Newcastle United (Prediction 1st)
After relegation many expected Rafa Benitez to exit St. James’ Park, but the adulation from the Geordie faithful swayed the Spaniard to stay and plot their return to the Premier League.
A busy summer transfer window has recently seen Mo Diame (Hull City) and Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa) join the likes of Matt Ritchie (Bournemouth) and Dwight Gayle (from Crystal Palace) on Tyneside, compensating for the likes of Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool) and Andros Townsend (Crystal Palace) exiting the club for hefty transfer fees.
Confidence is high and with the ‘Rafalution’ bringing the feel good factor back, it is impossible to ignore the sheer size of the club as it prepares to mount a similar return to their previous one year stay in the Championship (2009/10 Season) where they amassed an incredible 102 points.
Newcastle start their campaign tonight with an away trip to Craven Cottage where they will face Fulham.
Mo Diame (Hull City)
Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa)
Matt Ritchie (Bournemouth)
Dwight Gayle (Crystal Palace)
Jesús Gámez (Atlético Madrid)
Isaac Hayden (Arsenal)
Grant Hanley (Blackburn)
Mats Selz (AA Gent)
Best of the Rest
Aston Villa joined Newcastle by dropping into the second tier, however with a new owner (Dr Tony Xia) and Roberto Di Matteo taking over as manager there is renewed optimism at Villa Park after a few abysmal years under the ownership of Randy Lerner. £12 million on Ross McCormack (Fulham) signals their intent to return at the the first attempt, but it won’t be plain sailing for the midlands club as the Championship can be very unforgiving.
Norwich City have become somewhat of a yoyo club recently, having enjoyed a Playoff victory in 2014, they were relegated after just one year in the top flight. Despite losing the likes of Ntahan Redmond (Southampton), they have managed to keep hold of the core of their team with playmaker Wes Hoolahan agreeing a new deal and Swiss Defender Timm Klose staying put. If Alex Neil can persuade Ireland star Robbie Brady to stay, added to the shrewd signings of Alex Pritchard (Tottenham) and Sergi Canos (Liverpool) then the Canaries could well be pushing for automatic promotion.
Derby County have flirted with promotion in numerous seasons, often falling short at the playoff stage, last season bowing out to eventual winners Hull City. New boss Nigel Pearson hopes to bring should bring some much needed mental strength to the team, having overseen Leicester City’s run away Championship win in 2013/14. If key players such as Jeff Hendrick, Will Hughes and Chris Martin stay fit, then anything is possible for Pearson and Derby County, another playoff failure is surely too much for the Rams fans to take?
Brighton & Hove Albion suffered defeat to Sheffield Wednesday in last seasons playoff semi-final, having run the top two for so long it was a disappointing end for Chris Hughton’s men. Unbeaten in their first 21 games last season, much rests on keeping the likes of Anthony Knockaert and Lewis Dunk at the Amex Stadium. Should push for the Play-off places.
Sheffield Wednesday endured a cruel defeat in last seasons playoff final, an incredible achievement for the Hillsborough faithful. Buoyed by a new sense of hope and talented manager in Carlos Carvalhal, Wednesday could be pushing for another top six finish if strikers Steven Fletcher and Fernando Forestieri can find form. When in full voice, Hillsborough is a fortress.
Wolverhampton Wanderers have had a busy summer, a £45m takeover from a Chinese company and the surprising dismissal of manager Kenny Jackett, with former Italian goalkeeper Walter Zenga placed in charge. If the promise of considerable funds is upheld then the midlands club could find themselves pushing the playoff spots. Much hope will be placed on the shoulders of Nouha Dicko who was an integral part of the much missed trio attack of Dicko, Afobe & Sako. This venture could go either way.