Are you ready for some football !!
The EFL Championship is finally back today. Sheffield Wednesday and Southampton hold the honours of competing in the first match of a season that is bound to be as dramatic as the last.
I’ve done some searching for other season predictions, and there’s one problem with them: I’m never a fan of just sticking the three relegated PL clubs in the top six, although this year it’s difficult not to.
Let’s check out fitzie’s predictions.
The three teams to beat this season are Leeds, Middlesbrough and Southampton
I also really like Boro. They were hard-missed to not get promoted last year, but Chuba Akpom is still a serious threat in front of goal. My biggest worry is the departure of Cameron Archer.
Meanwhile, Daniel Farke’s addition makes things interesting for Leeds. I thought they were due for another down year, but he’s got two promotions under his belt. Rodrigo is a tough departure, but should be okay if they keep Wilfried Gnonto.
Also in the mix will be Southampton, but mostly because they were able to pry Russell Martin away from Swansea (and Ryan Manning!). They’ve got a lot of quality, but if they don’t invest cash from immiment derpatures of Romeo Lavia and James Ward-Prowse, it could spell trouble.
There are maybe 5-7 playoff hopefuls at first glance, although more will creep up as the season progresses.
Millwall are the safe bet for me. They should’ve been in last season! With Tom Bradshaw and Zian Flemming still up front, they’ll be contenders again.
From there it gets tricky and I think the level of competition dissipates. Sunderland had a storybook season and it’ll be interesting to see that young squad continue to grow. Ipswich Town are one to watch (but we’ll get to them soon).
Leicester City have lost some talent, but they’ve done well to add Tottenham legend Harry Winks and defender Connor Coady. They’re also going for the ‘Pep’ approach with the managerial appointment of Enzo Maresca. The big question mark is that, unlike Vincent Kompany last year, Maresca isn’t coming into this job with an as-successful CV. They might need one season to get adjusted before a real promotion push.
I’m less keen on Coventry and Blackburn. The latter look especially vulnerable for failing to replace Ben Brereton Diaz, and Coventry should still be top half despite losing Viktor Gyokeres. If they lose Gustavo Hamer, though? Well that’d be troubling.
There’s a tonne of buzz surrounding Ipswich Town after their promotion from League One, with some even predicting a double promotion.
Under new ownership, Town have done wonders under manager Kieran McKenna. They play a fluid game that isn’t seen in League One, and it’s a style that was very successful for Burnley last year. It might be a season too early, but keep an eye on this squad.
I’m also going to take a flier on Stoke City again. They showed some signs of a top-10 club last season. It’s a big season for Alex Neil, too, who departed Sunderland last year.
West Brom, as it stands, are not good enough for the playoffs. But with an addition or two I think they can do it. That’s if - and only if - they hold on to manager Carlos Coberan.
Look out for Tom Brady’s Birmingham, too! They might finally be pipped for a top-half finish even after losing Jobe Bellingham. Not a playoff contender, but they might finally be interesting to watch.
The relegation battle:
There are a lot of bad teams. I think last year I found six relegation candidates. Six is fair again this season, although the six are considerably worse.
Gareth Ainsworth didn’t give QPR fans much to be excited about, warning them that they’ll be in for a rough season. This was the worst club in the second half of last season and have done very little to give Ainsworth the players needed to stay up.
Sheffield Wednesday are in worse shape. They lost the manager who brought them up and the only player who could maybe help them is on-loan Ashley Fletcher.
Huddersfield have done very little to strenghten their squad after barely surviving last season, but they have Neil Warnock at the helm. So long as he stays, they’ll be alright.
That leaves us with Plymouth Argyle, Cardiff City and Rotherham. The latter is most likely to go down (unfortunately it’s their history!). And don’t let Aaron Ramsey’s addition fool you: Cardiff City are not in a good place.
Fitzie’s predictions for the 2023-24 EFL Championship season:
- Middlesbrough (C)
- Southampton (P)
- Leeds (P)
- Stoke City
- Ipswich Town
- Leicester City
- West Brom
- Bristol City
- Preston North End
- Swansea City
- Blackburn Rovers
- Hull City
- Plymouth Argyle
- Cardiff City
- QPR (R)
- Rotherham (R)
- Sheffield Wednesday (R)
Fitzie’s track of the day: Book, by Gustaf
And now for your links:
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Russell Martin speaks on taking the Southampton job
FIFA opens investigation into alleged misconduct with Zambia