2021/22 Championship preview: Best bets for outright markets
We assess the best picks for the 2021/22 Championship title, relegation and more ahead of Friday night's big kick-off.
WINNER: Sheffield United
All three relegated clubs have appointed big-hitting managers this summer, but Sheffield United have hired the biggest banker in Slavisa Jokanovic.
Jokanovic has won two promotions in three-and-a-half seasons as a Championship boss – with Watford in 2015 and Fulham in 2018 – and has a track record for getting the best out of talented second-tier squads.
Fortunately, that’s exactly what the Blades have to offer. Their only significant departee is midfielder John Lundstram, having retained all other key players from their Premier League stint including Sander Berge.
United weren’t as poor as their Premier League points tally suggested last season, and having a settled squad, lots of forward options and a proven manager looks like a recipe for success.
Neil Warnock had a threadbare Middlesbrough squad knocking on the door of the play-offs last season before they faded to 10th.
With Joe Lumley, Matt Crooks, Sammy Ameobi and Uche Ikpeazu added to their ranks this summer, Warnock will fancy his chances of getting even more out of his resources.
There is a wildcard to come, too, in the form of Argentinian Martin Payero, who could provide the creative spark that takes Boro over the line.
Warnock, who has often contemplated retirement, probably wouldn’t be in this job if he didn’t think promotion was achievable, and that in itself is enough to back a manager with such a strong track record.
TOP-SIX FINISH: QPR
From New Year’s Day onwards, QPR were the third-best team in the Championship last season, only behind the eventual top two Norwich and Watford.
Had it not taken a few months to adjust to the loss of Eberechi Eze to Crystal Palace, Rangers might have been in contention for the top six, and certainly can be this time around.
Loanees Stefan Johansen and Charlie Austin have signed on permanent contracts, with the pair providing some steel to a spine that supports some very talented young players like midfielder Ilias Chair.
It seems certain that Mark Warburton’s side will play some exciting football this season, and maintaining the consistency from the second half of last term will see them right in the mix.
Preston are about to embark on their seventh straight season in the Championship campaign, and that run is more likely to be ended by relegation than promotion.
North End picked up 61 points last season – their joint-fewest since promotion in 2015 – as they regressed into the bottom half of the table.
And, with Alex Neil replaced in the dugout by rookie Frankie McAvoy, there is plenty of uncertainty at Deepdale.
It seems as though Preston have gone stale and, considering that all three promoted clubs from League One look very capable, they could be in trouble.
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