After what seems like an age, English club football is finally returning to our screens this weekend.
While the Premier League doesn’t kick off until August 9th, the Championship is back in full swing on Friday, August 2nd as Middlesbrough travel to Luton Town.
Luton, along with Barnsley and Charlton are the three sides who won promotion to the Championship from League One in 2018/19.
Meanwhile, Huddersfield, Fulham and Cardiff City are the three sides joining the second-tier of English football after being relegated from the PL last term.
Luton Town vs Middlesbrough
As mentioned above, the first game of this seasons Championship campaign sees newly-promoted Luton take on Middlesbrough.
Middlesbrough had a rather underwhelming 2018/19 whilst under the management of Tony Pulis.
Despite having some top quality players in their squad such as John Obi Mikel, Daren Randolph and Britt Assombalonga, Boro finished the season in 7th place, missing out on a play-off spot by one point.
However, Pulis has left and Jonathan Woodgate is now at the helm
With Woodgate looking to bring a more attacking brand off football to the Teessiders, plus the addition of a full-back and winger, two problem areas for Boro last season, things should be slightly better for the North East outlet this time around.
But Luton Town won’t likely be a pushover for Woodgate on his managerial debut.
They amassed a staggering 94 points last season, claiming 1st place in League One.
Luton have also been fairly busy in the transfer market bringing in a few solid additions such as ex-Everton defender, Brendan Galloway.
Prediction: Luton 0-Middlesbrough 1
Wigan vs Cardiff
After just one season in the English top-flight, Cardiff are once again back in the Championship.
The Blue Birds earned 90 points under Neil Warnock in their promotion-winning season and will be hopeful of similar success this time around.
However, Wigan should still prove a tough test for the Welsh side.
Despite finishing last season down in 18th place in the Championship, Wigan had a solid end to the season, going unbeaten in five matches, including a draw with newly-promoted Norwich and a win against Leeds.
Prediction: Wigan 1-Cardiff 1
Brentford vs Birmingham
Birmingham City had a rather interesting summer that saw them sack Garry Monk. The Times reported it was due to Monk trying to involve his agent in the club’s transfer dealings and his refusal to adapt to Birmingham’s style of play.
Pep Clotet, Monk’s assistant is now Birmingham’s current boss.
Birmingham finished 17th last season and will have to try and improve upon that finish without former top star Jota who has left for Aston Villa.
Meanwhile, Brentford finished last campaign in 11th place. But they have made a solid signing in experienced Championship defender, Pontus Jansson from Leeds.
Their latest addition is Joel Valencia.
— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) July 31, 2019
Prediction: Brentford 2-Birmingham 1
Swansea vs Hull
Neither Swansea nor Hull had a great 2018/19, finishing in 10th and 13th place respectably.
The Welsh side have lost a number of key players this summer including Daniel James and Leroy Fer.
They could also be set to lose their top scorer last season, Ollie McBurnie to Sheffield United. Doing so before the Hull game would be even worse for Swansea.
As for Hull, they have had a pretty quiet transfer window and will probably finish the season in a similar spot to last year.
Prediction: Swansea 1-Hull 1
Barnsley vs Fulham
Barnsley’s first game back in the Championship isn’t exactly an easy one as they have to take on Fulham.
Since being relegated Fulham have kept hold of some key players such as Aleksandar Mitrovic and Tom Cairney.
They have also brought in some extra firepower in the form of Ivan Cavaleiro and Anthony Knockaert.
Prediction: Barnsley 1-Fulham 3
Stoke vs QPR
After being relegated in 2017/18, Stoke will have probably been hoping to bounce straight back into the Premier League.
However, they had a rather disappointing 2018/19 and finished down in 16th spot.
QPR had a similarly disappointing campaign, finishing in 19th place.
But both sides have been pretty active in the transfer market this window with Stoke managing to bag Nick Powell on a free transfer.
QPR have, however, lost key man Luke Freeman to Sheffield United.
Prediction: Stoke 2-QPR 1
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Blackburn vs Charlton
When Charlton won promotion to the Championship last season, they were the lowest scorers of the top six clubs.
In a bid to add more goals to their side, Charlton have brought in Macauley Bonne who netted 23 in 46 National League appearances for Leyton Orient last campaign.
Blackburn have also added a few solid additions, bringing in experienced Championship players such as Stewart Downing and Bradley Johnson.
Prediction: Blackburn 1-Charlton 0
Reading vs Sheffield Wednesday
After Steve Bruce left for Newcastle United, Sheffield Wednesday could be set to start their new season without a permanent manager.
As of writing, Gary Rowett is favourite to take the job.
Reading, on the other hand, narrowly avoided relegation last season and haven’t been too active in the market with Charlie Adam their most high profile addition.
Neither side will likely be expecting too much from the upcoming season.
Prediction: Reading 0-Sheffield Wednesday 1
Millwall vs Preston
Much like Reading and Sheffield Wednesday, Millwall and Preston probably won’t be too hopeful of achieving anything huge in the forthcoming campaign.
Millwall avoided the drop last season by just four points and their biggest transfer this summer was right-winger, Connor Mahoney.
Mahoney scored just two and assisted four in 30 league outings on loan from Bournemouth at Birmingham last season.
Preston have had a similarly average window with David Nugent and Patrick Bauer their only incomings.
Preston have also lost Callum Robinson to Sheffield United this summer. Robinson was a key figure for Preston last year, scoring 12 and assisting three in 27 outings.
Prediction: Millwall 2-Preston 0
Nottingham Forest vs West Brom
In January of 2019, when the club was in and around the play-off spots, Nottingham Forest sacked Aitor Karanka.
Forest then dipped off under Martin O’Neil and finished 9th in the league, forcing them to sack O’Neil and bring in a third manager in the space of around six months.
Sabri Lamouchi is now at the helm for the new season.
As for West Brom, they have lost some big names this summer such Craig Dawson, Jay Rodriguez and Salomon Rondon.
But the Baggies have brought in some solid new signings, such as Benfica midfielder, Filip Krovinovic and Romaine Sawyers. They too have a new boss in Slaven Bilic.
Prediction: Nottingham Forest 1-West Brom 3
— Sky Bet Championship (@SkyBetChamp) July 27, 2019
Bristol City vs Leeds
Leeds came so close to a Premier League return last season.
They finished the season in 3rd place, six points off an automatic spot. Leeds then lost in the semi-finals of the play-offs.
In order to push for promotion again, Leeds have brought in Helder Costa from Wolves and managed to keep hold of now Tottenham player Jack Clarke on a season-long loan.
However, as mentioned above, they have let go of top central defender, Pontus Jansson.
Bristol, on the other hand, missed out on a play-off spot last campaign by four points.
While The Robins haven’t brought in many fresh faces over the summer, they have made the permanent signings of Tomas Kalas and Jay Dasilva who were on loan at the club last season.
Prediction: Bristol 2-Leeds 3
Huddersfield vs Derby
The final Championship game of the week sees Derby County travel to recently relegated, Huddersfield.
With Frank Lampard gone and the likes of Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori and Harry Wilson back at their respective clubs, we are likely to see a very different Rams side this time around.
However, Derby have done very little to replace the quality Mount, Wilson and Tomori brought.
Meanwhile, Huddersfield’s biggest incoming has been the permanent signing of Isaac Mbenza from Montpellier.
Prediction: Huddersfield 2-Derby 1
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