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EFL Championship promotion battle – 5 in focus

The Championship is the most competitive league in the country – any one of 8 or 9 teams have a solid chance of walking away with the title.

In this piece I’m going to look at the promotion chances of 5 of the clubs competing in the Championship. Rather than go for the five biggest spenders, I’ve gone for a random selection of clubs who many think will be there or thereabouts.

I’ve taken a few issues into consideration – transfer business, current squad, start to the season and management.

Leeds United is making progress

One of the biggest clubs in the country, Leeds United is a bit of sleeping giant. I think it surprised everyone when they were relegated in 2004. What surprises most others is the absolute mess the club has been in since – managerial changes, financial ruin, more owners than a used car.

For the fans, it’s been nothing short of disaster. The club reached the semi finals of the Champions League in 2001 but found themselves in League 1 only 6 years later.

Is there a change in the air now? Is the club making progress? I think so – with a new owner, investment in player contracts, stability at the club and a great start to the season, Leeds United are starting to look the real deal. They’re up against a lot of tough competition, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t at least challenge in the play-offs.

Prediction: Play-Off Final

Sunderland – it is difficult to break a losing habit

After a terrible campaign last season, Sunderland fans will be hoping to see something better this season. The thing is, will it happen?

I doubt it. On one hand, they’ve a squad with plenty of Premier League experience and some real talent. They’ve also got a new manager in Simon Grayson, a man who has been around the game for a long time. So far though, results haven’t been particularly inspiring.

It’s difficult to break a losing habit, so my guess is no. I just don’t see how this Sunderland side can string together a run long enough to climb the table high enough to trouble the other promotion-chasers. They shipped a lot of goals last year, which is a huge problem when you consider they’ve lost Defoe, their top scorer from last season. I just can’t see how they’re going to replace his goals this season.

Prediction: Miss Play-Off’s

Cardiff City – great work ethic and experienced manager

I’ve a feeling this could be a great year for Cardiff. In Neil Warnock they’ve got a manager with plenty of promotion experience, they’ve had a flying start and they seem to have put the recent years of instability behind them.

The summer was relatively busy from a transfer point of view, but not a great deal of money spent. This is indicative of Warnock’s history – he’s never really been a big spender, instead he creates stubborn teams that are difficult to beat. This is so important in the Championship, where the games come thick and fast.

The work ethic, the experience of the manager, the great start to the season and the recent Premier League experience all add to making me think this could be the season Cardiff get promoted again. A top 2 finish for Cardiff wouldn’t be a big surprise to me at all.

Prediction: Promoted Automatically

Promotion will be a tough ask for Middlesbrough?

Boro found life in the Premier League tough last season – so tough in fact, they’re back in the Championship. Could this be a short stay, or should Boro be gearing up for a longer stay in the Championship under Garry Monk?

I think promotion will be a tough ask for them. The reason they suffered in the Premier League was because they just didn’t score enough goals. At any level of football, goals are your only chance of winning.

They’ve tried to make amends for their lack of goals last year, spending big on Britt Assombalonga. Only time will tell if he can continue the form he showed for Forest last season. He’s had a couple so far this term and Boro will need his goals if they are to stand any chance at all.

Defensively I’d expect them to be sound enough, but losing the defensively-minded Aitor Karanka as coach may leave them slightly exposed. They’ve had a mixed start so far, but I just can’t see them challenging for the promotion just yet.

Prediction: Play-Offs

Hull City in a slightly tricky position

Let’s be honest – not many expected Hull to stay in the Premier League beyond one season. After a tough year Hull were relegated into the Championship. Now they have time to re-group and will hope to win promotion at the first time of asking.

They’re in a slightly tricky position so far – having lost a few big names from last season, some clever recruitment was needed. They’ve signed a few solid players such as Kevin Stewart from Liverpool, but a team needs to be built from those signings – simply adding names to the squad alone isn’t enough.

It hasn’t been a blistering start to the season for Hull, with a couple of early defeats disrupting momentum. My thinking is the names they’ve lost may be too wounding for them this time around, leading to them missing out on promotion.

Prediction: Missing Play-Off’s

What do you guys think? Do you agree with the assessment or not? Time will tell if I’m right!

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