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Npower Championship 2012/2013 Preview – Part 2

Yesterday was my first of four parts of an Npower Championship preview for the season ahead, as I featured Barnsley, Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Blackpool, Bolton Wanderers and Brighton and Hove Albion. Today I turn my attentions to another six teams, these being Bristol City, Burnley, Cardiff City, Crystal Palace, Derby County and newly promoted Charlton Athletic, can any of these six teams mount a serious promotion challenge this season…

Bristol City
Last season yet again proved that Bristol City are slowly on the decline as an Npower Championship side. The 2011/2012 campaign proved to be their worst campaign, since returning to the second tier of English football five years ago, as Derek McInnes’s side finished in a lowly 20th place. Not much is expected of Bristol City in the 2012/2013 season, a relegation battle may well occur and relegation itself is a huge possibility. Over the summer McInnes has brought in some valuable players, including former Chelsea midfielder Jody Morris, goalkeeper Tom Heaton and young Irish left-back Greg Cunningham. These signings will benefit the side over the forthcoming season, but it’s in the forwards role where Bristol City are lacking serious quality, Brett Pitman will more than likely score the majority of Bristol City’s goals; however he will be very short of assistance, as target man John Stead and 24 year old Ryan Taylor, are unlikely to make major impacts. Bristol City could well be involved in a relegation battle this season, as I sadly believe their six year stay in the Npower Championship will come to an end. Prediction 22nd

Last season was no more than a consistent and stable one at Turf Moor, like fellow mid-table sides the final months of the season were nothing more than subdued. This season Burnley will be hoping for better, but with the league being even harder this year, another mid-table finish is expected from the Lancashire outfit. After the departure of Jay Rodriguez to Premier League newcomers Southampton, Charlie Austin will play an influential leading role for Burnley this season, there will be huge expectance on Austin to deliver the goals this season, while fellow strikers Danny Ings and Sam Vokes, will also play crucial roles. Meanwhile new signing Jason Shackell will captain the side, the sturdy defender will play a pivotal role in the heart of the Burnley defence, while the young pairing of Luke O’Neill and Joseph Mills have also been signed to bring a wealth of depth to the defence. The Clarets should have another solid and comfortable campaign in the Npower Championship, Eddie Howe is a highly rated manager and his current side are more than capable of staying in this division. Prediction 16th

Cardiff City
Disappointingly Cardiff City yet again missed out on promotion to the Premier League, as they felt the force of the demanding spectacle that is the Npower Championship play-offs. This season will be no different, a promotion challenge is this year’s assignment and nothing more than a top six finish will be seen as a failure. Cardiff City are one of the favourites for promotion this season, as Malky Mackay has yet again made serious adjustments to his side, the back four relatively stay the same despite the departure of Anthony Gerrard to Huddersfield Town. Joe Lewis has been snapped up from Peterborough United, as competition for the number one jersey, currently occupied by the highly regarded David Marshall. The most significant changes however have come within the forward line, the experienced Heider Helguson was snapped up on a free deal, while Mackay pulled two signings out of the hat, by bringing in Slovenian international Etein Velikonja and Cardiff born Craig Bellamy who rejoins the club after a loan deal in the 2010/2011 season, this time on a permanent basis. Cardiff City look well equipped for the campaign ahead, Mackay has yet again made aspiring signings, and with Peter Whittingham remaining at the club, the Bluebirds are a good bet for automatic promotion. Prediction 3rd

Charlton Athletic
It was a terrific 2011/2012 season at the Valley, as Charlton Athletic cruised to the League 1 title by surpassing the 100 point mark. Chris Powell has revitalised all of Charlton’s hopes since being appointed manager in January 2011, the former Charlton player has had a massive impact as the manager of the Addicks, as the former Premier League side look to be heading in the right direction under the well respected Powell. Charlton have hardly made any first team changes, as the summer transfer window so far has been a frustrating one, so far only Lawrie Wilson, Jordan Cook and Salim Kerkar have joined the London club. Chris Powell knows how to get the best out of his players, on paper they aren’t the most talented side in the division, but Charlton’s work rate should pay off in this 2012/2013 campaign. When promoted many fans believed that Charlton would be possible promotion candidates; however looking at the current team mid table stability may well be on the cards for Chris Powell’s side. They should pick up some very positive results, but at the end of the day I can’t see them pushing for promotion. Prediction 17th

Crystal Palace
In recent seasons for a team capable of promotion, Crystal Palace have seriously underperformed. They are slowly on the demise as a capable top six team, and are gradually heading to the forgotten pit of constant relegation battles. Last season the Eagles yet again found themselves finishing in a low but stable finish, and this season it could well be more of the same. Dougie Freedman has lost three crucial players over the summer months, the exciting winger Sean Scannell, the seriously talented Darren Ambrose, and young up and coming right-back Nathaniel Clyne have all departed from Selhurst Park. Freedman has also struggled to replace the fundamental trio, with his major signing coming in the shape of the versatile Joel Ward. Crystal Palace still remain with a mixture of youth and experience, season campaigners of Julian Speroni, Paddy McCarthy and Owen Garvan remain on Freedman’s books, while youngsters Wilfried Zaha, Jonathan Parr and Jonathan Williams are expected to make enormous impacts this season. Crystal Palace should find themselves safe this season, but a relegation battle is possible, Zaha needs to have another incredible campaign, or Crystal Palace could seriously struggle. Prediction 19th

Derby County
Derby County and Nigel Clough are looking to improve every season, last season Clough set out his benchmarks and he succeeded, as his side improved from a 19th place finish in 2010/2011, to a 12th place finish in 2011/2012. Clough’s next target will be to reach the top ten, and Derby are more than capable of succeeding. Clough’s only real loss this summer is central defender Jason Shackell who has headed to Burnley, but the 46 year old has found a suitable and efficient replacement in the force of Richard Keogh from Coventry City. Clough has also improved his midfield by claiming two talented acquisitions, as Michael Jacobs and Paul Coutts sign from Northampton Town and Preston North End respectively. The Rams also look more stable in attack, striker Theo Robinson will be crucial this season, expect him to make a massive impact in this season’s Npower Championship. The top ten beckons for Derby County, but I believe they will just miss out again, they have a decent side but it’s not exceptional, mid-table is more than likely in this campaign. Prediction 12th

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