Last season two relegated teams shot straight back up to the Premier League and it is difficult to envisage
Fulham, Sheffield United and West Bromwich Albion not being in the mix in May. Fulham’s squad, led by Marco Silva, is arguably the strongest – Aleksandar Mitrovic equates to a cheat code (he has scored 38 goals in his past 57
appearances in this division) and the gifted Harry Wilson is an outstanding performer at this level – but their former manager Slavisa Jokanovic, now at Bramall Lane, is one of the best coaches to have graced the division in recent history.
Jokanovic can call on the majority of the Blades squad promoted two years ago, and Rhian Brewster can shine unburdened.
West Brom haemorrhaged goals in the top flight but Matt Clarke will improve the defence and Alex Mowatt, reunited with Valérien Ismaël, will beef up the midfield.
Matheus Pereira is set to depart but Grady Diangana, Karlan Grant and Callum Robinson will have defenders running back to goal.
Bournemouth, Stoke and Middlesbrough, under the watch of Neil Warnock, who has eyes for a record ninth promotion, could provide the stiffest competition.
Beyond the teams relegated from the Premier League, the bulk of rivals appear much of a muchness. Cardiff City possess a golden boot contender in Kieffer Moore but, crucially,
will be supplemented by James Collins, and Ryan Giles is a shrewd loan acquisition from Wolves. Queens Park Rangers excelled from January and in Charlie Austin, who has re-signed permanently,
they have one of the league’s most clinical strikers. Nottingham Forest were erratic last season but have a healthy spine and it would be foolish to rule them out given Chris Hughton’s pedigree.
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Twelve months ago, Hull City were shrouded in doom and gloom after relegation and a run of one win in 21 matches but a buccaneering team, promoted as champions, return with a bounce;
Randell Williams adds to an exciting frontline and the 22-year-old goalkeeper Nathan Baxter, who has played more than 150 games on loan from Chelsea, steps up another division.
Swansea City, play-off finalists in May, will hope the appointment of Russell Martin will breathe life into what promises to be a challenging campaign after the exit of André Ayew, loanees such as Marc Guehi moving on and the expected departure of captain Matt Grimes.