The 2023/24 Championship season returns from the international break this weekend so the relegation battle resumes.
Of course, everyone will want to be looking up the table towards the Premier League but there will be those closer to League One than the top flight, whose season will be about keeping their Championship status.
Last season, Reading, Blackpool and Wigan were the three to drop out of the Championship, with the former being relegated as a direct result of their six-point deduction. Replacing them in the Championship are Plymouth Argyle, Ipswich Town and Sheffield Wednesday from League One.
In recent seasons, newly promoted clubs have often done well in their consolidation into the second tier. However, at least one of them have gone back to the third tier in each of the last five seasons.
It is definitely a bigger leap from League One to the Championship than it used to be. Finances have changed a lot, parachute payments are having a big effect, and some clubs are feeling the pinch of FFP.
Who can best prevail against these issues, and who will fall by the wayside, across 46 matches of intensity and intrigue?
*Odds correct as of 22:20 on September 14
Who could be relegated from the Championship?
Leading the relegation odds are smaller clubs in the Championship pond, Rotherham and Plymouth. Rotherham managed to escape the constant cycle of promotions and relegations by retaining their spot in the Championship for another season. However, their relatively modest resources and limited squad depth raise concerns about their ability to survive in the higher division.
Plymouth, on the other hand, showcased their prowess in League One last season, amassing an impressive 101 points. But, the bookies are sceptical about their chances of a comfortable stay in the higher division. Their lack of experience in the Championship and the challenges of competing against established clubs might prove to be significant obstacles.
Other clubs that the bookies believe are potential contenders for relegation are Gareth Ainsworth’s QPR, Cardiff City, and the Yorkshire pair of Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday. While smaller clubs tend to face greater challenges in maintaining their Championship status, history has shown that surprises can often emerge, though it would be fair to say that more recent history has been slightly more predictable.
Although they aren’t high up on the favourites, it’s also worth taking a look at Middlesbrough who have opened their season with one point from five matches having made the play-off semi-finals just last season.
Rotherham were one of a few teams to just about do enough to secure safety in the Championship last season, finishing six points clear of Reading — though it must be noted the Royals did have a points deduction that widened the gap. After five games of the new season, Rotherham are once again among the favourites to go down, earning four points so far.
Despite having to come up through the play-offs in the end, Wednesday had a really strong League One season, scoring 96 points.
The problems, though, are plentiful. Darren Moore left the club, for reasons never fully explained, there were no real incomings, and Barry Bannan turns 34 this season, surely unable to drag the team to something special. They have picked up just one point this season, a draw just before the international break, and are only saved from bottom by goal difference.
Neil Warnock came in and worked miracles. Neil Warnock agrees to stay on. If Huddersfield don’t look like achieving much at the beginning of the season, does Neil Warnock stick around?
There are a couple of precedents for Warnock leaving mid-season recently, and at his age, does he need a season-long Championship relegation battle? If he does leave, will more appointments of the calibre of Danny Schofield and Mark Fotheringham follow? There are fears about the type of season Huddersfield could end up having, and they have won just four points from their opening five matches.
Queens Park Rangers
The current squad looks very short on depth and quality. Gareth Ainsworth did almost keep Wycombe in the league with a worse squad, but all of those players were singing from the same hymn sheet and had been built over years, this QPR squad is not that.
After losing three of their opening four games, QPR will be hoping to build some momentum off of their 2-0 win over Middlesbrough before the international break.