Championship season preview: Five things to look out for7 September 2020
Last Updated: 07/09/20 8:08pm
A gap of just 38 days will separate the end of the 2019/20 Championship season and the start of the 2020/21 campaign.
On Friday evening, all eyes will be on Vicarage Road, where relegated Watford take on Middlesbrough in front of the Sky Sports cameras and, ahead of the first whistle, the Sky Sports EFL presenter David Prutton and commentator Gary Weaver have picked out five things to keep an eye on ahead of the new campaign...
Will Brentford recover from play-off final heartache?
Prutton: "In Thomas Frank, Brentford have the right manager in charge who tends to have an air of positivity no matter what circumstance, but they have to keep the players who have got them where they are. If the big players get cherry-picked, it's not back to square one but it gives them a hell of a task.
"You never know, Ivan Toney could hit the ground running but I don't think they are getting too carried away. They'll be disappointed to be so close but there will be an air of pragmatism, which is way Thomas leads the side."
Weaver: "I've mentioned to Thomas that Leeds bounced back from losing in the play-offs in the 2018/19 season and he noted that Leeds kept a similar squad in doing so; it looks as though Brentford are going to lose Watkins and Said Benrahma. That means he'll have to rebuild, though Brentford are used to doing just that.
Birm'ham vs Brentford
September 12, 2020, 12:00pm
"The new stadium is great, though. Sometimes they look similar to one another, but this has a unique feel about it. It's sandwiched inside three train tracks and will be brilliant for the club. The fans will be so close to the pitch."
How will the teams relegated from the Premier League fare?
Prutton: "We've spoken before about unknown quantities, such as Sabri Lamouchi or Carlos Carvahal, and now there's Vladmir Ivic at Watford. He's coming from a position where he understands and knows how to win, which is no mean feat wherever in world football. He might last 10 games or he might last the full season but I think, with the personnel at his disposal, he's got a chance in the Championship.
Watford vs M'boro
September 11, 2020, 7:00pm
"Then, with Bournemouth, you've got to say it's not just about getting players in because the reason they've ended up where they are is recruitment; players came in that didn't help them stay in the Premier League. Their journey sounds holistic and cuddly but it was monumental what Eddie Howe did. Where he took the club, he set the example for teams coming up and the shine doesn't come off."
Weaver: "I do like the look of Norwich, but I think the big thing is that they've lost their last 12 games in all competitions. I know they are bringing in new players but they have to turn the mentality around and it's not an easy task.
"They didn't want to get relegated from the Premier League but they are now in better financial position than last time around. They were never going to spend the money Fulham, Aston Villa spent as they weren't prepared to put themselves at risk."
Can Phillip Cocu steer Derby to the top six?
Prutton: "We talk about clubs who've been in the division for a long time now versus teams that have done what took Leeds 16 years to do, while Forest have been away from the top flight for two decades. The season has come around quickly and it's now there for them to make their mark."
Weaver: "The way they came back after the restart gave everybody hope of reaching the top six. From speaking to people around Cocu, it takes a while for the way he plays to take hold. When he was sacked for Fenerbahce, he couldn't believe it. The performance against Barrow in the Carabao Cup was almost like a year ago, with a slow tempo, but if they get up to speed, they have to be challenging for the top six.
"Wayne Rooney brought the level of players up around him last season and the longer he is there, the more the young players, in particular, will push on. The youngsters that are coming through there show it's a great breeding ground but they need to keep hold of those players - and they'll be thinking some of those could be picked off before the transfer window closes next month."
Warnock to replicate Cardiff success with Middlesbrough?
Prutton: "I can see them challenging. It's not a mirror image with Cardiff but he'll take inspiration from the fact he led them to a strong end to one season and then got them into the Premier League the next, which was a staggering achievement.
"With Neil, for a Saturday-Tuesday schedule, he will build a team that will be strong down the spine, with a bench packed with players who can change matches. You also can't get away from the hunger of the man in charge; his CV speaks for itself, the energy of the man is astounding and they'll need to keep up with him."
Weaver: "The big thing he wants is goals. He wants crosses and shots at goal. It's important for Boro that if they are going to challenge, he's got to het them scoring goals and it's a good sign that he's got strikers scoring under him."
Wycombe's fairy tale continues
Prutton: "It's similar, in a way, to Sheffield United bouncing up through the divisions. It's tactical nous and the manager, but it's chemistry as well. Even with the belief they've managed to create, they will need something special because if we are talking about them as a Championship team next season, I think Gareth Ainsworth will have done a wonderful job."
Weaver: "They put in an encouraging performance against Brentford on Sunday. They stood their ground and made their presence felt. I spoke to owner Pete Couhig and they are really excited about the challenge ahead. During pre-season last year they had nine players and 30 per cent budget cut.
"Even now, their budget will be the lowest in the Championship so they have a lot to contend with. It's a similar story to Burton a few years ago and they stayed there for a season, so if Wycombe can do that, it'll be just as big."
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