Championship Predictions 2019/20 – Part 2

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 assessed their chances...

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Leeds United's Pablo Hernandez celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game.

Championship Predictions 2019/20 – Part 2

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 taken a look into our crystal ball and previewed each Championship team’s chances this season.

Part 2 looks at Fulham through to Nottingham Forest…

Part 1 – Barnsley to Derby County
Part 3 – Preston to Wigan Athletic

Championship Predictions – Part 2

FULHAM
Manager: Scott Parker
Key man: Anthony Knockaert

Fulham manager Scott Parker claps his side’s efforts.

Reasons to be cheerful: The starting XI looks frightening for this level. The additions of 2017 Championship Player of the Year Anthony Knockaert, and Wolves’ winger Ivan Cavaleiro add flair and experience to a Cottagers front line that will also retain the services of Aleksandar Mitrović. If Scott Parker can fix the defensive issues that saw them slump towards the relegation trap door, Fulham look well set to overpower the opposition in attack.
Reasons to be fearful: A squad fit to bursting with Championship talent is being led into the new season by a rookie manager. Scott Parker has impressed in his first few months in the role. One caveat though – with relegation all but a foregone conclusion by the time of his appointment, he was working under very little pressure. West Brom opted to twist last season when Darren Moore’s short reign started to show signs of faltering. Will Fulham hold their nerve if Parker takes time to stamp his authority on this squad?
Verdict: Promoted.

 

HUDDERSFIELD TOWN

Manager: Jan Siewert
Key man: Karlan Grant

Huddersfield Town’s Karlan Grant celebrates scoring at the London Stadium.

Reasons to be cheerful: With relegation virtually inevitable from the moment the clocks went forward last season, Huddersfield have had plenty of time to take stock for a fresh assault on Championship football. Jan Siewert now has a free hand to re-shape this team in his image. Tommy Elphick and Reece Brown look shrewd acquisitions at this level as the Terriers try and regroup.
Reasons to be fearful: This team has forgotten how to win football matches. That’s a hard psychological barrier to overcome. Siewert will need some early wins to settle the nerves at the John Smith’s Stadium, or the Terriers could risk going into the kind of tailspin that Sunderland experienced on their return to this level. Thankfully, the noises out of West Yorkshire suggest fans and new chairman Phil Hodgkinson will be happy with a season of consolidation. Mid-table mediocrity could be a blessing in disguise as they rebuild.
Verdict: Upper mid-table.

 

HULL CITY

Manager: Grant McCann
Key man: Jarrod Bowen

Hull players mob Hull City’s Jordy de Wijs after he scores the winning goal.

Reasons to be cheerful: Hull won’t be suffering from delusions of grandeur this season with most fans recognising the limitations of the current squad. New manager Grant McCann surpassed expectations last season in guiding a makeshift Doncaster side to the play-off places. Tigers bosses will be hoping he can pull off a similar trick in his first season as a Championship manager.
Reasons to be fearful: Nigel Adkins decision to part ways with the club in the summer throws up some concerns about the club’s Championship ambitions. His replacement has shown promise in glimpses in League One with Peterborough and Doncaster, but the Championship will be far more unforgiving for someone who will need time to put his stamp on this squad. The final few weeks of the transfer window will also test Hull’s resistance with plenty of admirers circling for their young stars.
Verdict: Relegation battle.

 

LEEDS UTD

Manager: Marcelo Bielsa
Key man: Kemar Roofe

Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa (right).

Reasons to be cheerful: For once, Leeds have decided to keep calm and carry on this summer. Marcelo Bielsa’s decision to extend his tenure at Elland Road is arguably the biggest signing of the off-season. Now Leeds will be hoping his faith in the project helps deliver their Premier League dream. Some canny moves into the loan market this summer should also help them stay the distance this time around.
Reasons to be fearful: Whisper it quietly, but have Leeds taken on the mantle of the new ‘Derby’ of this division? Their major wobble against the Rams in last season’s play-off semi-final – combined with their alarming slump in form in 2016/17 to finish 7th – suggests they have a problem with closing the deal. Marcelo Bielsa is arguably the finest coach in this division, but his intensive methods can lead to player burn-out. Could history repeat itself in 2019/20?
Verdict: Play-offs.

 

LUTON TOWN

Manager: Graeme Jones
Key man: James Collins

Luton Town’s James Collins celebrates scoring his side’s first goal of the game.

 

Reasons to be cheerful: Momentum is in their favour. Wigan and Blackburn both survived with relative comfort after promotion last season. Luton will be hoping a quick start helps dispel any fears of making a swift exit from this level. Callum McManaman and Brendan Galloway could be smart signings for a team trying to find their feet in this division.
Reasons to be fearful: The feelgood factor from storming to the League One title has already been offset by a summer of change at Kenilworth Road. Graeme Jones comes with an outstanding reputation as a coach but has yet to be tested as a No. 1. Luton have also opted to cash in on James Justin and Jack Stacey, two players always arguably destined to play at a higher level. Hatters fans will be hoping that’s the end of the outgoings as they start life back in the second tier.
Verdict: Relegation battle.

 

MIDDLESBROUGH

Manager: Jonathan Woodgate
Key man: Darren Randolph

Middlesbrough first team coach Jonathan Woodgate.

Reasons to be cheerful: They have the defensive discipline any side requires to mount a play-off challenge in this league, led by the ever-reliable Randolph in goal. Tony Pulis’ tactics may have been divisive at the Riverside. However, Jonathan Woodgate would be wise not to jettison his side’s strongest card as he looks to make them more adventurous. As a no-holds barred defender himself, Boro’s novice manager will surely look to build from the back.
Reasons to be fearful: This squad doesn’t look to have the depth needed to currently trouble the promotion spots in this division. Success or failure this season will depend on whether they can rely upon a fully fit and firing Britt Assombolonga. Last season’s top scorer has hinted he is happy to stay at the Riverside. If they were to lose him this summer, Woodgate’s mission to inject new life into this squad would become that much harder.
Verdict: Upper mid-table.

 

MILLWALL

Manager: Neil Harris
Key man: Jed Wallace

Millwall’s Jed Wallace (left) gets away from Fulham’s Tom Cairney.

Reasons to be cheerful: Millwall know what needs to be done to survive in this division, with a squad built in the image of club legend and manager Neil Harris. Don’t expect them to alter too much from a formula that has seen Harris deliver the primary objective of ensuring the Lions continue to punch above their weight. The club have also been spending money in this window. That’s a sign they are already wary of a repeat of last season’s struggle to get over the finish line.
Reasons to be fearful: After a fantastic top-half finish on their return to the Championship in 2017/18, Millwall reverted to type last season as they played chicken with the relegation places. Harris will need to find a new spark from somewhere to breathe new life into this squad after four mostly successful years in the role. The loss of talisman Lee Gregory to Stoke will be keenly felt. Fans will be hoping the arrival of brute force in Matt Smith and Jón Daði Böðvarsson will upset some of the big hitters towards the top of the Championship table.
Verdict: Relegation battle.

 

NOTTINGHAM FOREST

Manager: Sabri Lamouchi
Key man: Joe Lolley

Crystal Palace’s Martin Kelly (left) and Nottingham Forest’s Lewis Grabban battle for the ball.

Reasons to be cheerful: Forest’s revolving door management policy continues. That naturally means the sceptics are out in force, as Sabri Lamouchi becomes the sixth permanent boss in three years to take on the poisoned City Ground chalice. However, a look back at his time at Rennes should give Forest fans hope. He led Les Rennais to the Europa League in his first season at the club, with that success built around a well-organised spine. This might be less of a punt by Forest bosses than it initially appears.
Reasons to be fearful: Forest remain heavily reliant on Joe Lolley and Lewis Grabban for goals. An injury to either of them makes it hard to see where goals would be coming from if Forest are finally going to break their play-off hoodoo after eight seasons without a Top Six finish. Albert Adomah should help take the pressure off their key pairing. Most importantly, Forest need to decide what they stand for in the Championship. As Ipswich demonstrated last season, you can only continue to tread water for so long before drowning.
Verdict: Upper mid-table.

 

All image sources from PA Images

 

Part 1 – Barnsley to Derby County
Part 3 – Preston to Wigan Athletic

Which sides are you tipping for Championship promotion?

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