The 2016-17 Sky Bet Championship is underway, and predictions as to who is likely to make their way to the promised land of the Premier League come May have been made. Coming into the new season, Newcastle United were considered favourites to reclaim their place in the top flight, with many experts declaring them champions elect before the first game was played.
However, once the season started, it quickly became clear Newcastle won’t have it all their own way, and that they may have some unexpected competition for the automatic promotion places, as well as the title itself.
So, let’s take a look at the main contenders for promotion from the Championship this season.
The overwhelming favourites, Newcastle United seemingly have everything going for them this season. Having spent more than any other club in the division in the transfer market, and with the most high-profile manager in the league in Rafa Benitez, the Magpies have put themselves in a good position to bounce back to the Premier League at the first time of as king. Industry experts such as 888 Sports believe anything other than winning the Championship title would be failure for the club.
While Newcastle sold and loaned out a number of key players during the transfer window, the acquisition of Matt Richie, Dwight Gayle, Grant Hanley, Ciaran Clark and other has only strengthened the perception that the club is set to dominate this year’s Championship.
Derby County have been among the favourites to win promotion to the Premier League for the last two or three seasons, but have flattered to deceive. However, the Rams certainly have the talent on the field in the form of players such as Will Hughes, Ikechi Anya and Tom Ince, and under the direction of new manager Nigel Pearson, they have a decent chance of finding themselves among the frontrunners at the business end of the season.
Considered by many to be the biggest threat to Newcastle United’s Championship title hopes this season, Norwich City will have been boosted by holding on to the majority of their best players, such as Robbie Brady and Timm Klose, in the transfer window.
While the Canaries have not strengthened as much as they would have hoped, many experts still see them finishing in the automatic promotion positions and reclaiming their place in the Premier League following their relegation last season.
Brighton and Hove Albion
Expected to be fighting for promotion from the off this season, Brighton and Hove Albion are seen as contenders for an automatic promotion position after finishing third last season. The leadership of Chris Hughton combined with the return of striker Glenn Murray means the Seagulls have all the necessary tools to make it into the Premier League for the first time.
The Championship wild card this season, Sheffield Wednesday will be gunning for a play-off place after finishing sixth last season, but a top-two finish could prove beyond them.
The Owls picked up attacking midfielder Almen Abdi from Watford in the summer, and will look to get more out of Fernando Forestieri after he refused to play against Norwich City earlier in the season as he pushed for a transfer.
With the club having signed nine new players, how Wednesday fare this season will likely come down to just how well their acquisitions gel as a team.