๐Ÿ”Ž ๐Ÿ“ˆ All you need to know about the new Championship season

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OneFootball

Alex Mott

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The Championship is back!

Everyone knows itโ€™s the best league in Europe, bringing us surprises, goals and so much narrative even Christopher Nolan gets a headache.

Hereโ€™s our in-depth preview of how we think everything will go down.

Watford 1
Middlesbrough 0
Full time

Who are the title contenders?

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There was a time when play-off final heartbreak would be the end of a team โ€“ that though, is simply not the case any more.

Brentford seem to have the cheat codes for how to run a football club, making a transfer profit in each of the last five seasons and consistently finishing in the top half. They certainly look like one of the teams to beat this term.

As do Watford, who have appointed new boss Vladimir Iviฤ‡ and brought in some real Championship quality in the shape of Glenn Murray and Jeremy Ngakia.

Norwich will surely be bothering the top of the table come May as well, having kept faith in Daniel Farke and the bulk of their squad from last season.


Can you tell me something about the promoted clubs?

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The once-mighty Coventry are back in the second division for the first time in over a decade.

Itโ€™s been a long road back for the Sky Blues but in Mark Robins, they finally have a coach who can steady a ship surrounded by the stormiest of waters โ€“ theyโ€™ll be ground-sharing with Birmingham City this season for reasons that are far too complex to go into here.

Rotherham are also returning to the Championship after just a single seasonโ€™s absence. Manager Paul Warne has a case for being the most interesting coach in the division and in Ben Wiles one of the players to watch.

But itโ€™s really all about Wycombe Wanderers this term.

The Chairboys have never been this high in the English football pyramid and in Gareth Ainsworth have one of the most unorthodox tacticians in the game.


Whoโ€™s going down?

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Sheffield Wednesday are undoubtedly the favourites for the drop as they start the campaign on -12 points for breaching Financial Fair Play rules.

Added to that the loss of Fernando Forestieri and top goalscorer Steven Fletcher, and things look dire for the south Yorkshire side.

Itโ€™s s superb story, of that there is no doubt, but Wycombe are going to find life in the Championship an excruciating one. That squad had no right of getting out of League One and a lack of top quality arrivals will surely come back to bite Ainsworth.

Eleven points from their last 15 available kept Luton in the Championship last season but their defence was a major Achilles heel throughout and very little has been done to improve that during the off-season.


Are there any other interesting teams?

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Despite their post-lockdown collapse last time out, Nottingham Forest have stuck with Sabri Lamouchi and should have enough quality to bother the play-off spots again.

Their east Midlands rivals Derby may have sold two of their brightest young players to Sheffield United but with Wayne Rooney and Philip Cocu guiding things, they look set for another push towards promotion.

Interesting, but for very different reasons โ€“ Birmingham battled a plethora of off-field problems last season leading to Pep Clotetโ€™s sacking and Aitor Karankaโ€™s arrival.

The unknown Steve Cooper did an incredible job at Swansea last season, taking the south Wales club back into the play-offs and rejuvenating a club that had gone stale following their post-Premier League malaise.

Without the goals of Rhian Brewster though, itโ€™s going to take the 40-year-old every bit of his coaching nous to get them back into the top half picture.


Which clubs have done the best business so far this summer?

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As has become customary over the past few seasons, the best piece of business looks like itโ€™s been done in west London, with Brentford signing League One sensation Ivan Toney.

The likes of Newcastle and Celtic were circling around the Peterborough forward โ€“ heโ€™s the real deal and looks like an upgrade on Aston Villa new boy Ollie Watkins.

Staying in the posh surrounds of Londonโ€™s W12 postcode, itโ€™s QPR and another man arriving from League One with a massive reputation.

Rob Dickie was arguably Oxfordโ€™s best player last season as they reached the play-offs only to lose to Wycombe at Wembley. A no-nonsense defender with a brilliant passing game to boot, heโ€™ll be just what the Hoops need this term.


Whatโ€™s the best kit?

Home

Honourable mentions: Preston, Sheffield Wednesday

Away/Third

Honourable mentions: Wycombe (third)

And the worst?

Home

Away/Third


OK, finally, tell us who is lifting the title in May

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Norwich, Watford, Derby and Nottingham Forest will make this one of the tightest title races in years, but Thomas Frankโ€™s Brentford just look a cut above and will make the first season in their new stadium a historic one.