Championship 2019/20 preview: Best bets for outright markets
We assess the best picks for promotion, relegation and more, as 'the most competitive league in the world' gets back underway.
It's going to be a good year for: Leeds
Leeds were the best team in the Championship for long stretches of last season, despite falling just short of automatic promotion.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side topped the league in terms of xG and shots, while home victories over Stoke and West Brom in front of the TV cameras were two of the most impressive performances in the division.
Even the defeats that cost them promotion, most notably at home to Wigan on Good Friday, were statistical anomalies.
On that basis, it is impossible to imagine Bielsa’s side not competing at the top end of the table again.
The signing of Helder Costa from Wolves improves what was already a lethal attack, with Kemar Roofe – who was battling injury throughout the run-in – a contender to finish as the division’s top goalscorer.
Even the sale of Pontus Jansson to rivals Brentford, a concern on paper, was happily sanctioned by Bielsa.
The club are correct to grant all of their manager’s wishes, because the result is likely to be promotion to the Premier League.
Leeds to win the Championship title
In the mix: Brentford
Whether it’s this season or one shortly after, it is inevitable that Brentford will eventually be promoted to the Premier League.
The Bees’ strategy is well-documented, and remarkably effective.
They have sanctioned the sales of Daniel Bentley, Ezri Konsa and Romaine Sawyers for a combined fee of close to £20m this summer, and reinvested some of that money into several impressive signings.
Of those, Jansson from Leeds could be the game-changer.
Only a horror run between September and December following the loss of manager Dean Smith to Aston Villa – when they won one of 15 matches, conceding 28 goals – cost Brentford a tilt at promotion last term.
The Bees averaged the same number of points per game as third-placed Leeds across the rest of the season, and Jansson’s defensive acumen ought to stop any similar slumps occurring.
Keeping hold of Neal Maupay in the last week of the transfer window could be enough to earn them a spot in the top flight.
Brentford to win promotion
Biggest surprise: QPR
QPR have been widely tipped to struggle this season, but a late flurry of transfer activity should see them fare far better than expected.
The signing of Jordan Hugill, who scored 23 goals for Preston between August 2016 and January 2018 before being sold to West Ham, is particularly eye-catching.
With Matt Smith and Nahki Wells leaving the club, Hugill can fill the void upfront.
The return of Geoff Cameron in the last week of July was timely, while Todd Kane and Marc Pugh – both of whom were on loan at Hull last season – seem decent additions.
There is plenty to like about manager Mark Warburton, too, who struggled with difficult jobs at Rangers and Nottingham Forest but should be judged on the excellent Brentford side that he produced between 2013-15.
Warburton is regarded as a fine coach, and he is inheriting two excellent young players in Ilias Chair and Eberechi Eze.
Spearheaded by those two and with some other promising signings, QPR should be an entertaining team that produce some shock results and punch well above their weight.
QPR to finish in the top six
QPR to finish in the top half
Most likely flop: Derby
Derby generally relied on individual brilliance rather than a solid team effort to scrape into the play-offs last season, so don’t expect them to replicate that finish.
Key loanees Mason Mount and Harry Wilson have returned to Chelsea and Liverpool respectively, with the chances of them returning looking non-existent.
The pair scored 25 of Derby’s 69 goals last season, and supplied plenty more with their creativity.
The loss of Frank Lampard as manager to Chelsea is unlikely to hit the Rams too hard, but there are question marks over his replacement, Phillip Cocu.
The Dutchman did well at PSV between 2013-18, winning the Eredivisie three times, but failed at Fenerbahce as soon as he tried his hand beyond the Netherlands.
Considering that, at the time of writing, he has watched Craig Bryson, Ashley Cole, Bradley Johnson and others leave the club without being able to make a single signing of his own, his first job in England may prove a difficult one.
Derby to finish in the bottom half
It's going to be a tough season for: Wigan
Wigan were able to stay up by virtue of a couple of clutch results at the end of last season, but they will do well to maintain their Championship status this time around.
Paul Cook was blessed to have two of the best players in the division in his side last term: Chelsea loanee Reece James – who played in several positions, and was brilliant in all of them – and ex-Manchester United attacker Nick Powell.
Neither will be at the club this season, with James likely to be involved in the Chelsea first team and Powell moving to Stoke on a free transfer.
Beyond those two, there is little to be excited about. Callum Lang is under pressure to reproduce his heroics while on loan at League Two Oldham last season, with Gavin Massey and Joe Garner unlikely to score too freely.
Cook won’t rein in his attacking instincts, and that could lead to his side’s downfall.
Wigan to be relegated
Top of the charts: Neal Maupay
Supposing Maupay doesn’t secure a move to the Premier League in the next week, he will surely go close here.
The Frenchman is not only a good finisher, but also plays in a side that creates countless opportunities for him.
Brentford ranked second for key passes in the Championship last season, as well as finishing among the best in the division for xG across the campaign.
Their centre-forward plundered 28 goals in all competitions, including one in nine of his side’s last 10 matches at Griffin Park.
One of the most creative supply lines in the league should ensure that he gobbles up plenty more opportunities this term.
Neal Maupay to be Championship top goalscorer
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