Championship 2018/19: Team-by-Team Rundown Part 1

Championship 2018/19: Team-by-Team Rundown Part 1
Aaron Rogan
Aaron Rogan
August 2, 2018
Show Bio

Before becoming a Sports Journalist for Free Super Tips, Aaron spent three years studying Sports Journalism at the University of Sunderland while taking in the Black Cats' 'glory years' under Martin O'Neill. Now back in Northern Ireland he turns niche stats into predictions for FST, while he's one of the few people on this island who is equally comfortable at Windsor Park and the Aviva.

This is the second instalment of our Championship Team-by-Team Rundown. You can read the rest of the series here: Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

The new Championship campaign is right around the corner, kicking off another scramble for promotion. The second tier is one of the most competitive in Europe, with most sides starting out harbouring a play-off push at least. We’re taking a look over all 24 Championship teams, to see who is set for Premier League riches next term. From play-off finalists Aston Villa through to last season’s League Cup semi-finalists Bristol City, we’re analysing the first six sides’ hopes of promotion and survival this season.

Read More: Championship 2018/19 Outright Betting Tips and Predictions: Winner and Top Goalscorer

Aston Villa

Position last season: 4th
Key Player: Jonathan Kodija
Key Signing: Andre Moreira
Title Odds: 12/1

What FST Thinks

While Fulham are out splashing Premier League cash following their play-off victory, beaten finalists Aston Villa have been struggling financially all summer. A firesale of top talent and potentially administration loomed at Villa Park, until Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens stepped in to buy the club. While Financial Fair Play is still a concern, worries around the club are easing. Players are no longer going to be sold off cut-price, although it’s still believed that Jack Grealish will become a Tottenham player before the deadline passes. He’ll join Jordan Amavi and Pierluigi Gollini in heading out the door, after they moved to Marseille and Atalanta respectively.

Villa got their first and only signing of the summer over the line last week, the capture of goalkeeper Andre Moreira from Atletico Madrid. Their lack of activity has left Steve Bruce a little short, and there doesn’t seem to be a raft of signings coming. For the time being, Bruce is going to be asked to work with what he has, although that’s the majority of the squad which went to the play-off final. Their main concern will be the departure of Sam Johnstone, who returned to Man United after his loan deal, and swiftly moved to West Brom. Replacing him in goal will be either Moreira, or Jed Steer.

After a summer of turmoil, Villa could have done with the calming presence of John Terry in the dressing room. However, the panic at the club should be short-lived. The Villains had one of the best squads in the division last term, and in Bruce they have a manager who thrived during boardroom troubles at Hull. That should be enough for a solid season at Villa Park, while the link up with the infamous Jorge Mendes for the Moreira signing hints at a bright future for Villa, even if it is a little bit down the road.

What the Fans Think

Fan: Paul Robinson @avfcrobbo

Predicted Finish: 2nd

Even as a fan this is so hard to predict how we will do this season as Villa is a massive unknown at the moment. New owners who again seem to have the right intentions. Their biggest challenge is to sort out our FFP mess. News that no players are for sale is massive for our season if true. If we do keep James Chester and Jack Grealish and add a few quality players villa could finish top two easily, worst case would be play-offs again. But if the new owners don’t keep their word and the clubs crown jewels are sold it could be a long long season of mid table mediocrity.

Birmingham City

Position last season: 19th
Key Player: Jota
Key Signing: None
Title Odds: 50/1

What FST Thinks

Last season at St Andrews started off with optimism, as Harry Redknapp led a busy summer of transfer moves. That included breaking the club’s transfer record on Brentford’s Jota, one of 14 arrivals under his watch. Of course, he lasted barely over two weeks after the window closed, first replaced by Steve Cotterill, then by Garry Monk. That obviously brought a season of struggle, but a final day win over in-form Fulham saw them finish on a high; and outside of the relegation zone.

Finishing like that could only boost expectations around the club. However, those were quickly dashed when the EFL put them under a transfer embargo, refusing to register left-back Kristian Pedersen after he arrived from Union Berlin. As a result, the new man is expect to depart on loan. After back to back 19th place finishes, the club needed to push on in the transfer market, but at least they’ve held on to all of last summer’s signings.

Birmingham will be hoping that’s enough to stave off danger, but with Monk they should expect to beclear from another battle for survival. The former Swansea boss should get the most out of Jota, which would certainly improve their chances. He scored more goals in two months for Monk than he did in his first six months at St Andrews. If his form picks up this term, then the Blues will beat the drop. However, it remains to be seen if Monk is willing to hang around for another survival scrap.

What the Fans Think

Fan: David Hadley @DavidHadleyBcFc

Predicted Finish: 14th

It’s been a tough summer with the reported transfer embargo resulting in a serious lack of action in the transfer window. Left back Kristian Pedersen is the only new recruit signing from Union Berlin, but there are question marks over whether the EFL will register him owing to the aforementioned embargo. The club are working with the league on a resolution but this is highly unlikely before the window slams shut.

The squad itself proved towards the end of last season that with hard work on the training ground, right formation and playing style and a togetherness throughout the club it is capable of scoring goals and picking up points and in Garry Monk there is a confidence that the disappointment of the last two season will be put behind us and as a club we can start moving forward, starting with managerial stability and mid table safety!

The squad has a fresh, youthful feel about it with the manager certain to give the youth players opportunities to make the breakthrough as did Wes Harding. The likes of Jota, Maghoma and Adams will be key this season and although I would love for us to be challenging towards the top end of the table, after surviving on the final day for the last 2 seasons it’s time to be realistic!

Blackburn Rovers

Danny Graham - Blackburn

Position last season: 2nd (League One)
Key Player: Bradley Dack
Key Signing: Jacob Davenport
Title Odds: 50/1

What FST Thinks

After a few dismal years at Ewood Park, Blackburn fans must have enjoyed their storming displays in League One last term. They bounced back to the second tier at the first attempt, finishing up second. Rovers were impressive enough on their way back to the Championship that they’re being fancied to make a strong return. After seeing Sheffield United push for a Premier League place right after promotion from League One, will they be harbouring hopes of a play-off chase this term?

Blackburn have a squad strong enough to stave off relegation this term. They’ve added four new central midfielders, including Oxford United’s Joe Rothwell and Liverpool’s Sam Durrant. However, their most impressive bit of business is Jacob Davenport, who joins from Manchester City – with a strong recommendation from Pep Guardiola. He was a standout in the second-half of the season for Burton, excelling in the holding role for a side who ultimately went down to League One. His passing style should perfectly suit manager Tony Mowbray, while he’s likely to be a great foil for last season’s top scorer Bradley Dack.

With last season ending on a positive note, and with Venky’s now keeping their distance, Blackburn should be much stronger in the Championship than two seasons ago. Mowbray should bring some great passing football, while their talented side will do enough to keep their head above water. A quiet window means they don’t have the resources to push for a top six finish, but they’ll expect to keep the bottom three at arms’ length this term.

What the Fans Think:

Fan: Nathan Seed

Predicted Finish: 10th

The tail end of pre-season has highlighted the potential this Blackburn Rovers squad has, back to back games against Merseyside opponents showed the side’s attacking potential and recognisable team spirit. The game against Liverpool was a competitive affair but in the end their class showed through, however against Everton the Rovers were in great form running riot to win 3-0 against a full strength side. Tony Mowbray has done a great job in steadying the ship at Blackburn and deserves credit for that alongside his recruitment of key players such as Bradley Dack who alongside new summer singing Kasey Palmer have the potential to spearhead this Blackburn side into the top half of the table.

Bolton Wanderers

Bolton vs Nottingham Forest Predictions, Betting Tips and Match Previews

Position last season: 21st
Key Player: Adam Le Fondre
Key Signing: Erhun Oztumer
Title Odds: 200/1

What FST Thinks

Financial troubles haven’t just been Villa’s problem this summer. Bolton had their players striking earlier in the window over unpaid wages. At that point, they looked doomed for League One. While they’ve lifted some of their financial concerns, the budget is still quite tight. After finishing a single place above the drop zone last term, there’s obviously going to be some concern about the club’s future. Will they rise above all the negativity, or are the Wanderers set to tumble back down to League One?

The club may have had money issues, but that hasn’t stopped incomings at the Macron. Nine new signings have joined the club, the pick of the bunch is set to be Turkish midfielder Erhun Oztumer. He signed on a free following two strong seasons in League One, which saw him make 86 appearances, and score 15 times each season. Not bad for a player who can also create. That kind of support in attack is something which Wanderers need. They were the third lowest scoring side in the division last term, which means they’re going to be heavily relying on Adam Le Fondre yet again. He was top scorer last term, and they’re going to need a big impact from the experienced striker to have any chance of staving off relegation.

A bottom four finish is something Bolton would probably take at this point, which says a lot about their predicament. While they’ve made signings, few of them stand out. Stephen Duke-McKenna, Chiori Johnson and Joe Pritchard have signed from Everton, Arsenal and Tottenham respectively. They could all prove to be talents, but going from youth football to a Championship relegation scrap is a huge change. Much more is needed, and right now another battle for survival looms.

Read More: 2018/19 Season Outright Betting Tips and Predictions

What the Fans Think:

Fan: Ricky Lomax @rickilomax30

Predicted Finish: Mid Table

Transfers started slow but we’ve made moves in the past few weeks. We’ve bought Clayton Donaldson, resigned Ameobi on a 2 year contract and borrowed Antonee Robinson again. They’ve been joined by Polish international Olkowski and Turkish midfielder Oztumer from Walsall.

Looking at what we have done in pre season, in terms of fitness and gelling as a squad I think we look tight. Touch wood we get off to a good start and continue through the season till the end. A lot of people are writing us off already for relegation without kicking a ball, a few more signings and the atmosphere of our fans stand to pedigree as seen last season on final game day. I reckon it’s going to be a fortress again at the macron (well I hope). Here’s to a good campaign ahead!

Brentford

Brentford v Watford

Position last season: 9th
Key Player: Ollie Watkins
Key Signing: Said Benrahma
Title Odds: 18/1

What FST Thinks

After winning one of their first 11 matches, Brentford’s strong Championship run seemed like it was coming to an end last year. However, they regrouped to secure their fourth straight top 10 finish in the second tier, despite operating on a much smaller budget than their rivals. Brentford have continued their approach of buying in cheap and selling high. They let go of John Egan and Florian Jozefzoon for a combined £7million this summer, after spending just £500,000 to bring the pair to the club.

That approach has brought financial stability in the second tier, and a new stadium in the very near future. However, it could ultimately hold them back from breaking in to the top flight. While the club continue to sell, we’ve seen famous examples that shipping players out and replacing them doesn’t work forever.

Brentford do have a fantastic scouting and recruitment set-up, and that could make the difference. Meanwhile, they’re now bringing through young talent too – with defender Chris Mepham the subject of a £10million bid from Bournemouth after breaking in to the first team. With a talented squad at their disposal, the Bees will expect be at least top 10 again, although with a few more additions they could push for the top six.

What the Fans Think:

Fan: Luke @_BFCLuke

Predicted Finish: 6th

Transfer business so far has been very promising. Most Brentford fans would agree that our defence has been a weak point in recent seasons and we have brought in promising young CB Ezri Konsa from Charlton and highly-rated CB Julien Jeanvier from Stade de Reims in Ligue 1. They replace Andreas Bjelland, who left the club, and John Egan, who was sold to Sheffield United. We’ve also brought in a pacey winger in Said Benrahma from OGC Nice as a replacement for Florian Jozefzoon, who departed for Derby.

The squad feels stronger than it was at the start of the window and as long as key players such as Ollie Watkins, Chris Mepham and Ryan Woods are kept on board then the team should be able to break into the play-offs. I’m not expecting it to be a smooth ride however, it never is with Brentford but hopefully there will be many more ups than downs this season!

Bristol City

Preston North End vs Burton Albion Predictions, Betting Tips and Match Previews

Position last season: 11th
Key Player: Marlon Pack
Key Signing: Adam Webster
Title Odds: 40/1

What FST Thinks

Bristol City enjoyed a stellar campaign last time out, but Lee Johnson’s side ultimately slumped to 11th in the table after a stuttering finish. They spent most of the season pushing for the play-offs, and they drew some brilliant performances out of their squad. However, their great displays came at a cost, with the club losing some top stars this summer. Bobby Reid made the switch to Cardiff, while Aden Flint has joined up with Tony Pulis at Middlesbrough.

Given that may not be the end of the outgoings at Ashton Gate, this could be a tough season for Johnson and co. While they have long-term ambitions for a Premier League finish, replacing a 20-goal striker for the fourth straight season is going to be a tall order. They’ve made some signings, but have done enough to fix the problems which plagued them late last term?

Their summer business doesn’t exactly point to another play-off push. However, Johnson has established his style of play on this squad, and they’re creative enough to win enough games in this division. The Robins should stay clear of danger, and we expect them to end up safely in mid-table this term, probably just below last season’s 11th placed finish.

What the Fans Think:

Fan: Joseppe @_JoeMorris

Predicted Finish: 9th

Honestly, and I think most City fans will agree, I think the transfer window hasn’t been great. Not only have we sold our two best players; Reid and Flint (Reid going to our second biggest rival, Cardiff), but we’ve not managed to replace them with top quality signings and it looks like another stand out performer from last season may be off too, Joe Bryan. We have brought in the likes of Wiemann (Derby), Watkins (Norwich) and Hunt (Wednesday) who all bring experience and are decent players, but when you sell your best players you expect marquee signings to replace them. We have also brought in Mo Eisa who was wanted by many but remains to be seen how he handles the step up.

We all know Johnson puts a lot of trust in young players and likes signing for the future but we don’t want to be a feeder club for the bigger clubs. I think last season was a real chance to get to the Premier League, but after the Carabao cup defeat to Man City our season fell to pieces. Can’t see us going down, but a promotion push doesn’t look likely.

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