Championship Predictions 2017/18 (Part 2/4)

After three months of time off from the previous, and preparation for the new campaign, English Championship clubs are ready to get this season underway, with Millwall travelling to Nottingham Forest and Derby to Sunderland to get kick things off on Friday 4 August.

Following part one of my 2017/18 Championship predictions, which previewed sides 24-19, part two focuses on those I anticipate occupying places 18-13.

Ipswich Town's Portman Road

18th - Cardiff City

One of the most difficult teams to place, Cardiff finished the previous campaign in mid-table, having narrowly missed out on the play-offs a year earlier. However, while a couple of decent seasons have just passed by, Neil Warnock’s men may not have done enough over the summer to match recent performances.

With Warnock at the helm, it would be a great surprise to see Cardiff battling with the division’s bottom sides, but they will need the likes of Kenneth Zohore and new signings Daniel Ward and Lee Tomlin to be at their best to be completely sure of that.

The Bluebirds are yet to replace long-serving midfielder Peter Whittingham, and will therefore be relying on Aron Gunnarsson to continue the exceptional level he has shown throughout his career with the Welsh club.

17th - Preston North End

Coming off the back of an excellent top half finish, Preston have made few headlines throughout the summer, adding five players to what is a settled side and only showing the door to striker Jermaine Beckford.

Off the pitch, North End have replaced former boss Simon Grayson – who left to sign a deal with relegated Sunderland – with 26-year-old Alex Neil, who joins the club having experienced a range of emotions during his two-year spell as manager of Norwich City.

Preston will be buoyant having kept hold of star strikers Jordan Hugill and Callum Robinson, and will be excited by the signing of Manchester United midfielder Josh Harrop. Neil will however be keen to find a replacement for Aiden McGeady following the winger’s successful spell on loan last season.

Preston fans will be disappointed to see the back of winger Aiden McGeady

16th - Nottingham Forest

One of the division’s surprise packages last season for reasons they will care to forget, Nottingham Forest will be desperate to right the wrongs of a campaign that saw them finish above relegated Blackburn on the final day on only goal difference.

In Mark Warburton, the two-time European Cup winners have a coach with the ability to guide the club back to where they will believe they should be.

Focusing more closely on Forest’s transfer business, and there is room for optimism despite the £14 million sale of star man Britt Assombalonga to promotion favourites Middlesbrough.

Daryl Murphy has been brought in from ‘Boro’s North East rivals Newcastle as a short-term replacement, while England U19 international Ben Brereton has signed a new deal which would keep him at the club until 2021.

Forest, it could be argued, are still considerably short of the depth they would need to compete at the higher end of the Championship table.

15th - Barnsley

After finishing the previous campaign just below mid-table, Barnsley boss Paul Heckingbottom has been involved in a busy summer at Oakwell, with influential players leaving and promising additions ready to begin their careers with the club.

While the Tykes enjoyed a considerable amount of success in front of goal last time out, they did struggle to perform nearly as admirably at the other end, with only Norwich, Nottingham Forest and Rotherham conceding on more occasions.

The signing of Ezekiel Fryers may help to tighten the side up defensively, but the sale of influential skipper Marc Roberts is likely to worry Heckingbottom and his supporters alike, as will Marley Watkins’ move to Norwich.

In search of optimism, Barnsley fans need look no further than the permanent signings of Lloyd Isgrove from Southampton and Cameron McGeechan from Luton, whilst exciting youngsters Ike Ugbo and Joe Williams have joined on loan from Chelsea and Everton respectively.

14th - Ipswich Town

One of the Championship’s lowest scorers last season and a side with a manager in Mick McCarthy who prides himself on his team conceding as few goals as possible, Ipswich have provided scarce entertainment for either their own fans or any neutrals watching on other the past 12 months.

A major reason for the team netting just 48 times in that period was the sale of Championship top scorer Murphy in the summer of 2016, with McCarthy failing to replace the influential Irishman upfront, along with the lack of creativity from Town’s midfield.

Those issues have been addressed over the past three months, with Joe Garner - brought in from Scottish giants Rangers – exciting the Portman Road faithful with six goals in a promising preseason, while Emyr Huws and Tom Adeyemi will look to provide better service for the former Preston forward.

England youngsters Dominic Iorfa – on loan from Wolves – and Andre Dozzell are two worth keeping an eye on this season, but only if their manager opts for a more expansive style of play this time around.

13th - Sheffield United

Exceptional support, sound financial backing, a confident squad that has been improved, and a manager who is continuously proving his ability in the football league, Sheffield United may be the team to watch out for this season.

After storming to the League One title back in May – reaching the 100-point mark on the way – The Blades are in as good a position as any side mentioned thus far to push for a top-half finish at the very least. In captain Billy Sharp, manager Chris Wilder has a forward who has netted over 200 times in his career, and will be joined up front by returning striker Ched Evans, who found the net on 35 occasions for the club during their first season in League One back in 2011-2012.

A side that also boasted one of the outstanding defensive records on their way to the title, Wilder has added Richard Stearman and Enda Stevens to that stern defence, and has also brought in goalkeeper Jamal Blackman on loan from Premier League Champions Chelsea.

Richard Stearman is one of the standout additions to the Sheffield United squad this summer

Click the link to check out part one of my Championship predictions for the 2017/18 season, whilst part three and four are also online now.