Championship 2020-21 preview: Key talking points as the season gets underway »


After an off-season that lasted all of 38 days, the new Sky Bet Championship marketing campaign gets underway on Friday night time with Watford internet hosting Middlesbrough.

The fixture at Vicarage Road fires the beginning pistol on what guarantees to be a madcap scramble to win computerized promotion to the Premier League, attain the play-offs and keep away from relegation to League One.

With the first month of an ordinary Championship season successfully shaved off by the Covid-induced late kick-off, an already gruelling schedule in the second tier will turn into much more hectic.

Leeds United received the Sky Bet Championship in 2019-2020 – however who will succeed them?

Leeds have been joined in profitable promotion by West Bromwich Albion, who completed in second

Fulham defeated Brentford 2-1 at Wembley to return to the Premier League by way of the play-offs

Squads will probably be stretched to the restrict by the relentless tempo of the fixture checklist between this weekend and May 9 subsequent yr with no fewer than 13 midweek rounds of video games.

Piled on high of that will probably be the huge uncertainties attributable to the pandemic with everybody adversely affected by the absence of matchday income for a minimum of the first few weeks of the season.

Sportsmail previews what guarantees to be a unprecedented marketing campaign in the Championship.

Can Watkins-less Brentford recuperate from their play-off heartache?

Even the departure of Ollie Watkins – the Championship’s joint-leading goalscorer final season with 26 – to Aston Villa this week hasn’t dampened the bookmakers’ and pundits’ enthusiasm for Brentford to succeed in the Premier League.

The Bees, who’ve simply moved into their glowing new stadium close to Kew Bridge, have turn into specialists in renewal and reached new heights underneath Thomas Frank final season even after the sale of star striker Neal Maupay.

Brentford supervisor Thomas Frank displays on their Play-off remaining defeat to Fulham final month

Griffin Park’s remaining season noticed a few of the finest soccer ever witnessed there however having wasted a superb shot at computerized promotion, Brentford then suffered a devastating play-off remaining loss to Fulham.

It’s additionally doable they may lose one other talisman, Said Benrahma, earlier than the finish of the switch window.

But with £28m from the sale of Watkins to reinvest and the core of final season’s entertaining facet nonetheless current – to not point out Frank’s tactical acumen – we will anticipate one other sustained promotion push from the west Londoners.

Ivan Toney – signed for £5m after 26 objectives for Peterborough United final season – will shoulder most of the burden of changing Watkins’ objectives.

Brentford’s main goalscorer Ollie Watkins has signed for Aston Villa in a deal value £28m

Can Norwich bounce again to the Premier League at the first try?

Norwich did not depart a lot of an impression on the top-flight final season, sinking straight again to the Championship with little greater than a whimper.

However, their frugality in refusing to spend method past their means to present Daniel Farke a shot at protecting them up now appears to be like good following the devastating impression of the Covid-19 disaster.

Losing grew to become a behavior in direction of the tail finish of final season – with 10 consecutive losses post-restart – however Farke has managed to maintain the core of the staff collectively and in addition freshened issues up.

The objectives did not move so effectively for Teemu Pukki in the Premier League however he’ll be instrumental in Norwich’s promotion push this season

Though right-back Jamal Lewis has departed for Newcastle in a £15m deal this week, new additions have included ahead Jordan Hugill from West Ham and artistic midfielder Kieran Dowell from Everton.

Oliver Skipp and Ben Gibson have arrived on mortgage from Tottenham Hotspur and Burnley respectively so as to add stability and stability to Farke’s facet, which nonetheless boasts the likes of Max Aarons, Todd Cantwell, Teemu Pukki and Emi Buendia.

Striker Jordan Hugill is certainly one of quite a lot of respectable summer time signings by the Carrow Road membership

Farke had his facet taking part in some very engaging soccer once they received promotion in 2018-19 and all this helps clarify why Norwich are the bookmakers’ favourites to make a swift return to the Premier League.

Whether they’ll then make a greater fist of it, or be content material to proceed as a yo-yo membership, stays to be seen.

Any likelihood of some stability at Watford?

Watford suffered certainly one of the Premier League’s most ignominious relegations final season and have become recognized as one thing of a basketcase after getting by means of 4 managers.

And, guess what, they’ve another person in cost as they put together to kick-off the Championship towards Middlesbrough on Friday night time.

Serbian Vladimir Ivic, 43, is an unknown amount in English soccer however a minimum of he is aware of methods to put collectively a profitable facet following back-to-back titles in Israel with Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Watford have welcomed one other new supervisor in the type of Serbian Vladimir Ivic

His first job was to cull a bloated and under-achieving squad, leading to the departures of Abdoulaye Doucoure, Jose Holebas, Heurelho Gomes and a number of fringe gamers.

New faces embody two from Udinese – the Croatian striker Stipe Perica and the Chilean centre-back Francisco Sierralta – plus the wily 36-year-old Glenn Murray, on mortgage from Brighton.

It appears to be like as although Troy Deeney could be on his way however Watford ought to have sufficient high quality of their squad to be in the promotion combine.

Watford’s captain Troy Deeney may depart Vicarage Road earlier than the finish of the window 

But, as Sportsmail revealed last weekend, Ivic is already on borrowed time with the gamers already brazenly speculating about how lengthy he’ll be in the dug-out.

Given Watford’s latest observe document with managers, you’d anticipate little else to be trustworthy.

Opening weekend fixtures 


Watford vs Middlesbrough (7.45pm)

Live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Football


3pm until acknowledged

Birmingham City vs Brentford (12.30pm)

Live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Football 

Wycombe Wanderers vs Rotherham United (12.30pm) 

Barnsley vs Luton Town

AFC Bournemouth vs Blackburn Rovers

Bristol City vs Coventry City

Cardiff City vs Sheffield Wednesday

Derby County vs Reading

Huddersfield Town vs Norwich City

Millwall vs Stoke City

Preston North End vs Swansea City

Queens Park Rangers vs Nottingham Forest

How will Bournemouth address life after Eddie Howe?

It may have been a bizarre pre-season at Bournemouth with out Eddie Howe there on the coaching floor. The Cherries’ relegation from the Premier League was rapidly adopted by Howe’s departure after a second spell in cost lasting eight years.

His former assistant, Jason Tindall, has stepped up and is charged with guiding the south coast membership again into the Premier League.

And simply so as to add to the sense of ‘all change’, the previous few weeks have seen a number of membership stalwarts depart so as to recalibrate the budgets to a Championship degree.

Jason Tindall (left) has the job of rebuilding Bournemouth after relegation and Eddie Howe’s (proper) departure as supervisor 

Long-serving gamers like Charlie Daniels, Simon Francis and Andrew Surman have left, whereas essential revenue has been raised by the gross sales of Nathan Ake (Manchester City, £41m), Aaron Ramsdale (Sheffield United, £18.5m) and Callum Wilson (Newcastle United, £20m).

Now Tindall faces a scramble to strengthen a skinny squad towards the rigours of a Championship season and with no one by means of the door as but, it would not bode effectively for a promotion push.

It may effectively be that mid-table is the ceiling of Bournemouth’s ambition in the season forward although that hasn’t stopped the bookmakers tipping them for the play-offs.

Bournemouth did defeat West Ham 5-3 in the Betway Cup at the London Stadium final week

Can Rooney energy Derby again to the huge time?

It took ages for Derby to get going underneath Phillip Cocu final season however the January arrival of Wayne Rooney noticed the Rams enhance drastically – although not sufficient to make the play-offs.

The former England captain will once more be the star attraction in what Derby followers will anticipate to be a concerted promotion effort in the months forward.

The brief pre-season has seen the exit of established names such as Tom Huddlestone and Chris Martin, although followers will probably be extra disillusioned to see rising stars Jayden Bogle and Max Lowe head to Sheffield United for a mixed £15m.

All eyes will probably be on Wayne Rooney as soon as once more as Derby attempt to make a bid for promotion 

The season begins towards the backdrop of the EFL’s attraction towards the choice of an impartial panel to clear Derby of breaching spending guidelines.

Having been cleared of any rule breaking over the membership’s valuation of Pride Park, there may but be hassle relating to how Derby valued their gamers.

It may very well be a distraction as Cocu tries to convey his squad as much as scratch and scale back a few of the burden on transformed midfielder Rooney, who improved the staff’s performances markedly after his arrival.

Creating possibilities was an issue final season and Cocu should tackle it. The Dutch boss will probably pay the worth if Derby begin as slowly as they did a yr in the past.

Manager Phillip Cocu can’t afford a equally sluggish begin to the one Derby made final season

Who else will probably be in the promotion shake-up?

We can anticipate one other open race for promotion and positively for the 4 play-off locations given the variety of elements at play this season.

Nottingham Forest chucked away a play-off place in a comical trend proper at the finish of final season however supervisor Sabri Lamouchi has galvanised the membership in a method lots of his predecessors didn’t do.

They’ve signed the prolific striker Lyle Taylor from relegated Charlton as effectively as Jack Colback from Newcastle and Tyler Blackett from Reading however, as with final season, Joe Lolley and his penchant for spectacular long-range strikes will probably be key.

Lyle Taylor proved a dependable goalscorer at Charlton and can hope to do comparable at Forest

Promotion odds 

9/4 – Watford, Brentford, Norwich

4/1 – Stoke, Bournemouth

9/2 – Nottingham Forest

5/1 – Cardiff

6/1 – Swansea

13/2 – Derby

7/1 – Middlesbrough

Courtesy of Oddschecker  

Neil Harris did brilliantly to rework Cardiff City from mid-table mediocrity to play-off semi-finalists final season and can look to land them in precisely the similar a part of the season once more.

In basic Harris fashion, Cardiff noticed little or no of the ball however proved extremely cussed and rating a lot from set-pieces, so that you’d actually fancy them to grind their method by means of a marathon season.

Swansea may have comparable ambitions after Steve Cooper’s staff stole a play-off spot on the remaining day of final season.

Replacing the impression of Conor Gallagher and Rhian Brewster, who shone on mortgage from Chelsea and Liverpool final season, will probably be troublesome although Cooper’s rapport with the England youth gamers he used to teach has seen Morgan Gibbs White and Marc Guehi are available in for the season.

Stoke City, steered away from relegation by Michael O’Neill in the second half of final season, look like putting nice belief in knowledge and expertise.

Ex-Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel (33), James Chester (31) and Steven Fletcher (33) are their headline summer time acquisitions they usually’re unlikely to wrestle as they did final season.

Nonetheless, it is odd to see the bookmakers making them fourth favourites to go up!

Marc Guehi has joined Swansea City on mortgage from Chelsea for the forthcoming season

Nigerian midfielder John Obi Mikel, 33, has joined Stoke City forward of the new marketing campaign

Can promotion specialist Warnock revive Middlesbrough?

With Middlesbrough solely out of the Championship drop zone on aim distinction, supervisor Jonathan Woodgate was given the boot on June 23 and changed by previous hand Neil Warnock. He steered them away from hazard to a Seventeenth-place end.

Warnock might have received eight promotions in his lengthy profession however absolutely it is a bit of a leap to suppose that Boro are about to turn into his ninth?

Mid-table could be extra a sensible ambition for a supervisor who turns 72 in December however admitted he merely can’t resist the pull of the touchline.

Neil Warnock, 71, is getting ready to throw himself into one other season of soccer administration

The likes of Adam Clayton, George Friend and Daniel Ayala have left the Riverside this summer time – with hardly any replacements coming in – and it’ll take all of Warnock’s nous to maintain them out of hassle.

A brief-term goal would simply be to get Boro taking part in some attacking soccer and profitable matches once more, with the rest a bonus.

Is there any hope for Sheffield Wednesday?

No query who most individuals are tipping to be relegated to League One come May.

Sheffield Wednesday are taking part in catch up from the outset with their 12-point deduction for breaking spending guidelines referring to the sale of their Hillsborough stadium.

It leaves Garry Monk going through the most unenviable job in the Championship and quite a lot of regulars have left over the summer time to make his job all the extra difficult.

Garry Monk has the most unenviable job in the Championship with a 12-point deduction 

With final season’s high scorer Fletcher leaving for Stoke and fellow ahead Fernando Forestieri additionally departing, firepower will probably be the predominant difficulty for a facet who slumped post-restart anyway.

Striker Elias Kachunga has are available in from Huddersfield on a free and attacking midfielder Josh Windass arrives from Wigan completely after a mortgage spell with the Owls.

But, boy, do they should rating lots of objectives to stave off sure relegation.

How will the promoted sides get on?

Coventry City, Rotherham United and Wycombe Wanderers have been promoted into the Championship following a curtailed League One marketing campaign.

Wycombe, who beat Oxford United in the play-off remaining, are a real fairytale story. Gareth Ainsworth solely had 9 gamers at the begin of the marketing campaign following drastic price range cuts however someway guided them to Wembley glory.

Inevitably, Wycombe have the lowest price range in the Championship and are favourites to go straight again down however their staff spirit is iron-tough.

The truth Wednesday are nearly assured to occupy certainly one of the three relegation locations affords Coventry and Rotherham extra optimism.

Wycombe Wanderers have been certainly one of the fairytale tales of final season as they received promotion 

Mark Robins has accomplished an excellent job with the Sly Blues and their impregnable defence was key to their League One title success final season – a second promotion in three seasons.

Matt Godden is the main scoring risk however they as soon as once more face the prospect of taking part in at Birmingham City’s St Andrew’s floor which is a travesty given their on-field success.

Rotherham have bounced between the second and third tiers as soon as once more and Paul Warne will want to stay true to their vibrant fashion of play at the greater degree.

Reading and Luton Town are the different golf equipment prone to be struggling towards relegation this season, based on the odds-makers.

Matt Godden was Coventry’s high scorer final season and now has a crack at the Championship

Will all of the Championship golf equipment even survive the season?

The intense schedule of the forthcoming Championship season may effectively show to be the least of the golf equipment’ worries.

All 24 golf equipment had hoped that a minimum of a few of their supporters would have the ability to return to stadiums subsequent month, giving them some much-needed matchday revenue.

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson dashed these hopes on Wednesday by saying new restrictions on gatherings and a delay to deliberate pilot occasions involving crowds.

The season will start behind closed doorways as anticipated however the longer this continues, the extra financially damaging it will likely be for golf equipment all through the EFL.

Wembley was empty for the Championship Play-off remaining final month and second tier video games will stay behind closed doorways for the foreseeable future

Though these in League One and League Two will probably be impacted extra – and can probably require a bailout from the Premier League – Championship golf equipment are removed from immune.

And, as Sportsmail revealed on Thursday, their prospects grew to become even bleaker with information that the Government may pursue a direct compensation of deferred tax receipts.

Numerous second-tier golf equipment now discover themselves confronted with payments of between £4m and £5m they merely can’t afford.

This newest blow means the threat of golf equipment as excessive as the Championship going bust this season is a really actual one.


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