Championship Predictions 2019/20 – Part 1
With the start of the 2019/20 EFL Championship season almost upon us, how will each team fare in arguably the most unpredictable league of them all?
We’ve peered into our crystal ball and assessed each Championship team’s chances this season.
Part 1 looks at Barnsley through to Derby County…
Championship Predictions – Part 1
Manager: Daniel Stendel
Key man: Alex Mowatt
Reasons to be cheerful: The manager. Many eyebrows were raised when the Tykes plumped for the rookie German to mastermind their League One promotion challenge. However, the 45-year-old has shown he can squeeze every drop out of Barnsley’s regularly evolving squad. That ability to maximise his resources on a budget should see Barnsley safe.
Reasons to be fearful: Their extensive roll call of new signings – already into double figures – can’t afford to take too long to settle given the unforgiving nature of the Championship. Stendel will need to hit on the right blend early to avoid the Tykes being sucked into the relegation mire by the autumn.
Verdict: Lower mid-table.
Manager: Pep Clotet
Key man: Lukas Jutkiewicz
Reasons to be cheerful: It’s hard to find too many positives after another troubled summer at St Andrews. However, if the Blues have one quality in abundance, it’s resilience. They may have to draw on the experience of several great escapes under the likes of Lee Clark and Harry Redknapp in what already looks a long, hard season ahead.
Reasons to be fearful: Pep Clotet hardly pulled up any trees during his ill-fated managerial spell with Oxford. Can he translate his promising reputation as a first-team coach to the dugout in his second shot at management in England? He’ll also have to plug the gap left by Che Adams’ departure in a side that looks light on goals.
Manager: Tony Mowbray
Key man: Bradley Dack
Reasons to be cheerful: Thanks to the pragmatic management of Tony Mowbray, all seems calm at Ewood Park. The understated former West Brom and Middlesbrough manager looks the perfect fit for Blackburn with consolidation once again likely to be the order of the day in 2019/20. Rovers have also been pro-active in the market bringing in the experienced trio of Stewart Downing, Bradley Johnson and Sam Gallagher to bolster their ranks.
Reasons to be fearful: With Ipswich and Bolton effectively locking up two of the relegation spots by the halfway point last season, Rovers need to be careful of falling victim to complacency in 2019/20. Mowbray will be all too aware things could be a lot more clustered this time around, so a good start could prove vital.
Verdict: Lower mid-table.
Manager: Thomas Frank
Key man: Pontus Jansson
Reasons to be cheerful: Over 100 years of football at Griffin Park come to an end in 2019/20. What perfect way to toast an exciting new era for the club than Premier League football in their new home? The Hollywood script is written. Now Brentford have to execute it. They often threaten to go on the kind of run that propelled the likes of Norwich and Cardiff to promotion in recent seasons. In an open-looking league, they could be undervalued. Pontus Jansson also looks a steal at £5.5m from Leeds.
Reasons to be fearful: Thomas Frank successfully steadied the ship after a difficult start to his Bees career. However, the jury is out on whether he can take them up to the next level. With Brentford keen sellers at the right price, much could depend on them holding onto key men Neal Maupay and Romaine Sawyers. They’ve shown an impressive ability to re-invent themselves when losing star players in the past – but usually at the cost of a slow start. That pattern has ultimately left them with too much work to do in previous seasons. Could it be a case of déjà vu yet again in West London?
Manager: Lee Johnson
Key man: Famara Diédhiou
Reasons to be cheerful: This is a club that continues to push in the right direction. 11th and 8th place finishes show City are upwardly mobile. There always tends to be one side that sneaks under the radar from upper-mid table to the higher reaches of the Championship the following season. Could City ‘do a Norwich’ in 2019/20? They look strong candidates.
Reasons to be fearful: That nagging feeling that this is a side with an inability to push on when form is in their favour. The Robins have won plenty of admirers during Lee Johnson’s spell in charge, but they’ve yet to convert their promise into a genuine promotion push. Progress continues to be incremental, with their 8th place finish last season their best since returning to this level four years ago. Next, Johnson needs to find consistency across a 46-game season with City once again far too streaky in 2018/19 to sustain a play-off charge.
Verdict: Play-off mix.
Manager: Neil Warnock
Key man: Junior Hoilett
Reasons to be cheerful: They’ve done it before. Why can’t they do it again? No-one knows this league better than Warnock, and he still looks to have the hunger to achieve yet another promotion from this level. The Bluebirds also went down fighting meaning they shouldn’t struggle to recapture momentum. Aden Flint and Will Vaulks look shrewd Championship signings. Cardiff will know how to box clever.
Reasons to be fearful: Warnock will be up for the fight, but will his players? Managing the psychological shift from being underdog to pacesetter has tripped up many a relegated Premier League side. Cardiff should handle it better than most, but unlike in 2017/18, the pressure for promotion will be there from the start.
Manager: Lee Bowyer
Key man: Lyle Taylor
Reasons to be cheerful: Addicks boss Bowyer has been brilliant so far in cutting out all the noise surrounding his side’s numerous off-field issues. If he can continue to foster a ‘band of brothers’ mentality throughout the spine of the team, Charlton will have a fighting chance.
Reasons to be fearful: The squad looks paper-thin in comparison to many other Championship sides. Bowyer will likely have to turn to youth to plug the gap. The loss of Patrick Bauer and Joe Aribo also makes his tougher. Expect Charlton to battle all the way, but the quality gap may catch up with them.
Verdict: Relegation battle.
Manager: Phillip Cocu
Key man: Richard Keogh
Reasons to be cheerful: Rams chairman Mel Morris has made a bold choice in appointing Cocu, but we’ve seen plenty of high-profile names struggle with the cut and thrust of Championship football. Nevertheless, Cocu’s put a shrewd team in place behind the scenes to help him hit the ground running. This squad still looks strong enough to stay in touch with the chasing pack, albeit one in need of reinforcements to realistically challenge.
Reasons to be fearful: Without loan rangers Harry Wilson and Mason Mount to turn to this season, the likes of Jack Marriott and Tom Lawrence will be expected to step up after blowing hot and cold last season. The defence currently also looks light. That means club stalwart Richard Keogh will once again have a huge role to play.
Verdict: Play-off mix.
All image sources from PA Images
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