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Npower Championship Preview 2012/2013 – Part 4

The wait is almost over, as in a couple of hours time Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town kick off the new football league season, in front of the Sky Sports cameras. Today will mark my final part of my season preview, as in part four I will be giving my opinions on Millwall, Nottingham Forest, Peterborough United, Sheffield Wednesday, Watford and Wolverhampton Wanderers…

Millwall
After participating in two consecutive seasons in the Npower Championship, it now seems that Millwall are an established Npower Championship outfit. After returning to the second tier in 2010/2011, Millwall have pleasantly gone about their business in impressive fashion, by finishing comfortably in their last two seasons. In the 2012/2013 season Millwall will be hoping to continue their trend and remain in and around the mid-table places, some might think a relegation battle is in on the cards for the Lions; however I think they are capable of avoiding a relegation scrap. Millwall are an accomplished outfit with very good players, they aren’t the most exciting team in the division but they will get the job done, many players impressed last season including Darius Henderson who notched up 15 league goals, while Liam Trotter was a pivotal part of the Lions midfield. Millwall also look impressive on the wings, with James Henry and Chris Taylor occupying them, while Andy Keogh will assist Darius Henderson on the goalscoring side of things. Millwall are an accomplished Npower Championship team, they may well struggle in parts this season, but they should avoid a relegation battle. Prediction 18th 

Nottingham Forest
After last season’s difficult season off the pitch, and dismal season on it, it has been a very positive summer at the City Ground. The Al-Hawasi family were appointed the new owners of the club, and Sean O’Driscoll has been installed as the new manager, after Steve Cotterill was relieved of his duties in July. O’Driscoll has been given serious amounts of money to spend on new players, and all of his signings so far have been very positive. Central midfield architect Adlene Guedioura has made a permanent switch to the City Ground, while O’Driscoll has replaced the departing defenders with new ones. Nottingham Forest’s new defence will have to adapt very quickly, or they could have another poor start to a campaign, Sam Hutchinson, Dan Harding, Danny Collins, Greg Halford and Daniel Ayala will all be part of the new makeshift defence, while young 18 year old prodigy of Jamaal Lascelles could make his major breakthrough this season. Nottingham Forest are capable of a top six finish, but the team may well take time to gel, understandably Forest should improve on last season’s dreadful 19th placed finish, as the top ten looks to be the most likely aspect in this campaign. Prediction 10th

Peterborough United
Peterborough had a very successful return to the Npower Championship last season, after they finished in a respectable 18th place. The 2012/2013 campaign may well be a tougher obstacle for Peterborough United, the league has grown in quality as more teams will be fighting it out for a place in the play-offs, for the Posh a top six finish is highly unlikely, and the best they could hope for is another sustainable mid-table finish. Darren Ferguson has had a change in fortunes, as he has so far kept hold of prize assets Grant McCann and George Boyd despite placing them on the transfer list; however last season’s number one goalkeeper Joe Lewis, has departed to Cardiff City. Peterborough are a talented side when on the attack, but the defence has a number of frailties, captain Gabriel Zakuani is the focal point of the Posh defence, but his fellow defensive counterparts may well struggle this season. Peterborough should be relatively strong in midfield, with new signing Michael Bostwick looking to impress in his first campaign at London Road; however the tricky winger of Paul Taylor has been the subject of a move away from the club. Second season syndrome may well occur at London Road, Peterborough are a good attacking outfit, but many sides are better equipped than them this season, as relegation to Npower League 1 looks to be a possibility. Prediction 23rd

Sheffield Wednesday
On the final day of the 2011/2012 campaign, Sheffield Wednesday found themselves promoted back to the Npower Championship, by battling to the final automatic promotion spot, at the expense of rivals Sheffield United. Sheffield Wednesday will want a comfortable campaign in this season’s Npower Championship; however on paper the squad doesn’t look strong enough to challenge amongst the league’s elite. It could well be a demanding season at Hillsborough, but manager Dave Jones has vast experience in this league, and could well be the difference between success and failure. Jones has made numerous signings over the summer including defenders Joe Mattock and Anthony Gardner, while new striker Chris Maguire has a point to prove after failing to make a breakthrough at Derby County. The one to watch for Sheffield Wednesday this season though, will be the exciting winger of Michail Antonio, who impressed the Hillsborough faithful with his skill, flair and match winning performances, the 22 old year has also made his loan move permanent ahead of the 2012/2013 campaign. Sheffield Wednesday will be hoping for solid season in the Npower Championship, but so far Dave Jones’s signings are underwhelming, while Gary Madine may well struggle to adapt to higher level league football. A relegation battle may well be on the cards, but relegation itself is unlikely. Prediction 21st

Watford
Like a few Npower Championship sides, Watford have also made serious changes to their staff and team ahead of the new Football League season. Sean Dyche who impressed as manager in 2011/2012, was sacked by Watford’s new owners, as they laid down their own foundations and appointed the respectable Italian Gianfranco Zola as the new manager. Watford have huge aspirations for the next couple of years, as they try and build a team that is capable of promotion, this campaign however may well be all about consistency as a stable season in the Npower Championship is the most likely outcome. Watford have brought in a number of loan signings from the Pozzo family’s other owned clubs, as Almen Abdi, Steve Leo Beleck, Matej Vydra and Alexandre Geijo all join from Italian side Udinese, while Ikechi Anya and Czech Republic international Daniel Pudil join from Granada. Some of these loan signings may well impress at Vicarage Road, while some may well struggle to adapt to English football; however it could well be a risk worth taking. It will also be a big season for central defender Fitz Hall, as he looks to fill the shoes of the highly rated Adrian Mariappa, who unfortunately departed to Premier League Reading. Finally winger Sean Murray, who burst onto the scene last season with a number of impressive displays, will play an even bigger role in 2012/2013, the skillful wideman will be an essential part of the Watford side, as his dangerous plays and goalscoring ability could well set the league alight. It should be a comfortable season for Watford, but their fans shouldn’t expect immediate fireworks, a mediocre mid-table campaign is the most likely outcome. Prediction 14th

Wolverhampton Wanderers
It wasn’t a major surprise to see Wolves relegated back the Npower Championship, after a horrendous campaign in the Premier League. Wolves could well find themselves back on the yo-yo pattern of promotion and relegation, as the West Midlands side are understandably one of the favourites for automatic promotion this season. Bouncing straight back into the Premier League is a huge possibility, despite the surprising appointment of the unknown Stale Solbakken, as the Wolves board plumped for a change in contrast as they appointed their first ever foreign manager. Solbakken has a lot of pressure to deal with, as he will see many players leave the club over the next couple of weeks including key figures, such as Stephen Ward, Matt Jarvis, Steven Fletcher and possibly Kevin Doyle. Despite these potential losses, Wolves will still have a very established side capable of promotion. All eyes will be on big summer signing Bjorn Bergmann Sigurdarson, who joins the club for a fee of £2.4 million, while Sylvan Ebanks-Blake will try and re discover the form which made him the Championships top goalscorer in 2008/2009. The fans will also be keen on seeing the progression of the youngsters, midfielders David Davis and Anthony Forde are most likely to feature this season, as they try and claim a place amongst the starting eleven. Wolverhampton Wanderers are a very strong outfit, and some may say like fellow relegated sides Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers, the Npower Championship is too good for them, Solbakken and his side should be amongst the top six for most of the season, while promotion itself is highly likely. Prediction 2nd

Final League Table Prediction
1)Bolton Wanderers
2)Wolverhampton Wanderers
3)Cardiff City
4)Birmingham City
5)Blackburn Rovers
6)Leeds United
7)Blackpool
8)Leicester City
9)Middlesbrough
10)Nottingham Forest
11)Hull City
12)Derby County
13)Brighton and Hove Albion
14)Watford
15)Huddersfield Town
16)Burnley
17)Charlton Athletic
18)Millwall
19)Crystal Palace
20)Ipswich Town
21)Sheffield Wednesday
22)Bristol City
23)Peterborough United
24)Barnsley

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