With the relegation of Sunderland last season, The Championship has proved that it holds no prisoners and that nobody is safe from the drop out of the division. Having said this, there are still some favourites for relegation. Just like my article on the promotion candidates, I am going to look at a few of the favourites as well as some teams that if they don’t get their act together could be in danger of slipping towards the trap door of English football’s second division.
With just one win this season it is obvious to see why Ipswich Town are in the favourites to get relegated this season, but with their one win coming last week in an impressive three-two win away at Swansea City, things may be looking up. They have players who have impressed for other sides and some who come into the team with something to prove in Jon Nolan and Jonathan Walters respectively. Paul Hurst masterminded Shrewsbury Town’s turnaround from relegation favourites to losing play-off finalists, I am sure the Tractor Boys will be hoping for similar at Portman Road.
Because of how close Bolton Wanderers were to relegation last year they had to be in the relegation favourites, but they have definitely had a better start to the season than last time around. They have signed a few new faces, the most interesting being Erhun Otzumer who was always a stand out performer at Walsall. Bolton now have a squad of some exciting talent and some regular faces to their fans and to The Championship, this experience will be vital come to the end of the season just like it was last season. The one thing Bolton may need to work on this season is being able to find the back of the net as they have only scored ten goals this season. This season may be slightly more enjoyable for Wanderers fans but they could be dragged into the relegation fight if they are not too careful.
It is very easy to pick on the sides that have been promoted to The Championship via the playoffs, this year has been no exception. Almost days after beating Shrewsbury Town at Wembley Stadium, Rotherham were already being spoken about as a side that could get relegated. With a squad based around players that got them promoted there is a good atmosphere the club, they have also brought in a few faces to boost their depth. However, none of the players that they have brought in seems to be game changers for them and are players that haven’t quite made it at other clubs around them in the league. This is an opportunity for some youngsters to prove themselves and they could surprise a few with their results but The Millers will be fighting for the majority of the season. They need to make the New York Stadium a very difficult place to go this season in order to survive.
Ones in Danger
Currently sat bottom of the league there was no way to end this list without Hull City who are in a world of turmoil, with owners alienating fans and trying to take the club away from them, things are not well at Hull City. But the players need to keep the focus on the pitch and not worry about what is going on off it. They have picked up two wins this season against Rotherham United and Ipswich Town, which is what you need to do in any league, beat the teams around you. The sides in automatic and play-off places are bonus points during the season. Although they may not be the players they once were Chris Martin and Frazier Campbell are both goal scorers and given the right service they can fire the Tigers out of the bottom three.
Neil Harris’ men made a late playoff push last year, with their impressive home form being a catalyst of this. However, they have made an underwhelming start to the season with just two wins this season. This being said the two games they have won have been at The Den and both against teams who should be up there at the end of the season in Aston Villa and Derby County. They have firepower up front in Steve Morrison and Lee Gregory who have scored plenty of goals for Millwall during their stints at the club. Millwall also have the ex-Barnsley man Tom Bradshaw who has proved he can score at this level. All Millwall need to do is turn The Den into a fortress again.
Preston North End
Goals have been flowing this season in games involving Preston North End, but the problem for Alex Neil’s men has been that they are getting outscored. I went to watch Preston in the Carabao Cup against Middlesbrough and they looked good going forward but looked very suspect at the back. If Preston can put these problems behind them then they will escape relegation. But if their leaky defence continues to be a problem then Neil’s side will be in trouble. You do not put yourself in a good position when you are conceding two or three goals a game and rely heavily on attackers to win you games. If Preston cannot grind out some narrow wins then they will be battling come May.
The draw specialists this season with eight already, Birmingham City really need to start turning some of these into wins to pull themselves away from the bottom three. The draws cannot be good for morale, even though they are showing promise in these matches, City are throwing away a lot of leads and spurning chance after chance. As good as it is that they are creating chances if they cannot hold onto leads once they get there then they will struggle and it is becoming a regular theme in The Championship to have Birmingham City still battling on the last day of the season.