The Championship has developed a reputation as one of the toughest leagues to master, and with good reason. Each season a new set of teams throw their all at yet another 46-game slog, with only three sides eventually rewarded with promotion to the Premier League. Though a step down from the Premier League, some of the stars of the future are currently cutting their teeth in the second tier. Who are the best five, though?
5. Matty Cash
Nottingham Forest are two-time European Cup winners, yet it was still a shock to see one of their players linked with AC Milan in January, considering the East Midlands side are currently languishing in the second tier. Cash is no ordinary player though, and has proved his worth time and time again this season. Solid defensively, he is also a real threat going forward, and scored a vital last-minute goal for Forest in the 2-2 draw at West Bromwich Albion earlier in the season.
4. Ollie Watkins
Brentford are one of the best attacking sides in the division, and with 22 goals and three assists, Watkins is the pick of the bunch from the Bees’ terrifying ‘BMW’ front three. Watkins was originally known more as a wide player, yet has shone as an out and out centre-forward in the promotion push this season. Brentford still feature prominently in the promotion picture in the latest Championship betting odds, and Watkins is a key reason for that.
3. Matheus Pereira
On-loan from Sporting Lisbon, it has become commonplace this season to see Pereira terrorising opposition defences. Born in Brazil, Pereira is at the heart of most good things that Slaven Bilic’s side do and, when on form, he can be nigh on impossible to stop. With a fantastic touch, electric pace, and great vision, Pereira will surely grace a top league next season, with or without West Bromwich Albion.
2. Aleksandar Mitrovic
Fulham fans have been scratching their heads all season and asking the same question – how on earth have we managed to keep hold of Serbian frontman Aleksandar Mitrovic for a full season in the Championship? Put simply, Mitrovic is too good for this league. With 23 goals he is the league’s top scorer, made all the more impressive considering Fulham’s altogether patchy form for the majority of this campaign.
Marcelo Bielsa has utterly transformed Leeds United from a mid-table side to genuine promotion challengers, and you can see his influence most clearly on Kalvin Phillips. Eyebrows were raised when Bielsa announced that Phillips would play in a defensive midfield position at the start of last season, yet the ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’ hasn’t looked back since. His aggression and reading of the game allow him to break down opposition attacks frequently, and his range of passing sets his team into action time and time again. Put simply, he has Premier League quality. Leeds United fans just hope that he can demonstrate it at Elland Road for years to come, rather than for a rival team.