Connect with us
 

Football

Championship 2023/24: Season Preview & Predictions

The 2023/24 Championship season is expected to be hugely competitive, with the division packed with teams capable of mounting a sustained promotion challenge.

The second-tier line-up is undoubtedly stronger than last year, which sets up the prospect of a thrilling battle to climb into the Premier League.

With the Championship kicking off this weekend, we have assessed each of the teams to determine who we think will win promotion, which teams will be in the play-off mix and which sides will struggle.

Championship Previews: Click on any team name below to jump to that team’s preview. Click on the ‘Return to top’ link below each preview to jump back here.

 

Birmingham City

Birmingham City fans have not had much to cheer about in recent years, but they could be set for a brighter future after the club’s recent takeover.

American hedge fund manager Tom Wagner has gained ownership of the club and has promised to return it to the Premier League for the first time since 2011.

The Blues have made some impressive moves this summer, signing Dion Sanderson and Krystian Bielik permanently following successful loan spells.

Lee Buchanan, Ethan Laird, Koji Miyoshi, Siriki Dembele and Tyler Roberts are other notable additions to John Eustace’s squad.

However, there have also been several outgoings including Tahith Chong, who has signed for Premier League new boys Luton Town.

While the Blues have a decent starting XI, they lack the squad depth of several other clubs in the Championship this season.

Birmingham could sneak into the top half if everyone stays fit, but they will not be in contention to finish in the play-offs.

Also Read: Birmingham announce Tom Brady as minority owner.

Return to top.

Blackburn Rovers

Anyone listening to interviews with Jon Dahl Tomasson this summer would be left with the impression that Blackburn Rovers are set for a relegation battle.

Tomasson guided Rovers to seventh place last season but has spent the last few weeks spouting negativity about his team’s chances this time around.

Rovers have lost forward Ben Brereton Diaz on a free transfer to Villarreal, while popular playmaker Bradley Dack has signed for Sunderland.

However, they have added Sondre Tronstad, Niall Ennis and Arnor Sigurdsson to their squad, and there will likely be more moves made before the transfer window closes.

Tomasson has a solid squad to work with which includes some extremely talented youngsters – with midfielder Adam Wharton unquestionably the pick of the bunch.

Wharton’s assurance on the ball belies his tenders years and he has the ability to rip Championship teams to shreds this season.

While the addition of a new striker would make a massive difference to Rovers’ hopes, they are capable of finishing in the top six if Tomasson drops the negativity.

Return to top.

Bristol City

Bristol City finished 14th last season, and it is difficult to envisage them climbing much higher than that this time around.

With star midfielder Alex Scott expected to leave the club this summer, the Robins will need to reinvest wisely if they are to avoid a relegation battle.

City manager Nigel Pearson has made several additions to his squad, but none of them have the ‘wow’ factor boasted by other Championship teams.

Pearson relied heavily on a core of experienced players last season and it is debatable whether they will all be capable of maintaining their current levels.

If Scott leaves and Pearson is able to add a little more quality to his squad, City could push even closer to the middle of the table.

However, it is not beyond the realms of possibility for the Robins to get dragged towards the drop zone if the manager is not allowed to bring in more players.

Pearson will be desperate for Scott’s future to be resolved quickly to ensure he has sufficient time to address the big hole he would leave behind.

Return to top.

Cardiff City

Cardiff City flirted with relegation last season, and their summer transfer business does not suggest they will fare much better this term.

The Bluebirds have acquired a handful of loanees and free transfers, highlighting that finances remain tight at the Cardiff City Stadium.

While former Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey is the headline signing, it is a move that smacks of desperation by both parties.

Ramsey is no longer the player he once was and is unlikely to be enthused by the mediocrity he will be surrounded by at Cardiff.

Greece international centre-back Dimitrios Goutas will bring a much-needed physical presence at the back, but he could be a busy man given the club’s dearth of attacking options.

None of their forwards appeal as the type to notch a 20-goal season, which could make it tough for Cardiff to stay afloat.

Luckily for the Welsh club, there are a handful of other teams in a worse state, which may help them avoid finishing in the bottom three.

Return to top.

Coventry City

Coventry City have been on an upward curve in recent years, winning two promotions in three years and reaching the final of last season’s play-offs.

With new ownership in place and manager Mark Robins in the dugout, many pundits believe the Sky Blues can challenge for promotion this term.

However, the loss of Viktor Gyokeres to Sporting Lisbon and uncertainty over midfielder Gus Hamer’s future have hindered Coventry’s pre-season plans.

The club has also lost several talented loanees, leaving Robins with work to do to assemble a squad capable of mounting a promotion bid.

There will be plenty of expectation on striker Ellis Simms to deliver goals next season following his summer move from Everton.

Simms looked promising during a loan spell with Sunderland last term, although he will face more pressure having made a permanent switch to the Sky Blues.

Having had a sizeable turnover of players this summer, Coventry may have to settle for floating around mid-table this term.

Return to top.

Huddersfield Town

Having worked his magic to guide Huddersfield Town to safety last season, no one could have blamed Neil Warnock for riding off into the sunset.

The veteran manager has remained in charge, and he may live to regret that decision given the current state of play at the John Smith’s Stadium.

The club’s incoming transfer business has been virtually non-existent, with Chris Maxwell and Tom Edwards the only senior players to arrive at the club.

Warnock has some seasoned Championship campaigners to choose from, but their squad remains jammed with players they need to sell.

With some of them on decent salaries, it will not be easy to find clubs willing to take them off Huddersfield’s hands.

Warnock has done his best work in recent years as a mid-season firefighter rather than overseeing a project from the outset.

A parting of the ways before the season ends is likely to happen, and a bottom-three finish looks like a pretty decent bet.

Return to top.

Hull City

Hull City will head into next season as one of the dark horses to finish in the top six, although they will probably just fall short.

Owner Acun Ilıcalı has injected renewed optimism into the club, while Liam Rosenoir’s appointment as manager has worked out pretty well.

Hull lost just six of his first 28 league games in charge, although too many draws prevented them from climbing higher than 15th in the standings.

The East Yorkshire outfit have some excellent Championship performers in their squad, which gives Rosenoir a solid base to work from.

Manchester City loanee Liam Delap will be eager to impress after a disappointing spell at Preston North End, with time now running out for him to make the grade in the Premier League.

Winger Jason Lokilo also has a point to prove after losing his way in recent years, and Rosenoir could be the man to unlock his undoubted potential.

Hull could finish in the top half of the table this season, but they may have to wait another year before challenging for the play-offs.

Return to top.

Ipswich Town

Ipswich Town have arrived back in the Championship in a buoyant mood after clinching promotion in style from League One last season.

Manager Kieran McKenna did an excellent job in the third tier, and hopes are high that he can continue to guide the club back up the pyramid.

Ipswich netted 101 goals during the previous campaign, but they are unlikely to repeat the feat against a strong Championship line-up this term.

They may regret making George Hirst’s loan move from Leicester City permanent, given his struggles with Blackburn at this level last season.

Omari Hutchinson has arrived on loan from Chelsea, and he will add some sparkle to Ipswich’s midfield options, but more improvements are needed.

Talk that Ipswich may follow Sunderland’s example and challenge for the play-offs looks fanciful, although they should steer clear of relegation trouble.

A mid-table finish would be a solid return for the club and give them the foundation to build a genuine promotion challenge in 2024/25.

Return to top.

Leeds United

After riding the wave of Marcelo Bielsa-driven optimism to climb into the Premier League, the last couple of seasons have not been great for Leeds United.

The Whites flirted with relegation in 2021/22 before slipping into the dreaded drop zone last term to fall back into the Championship.

New manager Daniel Farke has an excellent track record in the second tier, having twice guided Norwich City into the Premier League as champions.

Leeds have some excellent players in their squad, although some may not still be around when the transfer window closes.

However, new owners 49ers Enterprises have demonstrated their ambition by splashing the cash to sign Ethan Ampadu from Chelsea.

Goalkeeper Karl Darlow is also an excellent acquisition from Newcastle United, and several other new arrivals are expected at Elland Road before the end of August.

If Leeds can keep themselves in touch with the pacesetters during the early part of the campaign, we expect them to be in the mix for a top-two finish when the season ends.

Return to top.

Leicester City

Leicester City’s fall from grace last season was pretty spectacular, especially given how they had performed in the previous five campaigns.

The Foxes never finished lower than ninth in the top flight during that period, but they failed to live up to expectations and were relegated.

Several key players have left the club including James Maddison, Youri Tielemans and Harvey Barnes, but they are still the bookmakers’ favourites to win the title.

New manager Enzo Maresca, who previously worked under Pep Guardiola at Man City, has been tasked with reviving the club’s fortunes.

Despite the departures he has inherited a talented squad, although there is no guarantee it will still be intact when the summer transfer window closes.

New signings Harry Winks and Conor Coady should be useful acquisitions in the Championship, while Man City loanee Callum Doyle is a shrewd signing.

Leicester undoubtedly have the ability to mount a strong bid for promotion, but they have to go through the play-off route to get the job done.

Return to top.

Middlesbrough

Manager Michael Carrick sparked a massive upturn in Middlesbrough’s fortunes after taking charge last October, guiding them from 21st place into the play-offs.

They were briefly in contention for automatic promotion, but four defeats in eight games at the end of the campaign scuppered their chances.

Boro have lost several key players this summer including loanees Zach Steffen, Aaron Ramsey, Cameron Archer and Ryan Giles.

However, Sam Silvera is an exciting addition from Australia, while Morgans Roberts will be eager to impress following his move from Man City.

The key to Middlesbrough’s promotion hopes this season will be finding a player who can take the goalscoring burden off Chuba Akpom.

He was a revelation under Carrick last term, but there is no guarantee he will replicate his performances now Championship defenders are familiar with him.

Middlesbrough should be extremely entertaining to watch throughout the campaign, and another tilt at the play-offs should be achievable.

Return to top.

Millwall

Despite working with one of the lowest budgets in the Championship, manager Gary Rowett has guided Millwall to four consecutive top-half finishes.

Defensive solidity has been their forte, although there was not much of that on show as they blew their play-off chances on the final day against Blackburn last season.

Millwall have relaxed the purse strings a little this summer, signing midfielder Casper de Norre and forward Kevin Nisbet for significant seven-figure sums.

De Norre should be a useful acquisition, but Nisbet’s move is a big risk given he netted just 39 goals in 101 appearances for Hibernian.

Uncertainty about Zian Flemming’s future is an added distraction, with the attacking midfielder strongly linked with a move to the Premier League.

Rowett has proved he can keep Millwall competitive in the Championship, and they will be tough to beat again next season.

However, the division is much stronger than last term and they may end up at the top end of the bottom half next May.

Return to top.

Norwich City

Having bounced between the Championship and Premier League in recent seasons, Norwich City finally decided to stick around in the second tier last term.

Manager David Wagner has been handed the task of guiding the Canaries back up the table, and it would be no surprise to see them challenge for the top six.

Midfielders Gabriel Sara and Marcelino Nunez should be much more effective now they are familiar with English football and can shine this season.

Ashley Barnes will help compensate for Teemu Pukki’s loss up front, giving Norwich an aggressive focal point in attack.

Christian Fassnacht, Jack Stacey and Borja Sainz are other useful acquisitions for a team who should be on the fringes of the play-off race.

However, they must avoid any calamities from defender Shane Duffy, whose penchant for mistakes makes him a risky signing.

Norwich may need another season before they challenge for promotion again, but it would be no surprise to see them in the mix if things fall into place.

Return to top.

Plymouth Argyle

Plymouth Argyle stormed to the League One title last season, racking up 101 points to continue the tremendous improvement they have shown in recent years.

However, they will inevitably not find things as easy in the Championship and may fare worst out of the three newly promoted sides.

They have made several useful additions this summer, with defender Julio Pleguezuelo the standout signing from Eredivisie outfit FC Twente.

The ball-playing defender is an excellent pick-up, but do not be surprised if bigger clubs come calling when the January transfer window comes around.

While Argyle’s energetic squad could be tough to beat on their own patch, it would be no surprise to see them struggle a little on the road.

Goalscoring may become an issue in the second tier, particularly given only two players broke double figures in the league last season and one has left the club.

Plymouth should avoid making a quick return to League One, although it may be closer than they would like.

Return to top.

Preston North End

Preston ended last season in 12th position but could be set to slide down the table now they are faced with a tougher division.

While Ryan Lowe has done a decent job as manager, he has not been helped by the club’s failure to properly invest in key areas such as recruitment.

The Lilywhites have a squad capable of making life difficult for Championship teams, but their lack of depth may prove telling next season.

Several players are past their best, while the addition of several unproven youngsters is a move which could go either way.

Attacking midfielder Mads Frokaer-Jensen looks a decent acquisition from Odense, while Jack Whatmough is a steady enough signing at the back.

However, injuries to key players could leave Lowe bereft of quality replacements, which could leave North End looking nervously over their shoulders.

Lowe has enough about him to keep Preston out of relegation trouble, but that will be the maximum they achieve this season.

Return to top.

Queens Park Rangers

Gareth Ainsworth’s decision to return to Queens Park Rangers last season was understandable, but the feeling remains that it was the wrong move for him.

Ainsworth left his comfort zone at Wycombe Wanderers to return to Loftus Road, and things have not gone to plan to date.

A dismal 5-0 pre-season defeat at Oxford United highlighted the size of the task Ainsworth faces in keeping QPR out of trouble next season.

QPR’s squad lacks quality, and their inability to match Oxford’s work rate was a damning indictment of where the club is right now.

Injuries to key players are not helping matters, and Ainsworth can ill afford to have any more first-teamers end up in the treatment room.

The club’s summer transfer business has been unimpressive, and a season-long battle against relegation is on the cards.

Ainsworth is famed for his positivity, but even he may struggle to remain upbeat during what promises to be a difficult campaign.

Return to top.

Rotherham United

Many Rotherham United are hopeful that the club can build on last season’s 19th-placed finish, but they will likely end up being disappointed.

Manager Matt Taylor leveraged the loan market to keep the Millers afloat last season, and he is yet to find suitable replacements this summer.

The club have made a handful of free transfer signings, and they need several more incomings if they are to have any chance of avoiding the drop.

In addition to lacking pace at the back, Rotherham’s squad features defenders who find it difficult to stay out of the treatment room.

The loss of speedy winger Chiedozie Ogbene on a free transfer to Luton is a blow, leaving the team thin on the ground for talented attacking options.

The Millers have a reasonable starting XI when everyone is fit, but their lack of squad depth will prevent them from climbing the table.

Another return to League One is on the cards for a club that finds it extremely difficult to stay afloat in the Championship.

Return to top.

Sheffield Wednesday

Sheffield Wednesday should be heading into the Championship on the crest of a wave, but a turbulent summer has sucked the life out of the club.

Their decision to part company with manager Darren Moore was baffling, particularly given the job he did for them last season.

Xisco Munoz has been appointed as his replacement, largely on the back of winning promotion to the Premier League with Watford in 2020/21.

However, he has inherited a Wednesday squad which needs significant improvements to cope with the step up in class.

Wednesday have several proven Championship performers in their ranks, which should help them avoid falling back into the Championship.

If they can add a few more players before the transfer window closes, the doom merchants in their fanbase should be able to rest a little easier.

A bottom-half finish will be as good as it gets for Wednesday, but the fans would probably take that given the recent behind-the-scenes shenanigans.

Return to top.

Southampton

New Southampton manager Russell Martin has a point to prove despite building up a promising reputation with MK Dons and Swansea City.

His possession-based style is extremely easy on the eye but ultimately failed to take either club into the play-offs in their respective decisions.

However, it is worth noting that Martin was working on both occasions with clubs who do not have the resources he will have available at Southampton.

The Saints are in rebuild mode after dropping out of the Premier League, but their early incoming transfers are extremely impressive.

Left-back Ryan Manning has followed Martin from Swansea, while Northern Ireland international midfielder Shea Charles has joined from Man City.

Several players have left the club this summer and others may follow, but Saints Director of Football Jason Wilcox will ensure they are adequately replaced.

If Martin can get a tune out of striker Adam Armstrong this season, Southampton should be firmly in the mix to climb back into the top flight.

Return to top.

Stoke City

Having made a ton of changes to their off-field set-up, Stoke City have laid the foundations to put previous disappointments further behind them.

Manager Alex Neil is a shrewd operator at this level and has set about improving his squad by making some eye-catching signings this summer.

The most notable name on the list is Wesley, who could be a force to be reckoned with at this level after a disappointing spell with Aston Villa.

Ryan Mmaee is also likely to be a handful for Championship defenders after impressing with Ferencvaros in the Hungarian top flight.

Stoke have also taken a punt on a handful of players with a point to prove, which could work out for them or go disastrously wrong.

Their squad undoubtedly looks better than it did last year, which will be enough to help them navigate into the calmer waters of mid-table.

Neil’s primary aim will be to get Stoke to the 50-point mark as quickly as possible – anything they achieve after that will be a bonus.

Return to top.

Sunderland

Sunderland used the momentum gained from winning promotion from League One in 2021/22 to enjoy a productive first season back in the Championship.

Manager Tony Mowbray was a sensible appointment by the club following Alex Neil’s departure and he did well to guide them into the top six.

Injuries did not help their cause last season, and Mowbray will be eager to have much better luck on that front during the new campaign.

The former Blackburn boss has some talented players at his disposal, but the loss of Manchester United Amad Diallo is a significant blow.

Dack could be a useful addition for Sunderland if he can stay fit, while Jobe Bellingham is an intriguing signing in midfield.

New defenders Jensen Seelt and Nectarios Triantis have been tipped as future stars, although it may take time for them to adjust to the Championship.

Sunderland may be in the running for another top-six finish, but they do not appeal as likely contenders for automatic promotion.

Return to top.

Swansea City

Several pundits have tipped Swansea to push for the play-offs, but we don’t see anything other than mid-table mediocrity for the Welsh club.

Having lost manager Martin to Southampton, the Swans have appointed former Cheltenham Town and Barnsley boss Michael Duff as his replacement.

Duff says he wants to continue with Martin’s attractive style of football, but he has traditionally been more pragmatic with his approach.

The uncertainty over the future of forward Joel Piroe is a distraction Duff does not need as he strives to make his mark at the Liberty Stadium.

Swansea have brought in Jerry Yates from Blackpool as a potential replacement but have paid over the odds for a player who has never hit the 20-goal mark in the Championship.

The departure of influential left-back Manning is a blow, while their central defensive options don’t immediately scream ‘play-off contenders’.

With the club’s transfer efforts generally leaving much to be desired, Swansea’s hopes of forcing their way into the promotion mix are remote.

Return to top.

Watford

Watford’s penchant for hiring and firing managers finally caught up with them as they limped to an 11th-place finish last season.

Manager Valerien Ismael is the latest boss to rock up at Vicarage Road, and it would be a brave move to back him to see out the season.

The Hornets have some talented players in their squad, but several glaring holes must be addressed before the transfer window closes.

Ismael’s high-pressing style worked wonders at Barnsley in 2020/21 but failed to deliver similar results at West Bromwich Albion.

His brief spell in charge of Besiktas saw the team win just eight out of 19 games, and it was no surprise when the Turkish giants dispensed with his services.

Ismael will now attempt to restore his reputation with a club famed for having little to no patience with underperforming managers.

All things considered, Ismael will be gone before Christmas and Watford are set for yet another disappointing season.

Return to top.

West Bromwich Albion

West Brom should be one of the big hitters at this level, but off-field issues threaten to have a significant impact on their hopes this season.

Much maligned Chief Executive Officer Ron Gourlay has left the Baggies, but their failure to replace him could backfire spectacularly.

Ian Pearce has been promoted to Head of Football Operations despite overseeing some disastrous transfer business as Head of Recruitment.

Key defender Dara O’Shea has been sold to Burnley, while several other players may be offloaded before the end of August.

West Brom’s incoming transfer business has been underwhelming, leaving manager Carlos Corberan with a tough job on his hands next term.

The club will need to use the loan market effectively to give Corberan a fighting chance, but you would be hard-pushed to be confident about them doing so.

While West Brom are unlikely to go down to League One, they will end up nowhere near where a club of their stature should finish.

Return to top.

Championship 2023/24 Predictions

Automatic Promotion: Leeds United, Southampton.
Play-Offs: Middlesbrough, Leicester City, Sunderland, Blackburn Rovers.
Relegation: QPR, Huddersfield Town, Rotherham United.

More in Football