Bumper EFL Championship season preview

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Watch every round of the 2018-2019 EFL Championship LIVE on beIN SPORTS

 

Over 46 gruelling rounds 24 of England's best teams will fight for three lucrative places in next season's Premier League. For some, the Championship grind will be a chance at unimaginable riches, while for others, it will become a battle to avoid dreaded relegation. 

Reputations, both managerial and other, with go on the line, as the likes of Frank Lampard match wits with some of the game's elite coaches, such as Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa.

Through it all teams will rise and fall as agony walks side by side with ecstasy in the maelstrom that is the second tier of English football.  

Promotion tips:

Aston Villa

Expect it to be third time lucky for an Aston Villa side desperate to return to the Premier League for the first time since the 2015-2016 season.

Steve Bruce’s side boasts Premier League experience in key positions, including prodigal playmaker Jack Graelish and Australia skipper Mile Jedinak.

Villa came agonisingly close to promotion last season, going down to Fulham in the play-off final, but we’re expecting the Lions to go one better this year.

Stoke City

Stoke 10-year consecutive run in the Premier League came to an end last season, but the Potters have retained enough talent on their books to bounce straight back.

While hanging onto the likes of Charlie Adam, Joe Allen, Bojan Krkic and Ibrahim Afellay, Stoke also recruited Wolverhampton Wolves frontman Benik Afobe on loan.

Nottingham Forest

The club is headed in the right direction, with former Real Madrid Assistant Aitor Karanka in charge. Jose Mourinho’s former right hand man will have his first full-preseason to prepare his forest for a Premier League promotion tilt.

Forest reportedly forked out $A26.6 million to sign Benfoca playmaker Joao Carvalho and snapped up Bournemouth’s Lewis Grabban, who bagged 20 goals in the Championship last season.

Forest boasts plenty of firepower going forward, but it’s defence could be its biggest asset this season, playing under a defensively astute Karanka, who cut his teeth as a manager working alongside Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid.

Relegation tips:

Queens Park Rangers

Ian Holloway vacated his post as QPR boss after the club finished 16th in the league last season, and the appointment of Steve Maclaren could see the struggling club slip out of England’s second tier altogether.

Maclaren’s recent managerial record will do little to ease concerns among QPR fans. The former England boss heads to Loftus Road on the back of a couple of underwhelming stints at Newcaste United and Derby, plus a consulting role with Israeli Premier League side Maccabi Tel Aviv.

QPR has added very little on the transfer front to go with its much-maligned new manager, when you put it all together, QPR could be in for a relegation dog fight this season.

Bolton Wanderers

Bolton’s pre-season preperations have been derailed by dressing room unrest after its first team roster went on strike over unpaid wages, refusing to play in the friendly against St Mirren.

The rift between the club’s hierarchy and its players has been an unwanted distraction for manager Phil Parkinson and could derail the Wanderers’ entire season.

Rotherham United

Newly-promoted Rotherham is on a high after pipping Shresbury town to a spot England’s second tier, but Paul Warne’s side will struggle to compete with some of the cashed-up clubs in the Championship.

If Rotherham’s players can rally together in the same which saw them earn promotion last season they could scrape through, but it’s going to be an mammouth task for the Yorkshire club operating on a shoestring budget.

The Aussies

  • Mile Jedinak, midfielder – Aston Villa
  • Jordan Lyden, midfielder – Aston Villa
  • Bailey Wright, defender – Bristol City
  • Jackson Irvine, midfielder – Hull City
  • Ben Folami, striker – Ipswich Town
  • James Meredith, defender - Millwall
  • Massimo Luongo, midfielder - QPR
  • Ryan Williams, winger – Rotherham United
  • Adam Federici, goalkeeper – Stoke City

The star to watch - Jack Grealish

Grealish

Grealish joined Villa as a six year-old with the dream of captaining his beloved club. Fast-forward 16 years and the attacker is well on his way to doing that, establishing himself as the creative lynchpin in Steve Bruce’s side.

Sporting a haircut worthy of a spot with the Peaky Blinders, Grealish stands out on and off the pitch, but a spate of off-field controversies prevented the English youngster reaching his full potential.

But one look at his highlights reel and it’s easy to see why he’s been linked with a summer move to Tottenham. Expect a big season from Grealish if he decides to stay at his boyhood club.

The BIG signing - Marcelo Bielsa

Bielsa

The signing of the off-season has to go to Leeds, after it put the rest of the EFL on notice with the stunning capture of veteran manager Marcelo Bielsa.

Bielsa is widely regarded as the godfather of innovation for his unique approach to the game and the 63 year-old has been credited for inspiring Pep Guardiola.

Leeds is still a few signings away from challenging for promotion, but with Bielsa in the dugout anything is possible.

Top goalscorer - Benik Afobe

Afobe

The Arsenal academy product has been floating between the Premier League and EFL for the last few seasons, struggling to cement himself at Bournemouth before being shipped out on loan by Premier League-bound Wolverhampton Wanderers.

This could be the breakthrough season for the 25 year-old, who will profit from the service on offer from Stoke’s attack-laden midfield.

Opening round fixtures LIVE on beIN SPORTS 

Saturday 4 August – Reading v Derby, 5am EST beIN 2
Sunday 5 August – Ipswich v Blackburn, 12am AEST beIN 2
Sunday 5 August – Sheffield United v Swansea, 2.30am AEST beIN 2
Monday 6 August – Leeds v Stoke, 1.30am AEST beIN 2
Tuesday 7 August – Hull v Aston Villa, 4.45am AEST beIN 2
Wednesday 8 August – Nottingham Forest v West Brom, 4.45am AEST beIN 2


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