The new Championship season is firmly underway as we enter the third game week of what will be a unique nine months of second tier football. Of course, the World Cup will essentially divide the season into two halves — with a Winter Break enforced towards the end of November and fixtures resuming on Boxing Day. This means games will be coming thick and fast, with business to attend to in the League Cup as well as the Championship, teams will be playing twice a week for the foreseeable future.
Although the season remains in its infancy, teams have gone a long way to make a statement of intent in this early part of the campaign. And while the football odds today will be constantly changing the favourites for promotion due to the division’s competitive nature, the initial heavy-hitters have laid down their markers early doors. With that in mind, read on as we look at the teams that are favourites to reach the promised land of Premier League football come the end of the season.
Having been relegated from the Premier League and parting with long-term manager Sean Dyche, Burnley looked to reinvent themselves under Vincent Kompany, playing an attractive brand of football under the Belgian at Turf Moor.
Many would have thought they were dreaming when they saw centre backs splitting and strikers making runs in behind but despite the departures of Nick Pope, Dwight McNeil, James Tarkowski and Wout Weghorst, the Clarets have yielded some good results. An opening day win away at playoff finalists Huddersfield Town was followed by a frustrating draw at home to Luton Town, but if Burnley remain patient and stick to Kompany’s philosophy, we have no doubt they can come back up first time of asking.
When Sheffield United missed out on the playoff final after coming up short against eventual winners Nottingham Forest, it would have frustrated Blades fans who would have dreamt of an immediate return to the big time, but it looks to have been a blessing in disguise. While that come across as a backhanded compliment, the side Paul Heckingbottom inherited simply wouldn’t have the quality to cope in the Premier League regardless of who else they brought in, and another year in the second tier could allow a relatively inexperienced side to mature and come up in a way that is more sustainable and guarantees longevity.
The Yorkshire outfit perhaps overachieved in their first season with Chris Wilder, but following a mixed start to the season, winning at home to Millwall to cancel out their opening day loss to Watford, you wonder if Heckingbottom can rally the troops and go again come May.
Although Norwich City have endured a lukewarm start to the fresh term, their bid to avoid yo-yo club status is still on the cards due to the sheer quality of their squad. An opening day loss to Cardiff City was followed by a home draw to newly promoted Wigan Athletic at Carrow Road, but you get the feeling that once the Canaries find their tune under Dean Smith they’ll be back to their best.
The squad is littered with Championship stalwarts and after retaining key players in Max Aarons and Teemu Pukki, who has a fine goalscoring record in the second tier as well as a Top Scorer award, Norwich should be right up there in terms of the spots for automatic promotion.