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Championship 2021-22 preview: Best signings, title odds and predicted finishes


The new Championship campaign begins on Friday when AFC Bournemouth host West Bromwich Albion.

The clash kicks off a nine-month slog for 24 teams, all of whom have their own aims and aspirations for the season ahead.

Whilst the 2020-21 season proved a shoehorned one played out in front of mostly empty stadiums, the 2021-22 edition should represent something more familiar.

Teams have had a more traditional summer break and crucially supporters will be back in stadiums to watch the action unfold.

Here, Mirror Sport takes a look at all the runners and riders in the second tier – and we even give our prediction on what the final table will look like.



Who will follow in Norwich City’s footsteps and lift the Championship trophy this season?




Barnsley

Promotion odds : 6/1

Marquee signing : Josh Benson ( Burnley )

Markus Schopp has the unenviable task of picking up where Valerien Ismael left off, after an outstanding top-six finish last year.

The Austrian has said he’s in it for the long-term and it will be intriguing to see how Barnsley’s young squad deal with another change of approach.

They suffered a huge blow losing skipper Alex Mowatt and also Conor Chaplin and loanee Daryl Dike.

We predict : 16th

Birmingham City

Promotion odds : 12/1

Marquee signing : Tahith Chong (Man Utd, loan)

Many questioned Lee Bowyer’s choice to leave Charlton for City last term, but it proved to be the correct one.

They finished comfortably clear of the bottom three in the end, and their business this summer looks as though they are well-placed to set their aspirations higher than simply surviving.

Dion Sanderson and Tahith Chong’s arrival on loan from Wolves and Man United respectively look canny deals.

We predict : 9th

Blackburn Rovers

Promotion odds : 10/1

Marquee signing : None made so far.

Rovers have been consistent ever since returning to the Championship in 2018.

Three mid-table finishes mean they’ve rarely been in danger of the drop, but fans are eager for a play-off tilt.

The fact that star man Bradley Dack is expected to miss the first half of the season is a hammer blow to those hopes. They’re also yet to sign anyone this summer and it’s vital they keep hold of goal machine Adam Armstrong.

We predict : 19th

Blackpool



Neil Critchley got Blackpool promoted in his first season as a manager




Promotion odds : 22/1

Marquee signing : Daniel Grimshaw (Man City)

Neil Critchley’s first season as a manager ended in a fairytale with Wembley promotion and Pools moved quickly to add to their ranks.

They have managed to keep the bulk of last year’s team with the likes of Kenny Dougall and Jerry Yates eager to show what they’ve got at this level.

Richard Keogh adds much-needed experience in defence after leaving Huddersfield.

We predict: 20th

Bournemouth

Promotion odds: 5/2

Marquee signing: Emiliano Marcondes (Brentford)

Scott Parker has swapped a promotion push with Fulham for one with the Cherries.

The free transfer signing of Emiliano Marcondes looks a masterstroke, especially when you add in the talents of David Brooks and Arnaut Danjuma.

Plenty will be expected this season after coming so close in the play-offs last term.

We predict: 2nd

Bristol City

Promotion odds : 16/1

Marquee signing : Rob Atkinson (Oxford)

Nigel Pearson will be looking much higher up the table after a below-par 19th place finishing last time out.

The signing of Atkinson for a seven-figure fee looks a great addition as Pearson looks to tighten up a defence that was the third leakiest in the Championship last season.

There are also plenty of talented youngsters coming through the ranks at City, although next season may be slightly too early for them to flourish.

We predict : 17th

Cardiff City

Promotion odds : 9/2

Marquee signing : James Collins (Luton)

Wily old operator Mick McCarthy cerainly knows a thing or two about putting together promotion-winning sides.

Cardiff will hope that a full pre-season under the Yorkshireman will pay dividends as they look to bridge the nine-point gap that saw them miss out on the play-offs last year.

Collins and Ryan Giles are good acquisitions and much will be expected again of top scorer Kieffer Moore.

We predict : 7th

Coventry City



Coventry City are finally back playing at home this season




Promotion odds : 20/1

Marquee signing : Bright Enobakhare (East Bengal)

The Sky Blues are heading back home after a period of exile in Birmingham.

Mark Robins’ side finished well clear of relegation trouble last season and with fans set for a long-awaited return, they will be hoping to continue the momentum.

Martyn Waghorn, in particular, looks an astute signing.

We predict: 15th

Derby County



It’s been a turbulent summer for Derby boss Wayne Rooney.




Promotion odds : 22/1

Marquee signing : None made so far.

Derby have been beset by issue after issue in the off-season.

First there was another botched takeover. Then there was the EFL charge hanging over them. Fears were allayed when they were handed a fine instead of a retrospective points deduction, but then came a transfer embargo.

It could be a long season for Wayne Rooney. Unless they can add to their squad, a season of struggle awaits.

We predict : 23rd

Fulham

Promotion odds : 7/4

Marquee signing : Harry Wilson ( Liverpool )

The Cottagers are entering a fifth consecutive campaign in a different division. They will hope Marco Silva can be the man to lead them to an immediate Premier League return.

To do that, he’ll have to coax the best out of an expensively-assembled but undoubtedly talented squad of players.

Harry Wilson adds undoubted talent to that crop, whilst Aleksandar Mitrovic has 38 goals in his last 57 Championship outings.

We predict : 1st

Huddersfield Town

Promotion odds : 20/1

Marquee signing : Jordan Rhodes (Sheffield Wed)

Carlos Corberan endured a mixed first season in charge, but will be hoping his high-energy style of play takes off properly this time around.

The squad has undergone extensive surgery with a smattering of experience added to the group.

Keeping hold of star midfielder Lewis O’Brien will be vital to the Terriers’ chances.

We predict : 18th

Hull City

Promotion odds : 14/1

Marquee signing : Di’Shon Bernard (Man Utd, loan)

Not many thought Grant McCann would last following relegation from the Championship just over a year ago, but he was allowed to build a title-winning side.

He did manage to bring in five players before it was announced the Tigers were under an embargo.

He’ll be hoping that is not too much of a handicap for the Tigers to withstand but it looks like it could be a long campaign.

We predict : 22nd

Luton Town



Nathan Jones will be looking to continue Luton’s progression




Promotion odds : 11/1

Marquee signing : Carlos Mendes Gomes (Morecambe)

Nathan Jones went from zero to hero after his return to Kenilworth Road. A 12th-placed finish capped a superb campaign and don’t bet against Jones getting the best out of this group again.

Carlos Mendes Gomes is an intriguing addition from Morecambe, whilst Elijah Adebayo could prosper in his first full season at this level.

We predict : 11th

Middlesbrough

Promotion odds : 9/2

Marquee signing : Matt Crooks (Rotherham)

Neil Warnock has been busy in the off-season, revamping the Boro squad as he attempts to improve on 10th from last season.

Big earners like Britt Assombalonga and Ashley Fletcher are gone, with Uche Ikpeazu and Matt Crooks both intriguing additions. Despite the squad looking low on genuine quality, you can never write Warnock off.

We predict : 8th

Millwall

Promotion odds : 7/1

Marquee signing: Benik Afobe (Stoke, loan)

The Lions will again look to bloody the noses of the so-called bigger sides in the Championship.

Gary Rowett will be aiming to continue their impressive finishes; three of the last four seasons have seen them finish in the top half.

The arrival of George Saville will only increase those chances whilst Arsenal’s Dan Ballard joins on loan and will be looking to make the step-up.

We predict : 12th

Nottingham Forest

Promotion odds : 6/1

Marquee signing : Ethan Horvath (Bruges)

In what will be their 14th consecutive year at this level, expectant Forest fans will be demanding a vast improvement on the below-par showing of last season.

Chris Hughton, embarking on his first full season, will be hoping he can rediscover the type of promotion-winning form he enjoyed at Newcastle and Brighton.

We predict : 14th







Peterborough United

Promotion odds : 25/1

Marquee signing : Jorge Grant (Lincoln)

Posh are back in the second tier after eight long years’ in League One.

Key to their survival hopes will surely be striker Jonson Clarke-Harris, who notched an incredible 31 goals en route to promotion.

Also intriguing will be how Jack Marriott fares, after his return to the club after leaving Derby.

We predict : 24th

Preston North End

Promotion odds : 16/1

Marquee signing : Liam Lindsay (Stoke)

Preston will start a season without Alex Neil in charge for the first time since 2016. Frankie McAvoy, having been made permanent boss, will be hoping to put his own stamp on the role.

Liam Lindsay is a canny signing from Stoke whilst ex-Chelsea man Izzy Brown did look like an intriguing signing, but he will be laid low for an undisclosed amount of time after rupturing his Achilles.

We predict : 21st

QPR



QPR ended last season strongly




Promotion odds : 11/2

Marquee signing : Charlie Austin (WBA)

Mark Warburton was happy with how his side finished last season and now wants to build on their 9th-placed finish – their best effort since returning to the second tier in 2015.

The permanent return of Charlie Austin was a natural fan-pleaser whilst Andre Dozzell’s arrival from Ipswich also looks promising.

Stefan Johansen is another who is returning after a previous loan spell from Fulham.

We predict : 5th

Reading

Promotion odds : 9/1

Marquee signing : None made so far.

The Royals enjoyed a fine maiden campaign under Veljko Paunović but ran out of steam and ultimately missed out on a top-six finish.

That disappointment was compounded with the loss of star man Michael Olise to Crystal Palace for around £8million whilst Omar Richards completed an eye-raising move to Bayern Munich.

An embargo has meant zero incomings this summer.

We predict : 10th

Sheffield United

Promotion odds : 2/1

Marquee signing : None made so far.

The Blades want to wipe a disastrous campaign from their memories and in Slavisa Jokanovic they couldn’t have asked for a better manager to mount a promotion push.

He’s promised to not take a wrecking ball to the superb job done by Chris Wilder and with a few additions, they should be right in the mix.

We predict : 4th







Stoke City

Promotion odds : 7/1

Marquee signing : Sam Surridge ( Bournemouth )

After mammoth losses were posted earlier this year, Michael O’Neill is under pressure to cut his cloth. Nevertheless, Ben Wilmot and Mario Vrancic represent canny additions whilst Sam Surridge joins for a sizeable fee from Bournemouth.

City have finished 16th, 15th and 14th in the three seasons since being relegated from the top flight so will be after a considerable improvement.

We predict: 6th

Swansea City

Promotion odds : 7/1

Marquee signing : Joel Piroe (PSV)

Steve Cooper’s departure wasn’t entirely unexpected but new boss Russell Martin will be looking to hit the ground running.

He’ll be hoping it’s third time lucky after successive play-off bids saw them fall short in the past two seasons.

They’ll have to do it without talismanic striker Andre Ayew, who’s left for pastures new, and loanees Freddie Woodman and Marc Guehi.

Martin has a big job on his hands.

We predict : 13th

West Bromwich Albion



New Baggies’ boss Valerien Ismael




Promotion odds : 13/8

Marquee signing : Alex Mowatt (Barnsley)

The Baggies moved fast to poach Valerien Ismael from Barnsley. The Frenchman did a superb job on a shoestring budget at Oakwell, taking them into the play-offs and playing an attractive style of football.

Albion will want to keep the majority of their squad intact and stay true to their boing-boing name as they target an immediate return.

We predict : 3rd

* All odds courtesy of Skybet, correct at time of publication.

Our predicted final table

1 – Fulham

2 – Bournemouth

3 – West Brom

4 – Sheff Utd

5 – QPR

6 – Stoke

7 – Cardiff

8 – Middlesbrough

9 – Birmingham

10 – Reading

11 – Luton

12 – Millwall

13 – Swansea

14 – Nottingham Forest

15 – Coventry

16 – Barnsley

17 – Bristol City

18 – Huddersfield

19 – Blackburn

20 – Blackpool

21 – Preston

22 – Hull

23 – Derby

24 – Peterborough

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