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Coral’s Championship contenders for Premier League promotion

The Football League is back, and the prize for winning the Championship remains as attractive as ever. Coral experts consider who can challenge for Premier League promotion and play-off places in the second tier this term.

Cardiff City
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is expected to steer the Bluebirds back into the top-flight at the first time of asking. The Welsh capital club are 15/2 favourites to lift the Championship title for the second time in three seasons.

Cardiff are a shorter 12/5 in the promotion market because of strong recruitment in the striker department – Adam Le Fondre and Federico Macheda should be a potent partnership at this level. While the Bluebirds have lost Craig Bellamy and Fraizer Campbell in attack, plus Steven Caulker at the back, they have so far kept hold of other assets.

Derby County
Rams head coach Steve McClaren can build on the play-off final heartbreak by delivering promotion with his young side this term. County are 13/5 in this market and, at the time of writing, closing in on Leon Best to bolster their attack. As Derby still have the vast majority of their performers from last season on their books, including Will Hughes, they will mount a strong title challenge (8/1).

Wigan Athletic
Another side who came up short in the play-offs, Uwe Rosler is 3/1 to lead the Latics back into the Promised Land. The goals of Jordi Gomez and Nick Powell may have gone, but Wigan fans should see Shaun Maloney and Ben Watson back to their best this term after long injury lay-offs. Their formidable home record will see the DW Stadium remain a fortress.

Fulham
Felix Magath has had a huge clear-out at Craven Cottage following relegation, largely placing his faith in players from Europe. The £11m signing of last season’s Championship top scorer Ross McCormack (9/1 to achieve this accolade again) is a game-changer, however. Fulham are 3/1 for promotion. German youngster Thomas Eisfeld, signed from Arsenal, is another to look out for.

Norwich City
Managerial novice Neil Adams was given the green light by the Canaries board to succeed Chris Hughton permanently, despite a caretaker spell that saw him fail to win and the East Anglia outfit go down. Robert Snodgrass, Norwich’s player of the season last term, has already moved on, while Dutch forward flop Ricky van Wolfswinkel could quit Carrow Road for a move to France.

Compatriot Leroy Fer is a midfield target for QPR and winger Nathan Redmond is reportedly coveted by Southampton, so the exits look far from done. Norwich’s promotion hopes (10/3) hinge on new signings Lewis Grabban and Kyle Lafferty forming a prolific partnership up front. Gary Hooper could contribute more in attack too, so a top six finish at evens looks more likely.

Watford
A second loan spell at Vicarage Road for Czech talent Matej Vydra has propelled the Hornets into the promotion picture. If the partnership with Troy Deeney is quickly reprised in attack, then odds of 7/2 on Watford going up are tempting. A top six finish seems assured at 5/4.

Blackburn Rovers
Two words: Jordan Rhodes. This Football League goal machine could fire Blackburn back into the big time, and is a 6/1 shot to scoop the Championship top scorer prize along the way. With Rudy Gestede up top alongside him, the creativity of Tom Cairney and Craig Conway behind them, and Jason Lowe and Grant Hanley providing a solid spine, odds of 5/1 on Rovers returning to the Premier League look tasty.

Nottingham Forest
Landing long-time targets Chris Burke, as a supply line, and Matty Fryatt, to spearhead the attack, mean Forest are more than an outside shout in the promotion push. Lars Veldwijk has also arrived at the City Ground, giving Stuart Pearce a target man option in attack too. It’s 6/1 that Psycho can take the Reds up, while odds on a top six finish are decent at 11/5.

Brighton and Hove Albion
The Seagulls have appointed former Liverpool sweeper Sami Hyypia to try and get them automatically at the third time of asking. It’s 7/1 on Albion getting promoted, but they have lost top scorer Leonardo Ulloa to Leicester City. An 11/4 price on a top six finish, especially with Craig Mackail-Smith fit after injury, are perfectly possible yet again.

Bournemouth
Cherries coach Eddie Howe won the race to net in-demand Coventry City star striker Callum Wilson, but the youngster has big boots to fill following Grabban’s departure to Norwich. Bournemouth ran out of steam last term, but are 3/1 to get into the top six this time around, and 15/2 for promotion.