After the first weekend of what is sure to be another thrilling, exhilarating and surprising Championship season, I thought I would give you my thoughts on who will emerge with silverware in late May; and who will be desperately struggling to keep Mike Muscala Jersey their head above the waters of relegation.Concerning the top end of the table, I believe that the relegated teams from the Premiership will all do well, although of course this depends on which key players they can keep. Birmingham have players who belong in the Premiership, such as James McFadden and Craig Gardner-whether they will be playing there next season is yet to be confirmed. Its the same at West Ham, with Scott Parker, Robert Green and Mathew Upson all po sible departures if they receive the right offers. However, the situation is slightly different for the Hammers, seeing as they boast an abundance of young and talented players that will in my opinion flourish in the Championship. Also, Matt Taylor, Abdoulaye Faye and Kevin Nolan are all Premiership quality recruits, and they will undoubtedly flourish at this level given time.No preview of the expected promotion challengers would be complete without mentioning Leicester City, who (if their many new signings can gel effectively) will doubtle Josh Hall Jersey s be in contention for an automatic promotion berth. If Matt Mills, John Pantsil and Paul Konchesky can provide stability at the back then up the field Michael Johnson, David Nugent and Diomansay Kamara will a sure the Foxes of goals-and plenty of them. And if the season is not going to plan in January, Sven can always splash the cash again!Another team who may well challenge for high honours this season is Reading, who were desperately close to play-off joy last year, and if Ibrahima Sonko can fit back in to the defence at the Madejski along with South African international Bongani Khumalo, should finish in and around the play-offs. The attacking thrust of the team is still intact, with Jimmy Kebe and Jobi McAnuff certain to provide plenty of ammunition for the dangerous strike force of Noel Hunt, the maturing Simon Church, and last seasons 3rd top goalscorer, Shane Long.While this may Aleksej Pokusevski Jersey surprise some, I also think that Blackpool will challenge for automatic promotion. Even with the lo s of their 2 best players, they have made a brilliant signing in Kevin Phillips, and their back 4 is a solid one for the Championship. With a raucous Bloomfield Road sure to be the 12th man, they should end up doing well-especially with Barry Ferguson orchestrating the midfield.There are doubtle s half a dozen or so other teams who deserve to be mentioned in the automatic promotion category, including Notts Forest (for whom Lewis McGugan must have serious goalscoring support), Middlesbrough (big responsibility on Scott McDonald) and Leeds (who have made a good signing in Michael Brown but need a goalie to replace Kasper Schmiechal).These teams could well be joined in the playoffs by the likes of Hull, Burnley, Southampton and/or Ipswich. Hull will have to improve on their mediocre form at the KC to challenge properly (and hope their young squad attains consistency), Southampton will have to keep hold of their talented youngsters and Ricky Lambert, and Burnley and Ipswich will have to shape up on their travels. These 2 teams will both benefit from their new managers.But of course there is always a team that sneaks up into the playoffs unpredicted and unfancied, and here is an opportunity for the likes of Portsmouth, who have signed cannily and can rely on a fervent Fratton Park crowd. It is more likely however to be a case of mid-table stabilisation and off the field consolidation for Pompey. In this category also fall Brighton-who have signed James Johnson Jersey enough proven quality to compete-and Bristol City, who may reach greater heights if Nicky Maynard has an outstanding season. Derby and Coventry will also be safe, but not by much-which may well spell the end of the road for Nigel Clough. Into this bracket falls as well a downspiraling Cardiff, who will desperately mi s Jay Bothroyd, Craig Bellamy and Michael Chopra.It is never easy to predict who will struggle, and I have no doubt that by the end of Christmas a team will be down in the relegation zone who I would never have expected. Doncaster will struggle I think, as will Barnsley, Watford (who I predict to go down Ricky Rubio Jersey without Danny Graham or Don Cowie) and Peterborough without Craig Mackail-Smith. Crystal Palace and Millwall might also have reason to be nervous come May.In conclusion, I predict West Ham, Middlesbrough, Reading, Leicester, Birmingham and Notts Forest/Blackpool to make up the top 6, with Crystal Palace, Watford and Peterborough being unable to avoid the drop.
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