good morning everybody. Be prepared to scroll
Did you make your Premier League predictions yet? If not, fill ‘em out here!
But enough with the boring PL. Today we are making our predictions for the most exciting league in European football: The EFL Championship! Huddersfield and Burnley kick off the season at 8 GMT/ 3 ET today.
It’s easy to believe all three relegated PL clubs - Norwich, Watford and Burnley - will go straight up. But I don’t think that’s the case. In fact, I think only Norwich get promoted out of the three. There are too many outgoings for Watford and Burnley and too many administrative changes to signify a short-term outlook. But Norwich have mainly kept their squad, hired Dean Smith for the purpose of promotion, and I think they will achieve that. They don’t have many scoring threats outside of Teemu Puuki, which is why I’m only picking them to finish second.
Sheffield United will win the championship this year. Their squad has the most depth with plenty of attacking options in Rhian Brewster, Billy Sharp and Oli McBurnie.
I expect a wider competition for the playoffs this season because I don’t see as large a gulf in talent between the automatics and the rest. The two fallen PL clubs will be in the playoff mix, but I’m more intrigued with the approach of Vincent Kompany. Scott Twine and Luke McNally are both smart transfers, and Burnley did well to offload a few players on large contracts.
Middlesbrough, West Brom, Luton Town, Millwall and Coventry will also be in the mix. Boro are very interesting, who I think are a striker short of making a serious promotion challenge. They recently signed Marcus Forss, a 23-year-old forward from Brentford. It’s a lot to ask one player to contribute so much (see Blackburn and Ben Brereton Diaz).
Luton’s Brentfordian approach has seen them finish better in six consecutive seasons. Upping a playoff appearance will be a tough ask, while West Brom could be up to their old, turgid tricks with Steve Bruce. Daryl Dike is not a player to sleep on, and John Swift is a great signing.
I have no idea what to make of Stoke City or Hull.
Stoke, a mid-table Championship club, recently signed Dwight Gayle on a free transfer, which could be their Mitrovic-inspired ticket out of the second tier. They also could easily finish mid-table again.
Hull City make even less sense. They lost out on star midfielder Keane Lewis-Potter to Brentford, but brough in Jean-Michel Seri and centreback Tobias Figueiredo among others. Their owner expects a top-six finish. But their manager, Shota Arveladze, doesn’t have a strong resume. It can get bad very quickly.
Bristol City are another club in the midst of a project looking for a promotion push. Nigel Pearson, now in his third year, made modest improvements to the club. Andreas Weimann scored 22 goals for them last season, which they ended by winning 3 out of 5 games.
And don’t forget Troy Parrott’s Preston. We’ll be keeping an eye on the club because of him.
The relegation battle:
I see six clubs that could go down - Rotherham, Reading, Birmingham, Wigan, Sunderland and Blackpool.
Reading are doomed. The club is on a six-point deduction, a transfer embargo and lost some of their best players. Only Lucas Joao can save this club. Blackpool, who surprised many by finishing a respectable 16th last year, have hardly done any business this window.
Birmingham would have gotten relegated last year were it not for Derby’s 21-point deduction. How this club has stayed in the second tier for so long is beyond me. They’ve been terrible, but never the most terrible.
All three of the promoted clubs - Rotherham, Wigan and Sunderland - are all fair game for relegation too. But of the three, Rotherham are the safest bet. They’re like the Norwich of the lower leagues.
Fitzie’s EFL Championship predictions:
- Sheffield United (P)
- Norwich City (P)
- West Brom (P)
- Stoke City
- Luton Town
- Hull City
- Preston North End
- Bristol City
- Birmingham (Rel)
- Reading (Rel)
- Rotherham (Rel)
Fitzie’s track of the day: In Your Letter, by REO Speedwagon
And now for your links:
Tottenham Hotspur Women’s fixture list updated
Dan KP: Women’s 2022 Euros must be a catalyst for change
The Athletic ($$): Birmingham’s takeover stalled by club’s failure to provide information on current ownership structure
Former Tottenham and Arsenal manager Terry Neil dies at 80
The Athletic, pt. 2 ($$): Nottingham Forest’s £100m plans to redevelop Peter Taylor Stand approved
Long read: Why Premier League teams are flocking to Asia