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The Championship: promotion contenders for the 2017/18 season

Tuesday 27th June 2017
It has already been too long. The Confederations Cup and the various youth international tournaments have simply sedated the craving; they are merely imitations of the real stuff. Ah, the real stuff: the Football League. Let us indulge once again - prepare yourselves for the next season by taking a look at those tipped for a promotion push in England's second tier. 

Aston Villa



The spending at Aston Villa has been curtailed recently, but with the squad at Steve Bruce's disposal, there can be no excuse if Villa is not pushing for an automatic spot. Bruce is an experienced manager with a talented group of players: it appears to be a perfect match, but his side was stagnant as the season ticked into its final stages last time out. Bruce will need to rejuvenate his disillusioned squad and ignite the passion that can so often be felt emanating from the stands at Villa Park.

Brentford



The Bees' were among the top scorers in the league last season and it is this potent attack that could lead Brentford's promotion charge. Sergi Canos, Lassi Vibe and Jota provide a continental flair that made for a cocktail of movement and panache last season. Brentford will have to be tighter at the back, but if they can correct this then there is no reason why the Bees could not fight for a play-off spot.

Cardiff City



Revitalised under the experienced stewardship of Neil Warnock, the Bluebirds will have their sights set on a play-off spot. Warnock has spoken of his desire to reach a record-breaking eighth promotion and will stop at nothing to get it. City developed the correct blend of discipline, energy and flair under Warnock and with Kenneth Zohore - an imposing yet deft striker. With him leading the line anything is possible for the Welsh side.

Derby County



Gary Rowett had led Birmingham into an unlikely play-off spot last season, that is until his bizarre dismissal for Gianfranco Zola - a move that triggered an astonishing free-fall saved only by the shrewdness of Harry Redknapp. Rowett is a young and energetic manager who will get the very best out of his squad; his commitment and enthusiasm have seen him likened to Eddie Howe, and he will be looking to replicate the same success Howe has had at Bournemouth.

Fulham



Fulham played the most attractive football last season but stuttered against the resolve of Reading in the play-offs. Slavisa Jokanovic has implemented an aesthetic ideology predicated on slick passing and intelligent movement. Many are tipping Fulham to compete for an automatic spot and rightly so.

Middlesbrough



Very rarely do sides relegated from the Premier League gain promotion at the first time of asking. It is with this in mind that new boss Gary Monk will prepare his side for the arduous battles of the Championship. Desperately unlucky not to have directed Leeds United to the playoffs last season, Monk has regained the reputation he had at Swansea as a bright and innovating coach. Boro will certainly compete next season, but whether they have the squad quality and stoicism to endure a promotion push remains to be seen.

Norwich City



The Canaries were joint top scorers last season, leaving many scratching their heads as to why they never really looked like being promoted. Daniel Farke took over for Alex Neil mid-way through last season, sparking life into a jaded outfit. Farke will have to ensure his side's attacking potency remains but must address the leaky defence that let in fewer only to relegated Rotherham, who were seemingly thumped on a weekly basis.

Reading



Reading participated in one of the most woeful playoff finals in living memory. Yet, this should not tarnish the work Jaap Stam has done in charge of the Royals: his side is organised and tactically adept. Stam - the former Manchester United centre-back - has employed a possession-based game that is geared at allowing Reading to dominate their opponents. Expect the same this season and expect Stam's side to once again be competing for promotion.

Sheffield Wednesday



Wednesday's Premier League dream has been dashed in the playoffs in two consecutive seasons and one gets the feeling that this is the last chance Carlos Carvalhal has at securing top-flight status. Struck by injuries to key men at key moments last season, Carvalhal's side grounded out results and were lamented as the ugliest side in the play-offs. Wednesday will be looking to return to the free-flowing game that characterised Carvalhal's first season in charge.
Michael Jones

Football & political writer with a predictable love of everything retro. English Literature undergraduate at the University of Exeter, looking to pursue a career in sports journalism. For a collection of my work, visit. http://mikejonesmedia.wordpress.com

Follow me on twitter: @jonesmichael_97


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