham, Charlton, Wigan
- After turbulent summers for Birmingham and Charlton they are both favorites to drop. Both Birmingham and Wigan lost key pieces that helped them beat relegation last season and their squads aren’t quite strong enough or deep enough to stay in the division.
- Tom Cairney/Aleksander Mitrovic
If Fulham get promoted then these two will play a massive part in that and could pick up the award. Mitrovic, barring injury, should be locked in to score around 20 league goals and Fulham’s captain Tom Cairney will be the one pulling the strings in the midfield.
- Neal Maupay
The Brentford goal poacher scored a scintillating 25 goals last year and will be on a team challenging the big boys at the top. Last year’s nominees Teemu Pukki, Billy Sharp, and Che Adams all featured high on the list of top goal scorers in the league and have all moved on to the Premier League this season.
- Kalvin Phillips
The combative midfielder could dominate the league this season with his physical presence and technical ability in the center of the park for Leeds. As a member of the Championship team of the season last year, we could see Phillips take that next step up to win the player of the year award if Leeds secure promotion.