I have already talked a fair bit about the teams that might do well and some of the clubs that may struggle. However, I am now going to get into the specifics with a top six prediction including the order and which teams will be promoted at the end of the Championship season. Usually, I like to use a data source when giving a direct order. However, in this case, opinion and instinct will play a bigger part than the factual data in the article.
My selections will be based on what happened last season and certain things that have already occurred this summer. There won’t be any information here on the teams that haven’t made the cut or why they haven’t. However, some of my previous articles may provide some insight on this.
The Championship is always a tough league to predict, so this article should be considered a starting point to a healthy debate. The league is also competitive, so it can certainly spring surprises within it. However, I feel we had a number of those last season – so I’m going with a more mainstream choice this time.
So, now we have that out of the way – let’s get stuck into the selections…
1. Aston Villa (Title Winners)
A lot of people think that Aston Villa will have a good season and I’m in full agreement with that. Last season was a tough one for Villa – where they struggled to adapt to life in the Championship. When the club were relegated from the Premier League, they were a club in decline and it was always going to take a bit of time to reverse that mentality.
People will look at the spending from last season and argue that they should have been top six with that investment. However, football is never as simple as that and it’s difficult to buy instant success. There is a certain type of player that is necessary to succeed in the Championship and Villa simply didn’t have enough of those types in their squad at the start of last season.
Steve Bruce is a very capable operator at this level with the experience of winning promotion to the Premier League with both Birmingham and Hull City. The work from last season of building the squad and this summer means they will start the season with a team full of established Championship players. Overall, the smart thinking suggests that Villa are the team best placed to be top of the pile come May in the Championship.
2. Derby County (Runners Up)
Derby County are my tip for the second automatic promotion spot for the new season. There were also high hopes for the club last season – but a ninth-place finish was the best they could manage in the end. A lot of the problems they had last season was not having the right manager in charge that could fulfil the club’s vision.
However, that situation has now been sorted out with the appointment of Gary Rowett towards the end of last season. Most people would agree that Rowett was unlucky to lose his job as Birmingham City manager and he has some decent experience now. There is every reason to suggest that he will be able to build something special with Derby. There is also a decent budget to work with and that’s already been shown by the signings of Curtis Davies and Andre Wisdom.
There are certainly some very capable Championship players in the squad already with the likes of Bradley Johnson, Johnny Russell and Tom Ince springing to mind. However, the main weakness in the squad comes up front. Another quality striker to add to the mix could make the difference between a top two finish or being in the chasing pack. What’s clear though is that the Rams should improve significantly next season.
3. Fulham (Play-Off Finalists)
Fulham had an interesting time in the Championship last season with highs and lows. However, they eventually managed to finish in the play-offs following a run of decent late season form. It seems like the club are now in a relatively good place – and finally look like they have a squad and manager that can make an impression on the Championship.
My prediction for Fulham next season is essentially more of the same with a third-place finish on the cards. I also think they will perform better in the play-offs this time around by reaching the final. In the end though,it will be another season that finishes in disappointment – but another step forward for the club as they edge closer to returning to the Premier League.
The Cottages have some really important things going for them including some great qualities within their squad. From an attacking sense, Sone Aluko, Stefan Johansen, and Tom Cairney are crucial players. Fulham will have to hold onto them as well as their manager over the course of this summer to maintain high hopes of a good season next term. Whatever happens, the club are also likely to be dominating attacking and possession stats next season.
4. Norwich City (Play-Off Winners)
Norwich City needed that bit of time to adjust back to life in the Championship. The play-offs were expected as a minimum requirement – but the Canaries failed to even reach that with just an eighth-place finish. Some fans and pundits will feel that Norwich are in a much better position now and can secure automatic promotion.
Of course, that may well happen and we know that the Championship is a very difficult league to predict. What I’m predicting though is a strong campaign that will see the club finishing fourth in the league – and then go on to win the play-offs. Of course, that’s a tough expectation to meet for next season – and a good summer transfer window will be crucial.
The club have already made a good start to their transfer business with four signings secured already along with reducing the wage bill. The Canaries have clear targets and it’s good to see business being done in such an efficient manner. The new structure featuring a sporting director, head coach and a revamped scouting operation should also give the club a settled style off the pitch. Overall, it should be a much better season for the Norfolk side.
5. Middlesbrough (Play-Offs)
I’m not expecting the newly relegated sides to have the best time of things back in the Championship. There are a variety of reasons for that prediction, which I have covered in my recent article discussing the big clubs that may struggle. However, Middlesbrough are the ones that I expect to make the best fist of things.
The single biggest reason for that is being a big admirer of the managerial talents of Garry Monk. In my view, Leeds United missed a major trick by not persuading him to stay. However, the situation is certainly to Boro’s benefit and they should be set for a good season. The squad that he has inherited is certainly a good one with quality is various areas.
You’d certainly expect the team to perform well defensively and they have plenty of players with those qualities. However, things are less clear at the other end of the pitch as Middlesbrough struggled to score goals last season in the Premier League. In fact, the 27 goals scored was the worst record in the league – but their defensive ranking was far from the worst. Monk will certainly want to recruit a striker that can score at Championship level. My recent article on the 7 hottest strikers in the Championship right now might help with this task.
6. Sheffield Wednesday (Play-Offs)
Sheffield Wednesday are my final team to make up the top six for next season. I consider this one to be a fairly safe bet given Wednesday have qualified for the play-offs in the two most recent Championship seasons. I’m expecting more of the same on this – but ultimately another season that won’t end in a successful promotion campaign.
The Owls have one of the bigger budgets in the Championship and will surely have another active time in the transfer window. There is also already an excellent squad to work with including players such as Fernando Forestieri, Sam Hutchinson and Tom Lees. However, if they could add that little bit of extra quality then even better things may occur for them.
The club finished last season with a +15-goal difference after scoring 60 goals and conceding 45. If there is room for improvement then it’s going to be in those attacking areas. The team enjoyed the third best defensive record in the league – but only had the 11th most feared attack. Nevertheless, retaining the services of Carlos Carvalhal was a massive plus point for them. It’s this sort of continuity that holds Wednesday in good stead for the new season.
This completes the content section of this article, I know some of you are probably wondering about teams that have been excluded. Well, let’s just consider that to be a healthy debate – there is also the argument for a surprise team or two to finish in the top six. Of course, that may well happen but my personal feeling is it won’t.
Nevertheless, I will have an article coming up shortly discussing where a surprise team could come from if it happens. As always, more similar content to come from me so keep an eye on my profile page for the latest updates. Meanwhile, you can check the Championship betting odds here.
Data source: Who Scored