Thursday, 1 August 2013

Gabriel's Championship Predictions: Week 1

Burnley vs. Bolton

A historic fixture between two of the founder members of the football league, and I’m seeing an interesting derby game to open the season with. Bolton do have a strong squad, but their away record was the major stumbling block last season and they’ve had a disappointing pre-season. Burnley go into the game off the back of 4 straight wins from pre-season, so I think they’ll be in the right frame of mind. I’d fancy them to cause the season’s early surprise result, and win 3-1.

Barnsley vs. Wigan

It’s somewhat ironic that these two teams have been paired up on the first day, because for the past 8 years or so, they’ve been the league equivalents of each other. Often coming very close to relegation, yet ultimately having the belief to stay up. FA Cup winners Wigan couldn’t make the great escape again, but under Coyle they’ve brought well this summer, whereas I can see Barnsley lacking the quality to stay up once more. These two teams could be heading in different directions this season, and I reckon that’ll show on Saturday. 0-3.

Birmingham vs. Watford

As a Blues fan, I think Watford will be a big test for us. Because they’ve retained most of their loanees from last season, though thankfully not the impressive Matej Vydra, they’ll have had a lot longer to get used to this 3-5-2 system than us. In addition, they’ve had an excellent pre-season, getting some emphatic results and comfortably beating midtable La Liga side Granada. My heart is probably speaking more here, but after we beat Hull and Randolph has a great record for us in goal, I hope we can snatch a draw. 1-1.

Bournemouth vs. Charlton

I feel inclined to go with Bournemouth for this one. They had a particularly good home record last season in League One, they’ve brought in experience to their defence, and a potential wildcard goalscorer Mohammed Coudibaly from top Swiss side FC Grasshoppers. Charlton haven’t improved their squad too much, signing two players on a free, which suggests that the club are prepared to rest on their laurels a bit. Bournemouth to win 3-1, because they’ll be very motivated for their first game in the Championship.

Doncaster vs. Blackpool

Blackpool are beginning to look like a club in slow decline, which is somewhat symbolic of the town itself! They’ve lost Stephen Crainey, Neal Eardley and Alex Baptiste for nothing, who were an integral part of their defence last season, and 3 of the signings they’ve made were from the league below. Doncaster have strengthened their midfield, signing Marc De Val from Real Madrid’s ranks, although they’re yet to replace the retiring goalkeeper Neil Sullivan. At the moment, I would actually consider Blackpool to be bigger relegation-fodder than Doncaster, so I’ll back the Rovers to win 2-1.

Leeds vs. Brighton

This game may be something of an unknown quantity. McDermott was only appointed Leeds manager right at the end of last season, whilst Gus Poyet was sacked as Brighton boss this summer live on TV! The job Poyet did will be difficult to replace, guiding them from the third tier to the second tier play-offs, but their new manager could be looking to implement tiki-taka football, having had a lot of experience with the Barcelona youth system, and achieving success in Israel. Seeing as the Seagulls have certainly had the better pre-season, I might back Brighton to secure a win, and kickstart a new era of life after Gus. 0-2.

Middlesbrough vs. Leicester

Two teams who had a great first half of last season, but experienced a dip in form in the second. Drastically in Middlesbrough’s case, whereas Leicester managed to compose themselves to pinch a play-off spot right at the end. Middlesbrough lacked in creativity last season, and have brought in Dean Whitehead as their main signing, and Leicester have shown little ambition in the transfer market. I don't predict either side will reach the play-offs, and I’m thinking a goalless draw here.

Millwall vs. Yeovil

It’ll be a big test of the morality of the true Millwall fans, in terms of how they react to ex-Hammer Steve Lomas taking charge. They should give him a chance, because he’s attracted a number of experienced Championship players, such as Scott MacDonald and Nicky Bailey, on free transfers. They could be the goalscorers Millwall have lacked over the past 3 years. Yeovil will come out fighting as well for their first second tier game in their history, but I’ll back Millwall to find the moments of quality in their rejigged attack to win 2-1.

Nottingham Forest vs. Huddersfield

Huddersfield are my tip for relegation this season. They had the second worst goal difference in the league, and they’ve signed 4 strikers, which will be difficult to manage. They’ve lost to the likes of Chesterfield and Oldham in their pre-season, only winning the one game. Although Forest lost their form just at the wrong time under Billy Davies last season, the Scot will have had some time to get to know his players, he’s improved the depth of the squad this summer and they’re unbeaten in pre-season. I reckon a landslide win for Forest, 4-0.

QPR vs. Sheff Wed

QPR have managed to keep hold of a number of experienced, Premier League quality players which makes me think that Fernandes has more money than he perhaps lets on. But I do think complacency and motivation will be an issue, because judging by their performances last season, half the team only turns up for the pay cheque. This is far from the right frame of mind to enter what will be a very competitive Championship season. Only Millwall and Ipswich scored less goals than Wednesday last season, but they've since signed a much-needed forward, a wildcard in Atdhe Nuhiu from Rapid Wien.  I’m going to be controversial here and say a 0-1 away win for the Wednesday.

Reading vs. Ipswich

Nigel Adkins has taken a bit of a long-term approach at Reading, promoting a large number of players from the club’s youth system, but other than that the signing of ex-Madrid Royston Drenthe could be a good move. Ipswich have looked to address their goalscoring problem by bringing in a couple of experienced forwards in Daryl Murphy and David McGoldrick, and they’ve retained the core of their successful defence of last season. I could see Ipswich picking up a point, which would be a good result for them, 1-1.

Derby vs. Blackburn

Blackburn’s fortunes this season depend on whether the Venky’s are prepared to either give their manager breathing space, or hand the keys over to a businessman who has the faintest clue how football works. If you look through Blackburn’s squad, it’s still strong and they have some players who, given time to integrate, have the ability to compete at the right end of this league. For Derby, I think the quality in the teams who could be at the top, means it might be another season of midtable consolidation for their young guns. In some ways I admire what Nigel Clough is trying to do in building through the academy, but investment is needed if Premier League football is the objective – Derby haven’t done that. 0-2.

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