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The Football League Thread 2015/16

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Championship Preview


With the new Football League season fast approaching, we take a detailed look at what to expect from the Championship. Who will go up? Who will go down? Which players are worth keeping an eye on? Read on to find out..


Battle for promotion


Derby – 15/8

Despite agonisingly missing out on the play-offs last season under Steve McClaren, Derby County are Sky Bet's joint-favourites to be promoted from the Championship in 2015/16 and return to the Premier League for the first time since their relegation in 2008.

New boss Paul Clement has been busy in the transfer market since arriving from Real Madrid, adding the likes of Scott Carson to his squad, while Tom Ince and Darren Bent have joined permanently after spending last season on loan with the Rams.

If Clement adapts quickly to the managerial hot seat after several years working under Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea, PSG and Real Madrid, then Derby could take some stopping.



Paul Clement leads Derby into the new season as joint-favourites to be promoted



Middlesbrough – 15/8

For Aitor Karanka's side it was heartbreak at the final hurdle last season after falling to Norwich City in the Championship play-off final. But Sky Bet still have Middlesbrough at 15/8 to achieve promotion and join the top table.

The loss of Patrick Bamford, who scored 17 league goals last season, will be felt dearly, but the arrival of Stewart Downing from West Ham is a major coup.

The midfielder arguably enjoyed his finest Premier League campaign last season since leaving Boro in 2009, and his return home was something of a surprise.

If Boro can shake off their play-off hangover quickly, then expect them to be near the top again this season pushing for automatic promotion.



Stewart Downing (L) enjoyed arguably his most successful Premier League campaign last season, but has returned to Middlesbrough



Hull City – 11/4

Just 12 months ago Hull City were targeting the group stage of the Europa League, and not too many would have expected them to be back in England's second tier so quickly.

It's been a tricky summer so far for Steve Bruce, who kept his job but has spent most of his time so far trying to fend off advances for some of his better players.

Needless to say he wasn't best pleased about Ince leaving for promotion rivals Derby, and James Chester secured an £8m move to West Brom at the end of July.

The Tigers still possess a strong squad however, and Bruce is a manager who knows how to scrap his way out of the second tier, which is perhaps why Sky Bet still have them at 11/4 to complete an immediate return to the Premier League.



A difficult campaign last time out sees Steve Bruce's Hull back in the Championship



Brentford - 7/2

Brentford can consider a run to the play-off semi-final last season as a highly successful effort in their first second-tier campaign in 21 years.

That didn't, however, prevent club owner Matthew Benham from replacing manager Mark Warburton with the little-known Dutchman Marinus Dijkhuizen.

Despite this, Sky Bet still have Brentford at 7/2 to gain promotion in one way or another in the forthcoming season.

The Bees will have high hopes for midfielder Josh McEachran, who crossed west London to join from Chelsea, while defender Andreas Bjelland has arrived for a club record £2.1m from FC Twente.



Little-known Marinus Dijkhuizen has been appointed as Brentford's new head coach



Wolves – 4/1

Another to just miss out on the play-offs last season, Wolves eventually finished seventh and were denied a spot on goal difference after finishing level on points with Brentford and Ipswich Town.

It was their first season back in the Championship after their shock relegation a year earlier, and manager Kenny Jackett will be hoping to take Wolves one step further this time around.

Last season's top scorer, Bakary Sako, could prove to be a difficult man to replace. The Malian winger netted 15 in the Championship before leaving when his contract expired at the end of the campaign.

But Wolves are 4/1 with Sky Bet to return to the Premier League for the first time since 2012.



Bakary Sako will be a difficult man to replace at Wolves - he left when his contract expired



QPR – 4/1

A disappointing rock-bottom finish in the Premier League last season means QPR once again find themselves plotting a way out of the Championship. 

Chris Ramsey currently boasts an impressive squad, undoubtedly one of the best in the second tier, but it remains to be seen how many will still be there come the closure of the summer transfer window. Charlie Austin, Leroy Fer and Matt Phillips, in particular, seem destined for a switch to the top flight.

There will be plenty more comings and goings at QPR before September 1, but Sky Bet still has Ramsey's side at 4/1 to gain promotion in some shape or form.



Charlie Austin is currently still a Queens Park Rangers player, but looks destined for a move away



Fight to avoid the drop


Rotherham - 11/8 to be relegated

Favourites for relegation last season, even three docked points couldn't send Rotherham back to League One for 2015/16.

Thanks in part to the struggles of Blackpool, Wigan Athletic and Millwall below them, Steve Evans' side have lived to fight another day in the Championship.

But Sky Bet expects them to be in the mix for the drop once again, with the Millers 11/8 favourites to be flung through the trapdoor.



'Sombrero Steve' Evans managed to keep Rotherham in the Championship last season, but they are favourites for the drop



Charlton - 9/4

A 12th-placed finish in 2014/15 has not stopped Charlton Athletic being tipped for the drop this time round, reflecting the sheer competitiveness of the Championship.

Big German defender Patrick Bauer has arrived from Portuguese side Maritimo, while former Barcelona youngster Cristian Ceballos has joined on a free after being released by Tottenham.

The Add*cks will also have been disappointed to lose 18-year-old Joe Gomez to Liverpool after his breakthrough debut campaign, but will be hoping that Igor Vetokele can regain his explosive goalscoring form from the opening stages of last season.

The 23-year-old managed eight goals by late November, yet plundered just three more before the end of the campaign. If he can consistently fire, Charlton may be looking up rather than down.



Joe Gomez has swapped the Valley for Anfield and Charlton are second favourites for relegation



Bolton - 7/2

When the highlight of your season is a 36-year-old Emile Heskey arriving on a free transfer to score an equaliser on his debut, you know it's been an underwhelming season.

Bolton were another side to change their manager last term - and Dougie Freedman's replacement Neil Lennon will be hoping a full pre-season will help him get Bolton up the table.

Goalkeeper Ben Amos has arrived on a free transfer after leaving Manchester United, but it could still be another season of struggle for the Trotters, who are 7/2 to finish in the bottom three.



Neil Lennon will be hoping his first full season at Bolton can bring a better outcome than last time out



Dark horses


At 16/1, could MK Dons be the surprise package in the Championship this season? Admittedly, they only entered the division this summer after finishing second in League One, but it's been done before.

In 2010/11, Norwich - under Paul Lambert - rose through the divisions to achieve back-to-back promotions to the Premier League, and the following season Southampton did exactly the same.

MK Dons have brought in Wales striker Simon Church, and the arrival of Sam Gallagher on loan from Southampton could see plenty of goals flying in at the Stadium:MK.

Manager Karl Robinson could be the most important factor - the bright, young English boss is highly regarded in the game.  



MK Dons are the dark horses of the Championship under Karl Robinson (centre)



Players to watch


Demarai Gray (Birmingham City)

Having fended off strong interest from a number of Premier League clubs, Birmingham tied Demarai Gray into a new three-year contract this summer - a shrewd piece of business. The 19-year-old impressed last season, and is expected to get even better in the upcoming campaign.

Manager Gary Rowett was unequivocal in his praise, stating the England Under-20 international’s new deal as Birmingham’s “biggest signing of the summer so far”.

Star, talent, prospect… there’s a lot of pressure on Gray's shoulders to fire Birmingham up the league, but he certainly has the ability to achieve something special at St Andrew’s.



Demarai Gray signing a new contract was Birmingham's “biggest signing of the summer so far” according to Gary Rowett



Benik Afobe (Wolves)

Sharp-shooter Benik Afobe is an obvious inclusion in this list after scoring 32 goals last season. The former Arsenal forward netted 19 goals for MK Dons in League One in the first half of the campaign before replicating his form a league higher with Wolves.

A full, injury-free season at Wolves in 2015/16 would likely see Afobe among the leading names in the top scorer chart, and his goals are certain to be pivotal in the outcome of Wolves’ season.



Benik Afobe ® impressed at MK Dons and Wolves last season, and is expected to continue in much the same fashion



Lewis Cook (Leeds United)

Despite only being 18 years old, Lewis Cook played 37 of Leeds’ 46 Championship matches last season. His trophy shelf boasts the award for LFE Championship Apprentice of the Year and the Leeds United Young Player of the Year, and he’s been called up to England Under-19s. Not a bad start, you’d have to say.

Cook is a central midfielder best known for breaking up play in the heart of the team, quashing opponents’ moves to create one for his own team instead. He controls possession with a maturity that belies his age, and he is sure to be pivotal in Leeds’ league position come May.

After a number of years of managerial insecurity, Cook and his team-mates will be hoping Uwe Rosler can stick around long enough to create something meaningful at Elland Road. If he does, Cook is sure to be one to benefit and he could well be the linchpin of Leeds next season.



Lewis Cook (second right) could be the linchpin of Leeds United next season



Sam Gallagher (MK Dons)

Southampton youngster Sam Gallagher is a player that needs regular first-team football, and he's likely to get it on his loan spell at MK Dons. The Championship new boys have a manager in Karl Robinson that is keen on promoting youth, and a player like 6ft 4in striker Gallagher should fit perfectly into the team.

Following the conclusion of the deal on July 29, Robinson said of his new loanee: "I think everyone will be excited by Sam. He’s a player who I’ve watched closely for years, even before he broke into the first team. He’s a really talented player and it wasn’t something I thought we’d have the opportunity of doing."

As mentioned earlier, MK Dons could well be the dark horses of the division this season, and a player with the potential to be a Premier League regular in the coming seasons will only add to the excitement felt by Dons fans.



Sam Gallagher has joined MK Dons on loan and could help them record an impressive season



Opening weekend fixtures (7/8/9 August – 3pm unless specified)

Brighton v Nottingham Forest (Friday, 7:45pm on Sky Sports 5)

Cardiff v Fulham (Saturday, 12pm)

Leeds v Burnley (Saturday, 12:30pm on Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 5)

Birmingham v Reading

Blackburn v Wolves

Bolton v Derby

Brentford v Ipswich

Charlton v QPR

Hull v Huddersfield

Rotherham v MK Dons

Sheffield Wednesday v Bristol City

Preston v Middlesbrough (Sunday, 12pm on Sky Sports 5)



Following their promotion, Preston will begin life in the Championship at home to Middlesbrough, live on Sky Sports



Opta stats


- Ipswich and Middlesbrough won more home games than any other side in the Championship in 2014/15 (15).

- No player scored more penalties than Middlesbrough’s Grant Leadbitter (8).

- Last season Blackburn's Rudy Gestede scored the most headed goals (9).

- Giuseppe Bellusci of Leeds United was shown more yellow cards than any other player (13).

- Sheffield Wednesday were involved in eight 0-0 draws – no side was involved in more last season.

- Derby had the best shot conversion rate in the 2014-15 Championship (19.32%).

- No side hit the woodwork more times than Blackburn (26).

- Birmingham had the lowest possession average with 43.42%.

- Middlesbrough had the highest amount of clean sheets last season with 21.

- Charlton Athletic had the least shots in the league last season (367).

- Fulham and Watford both saw red seven times last season, while Ipswich were the only side not to receive a red card.

- Derby made 13 errors that led to goals last season, a joint-high with Blackpool.

- Ipswich Town's Daryl Murphy was involved in 32 of his team’s goals last season, a joint-high with Matt Ritchie of Bournemouth.

- Brentford's Alan Judge and Nottingham Forest's Michail Antonio had the joint-highest assists from open play (12).

- David Button of Brentford made 158 saves last season, the most in the league.

- MK Dons scored 40 goals in the first half and 61 goals in the second half – both league highs in League One.

- Preston lost only one home league game all season.

- Bristol City's Frank Fielding kept more clean sheets than any other keeper in League One last season (20).

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Where do you guys watch these games? Are any of them streamed?

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Sky show alot of the football league, majority of games have a streamed online too, check reddit/soccerstreams on the day

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good result against qpr on the weekend, probably get slumped by Derby on Saturday



how did cellabos look?

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good result against qpr on the weekend, probably get slumped by Derby on Saturday



how did cellabos look?



didnt even see the game or any highlights, was out most of the weekend

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