Cardiff will challenge for promotion, while Swansea may have to settle for mid-table mediocrity in the Championship. This is the view of many leading bookmakers ahead of the new English Football League season which kicks-off the first weekend in August.
Despite a hectic campaign which saw the Bluebirds relegated back to the Championship after just a single season in the top flight, Neil Warnock’s men are expected to be among the front-runners for 2019-20, as they attempt to bounce back at the first attempt. And if the bookmakers’ are right, then Leeds and Fulham will occupy the top two spots in the table next season, with Cardiff and West Brom favourites to get promoted through the play-offs.
As things currently stand, Leeds are the favourites to win the title with prices ranging on Oddschecker from 4/1 to 9/2, although it is unclear how much the disappointment of missing out on promotion last season will affect the players in the upcoming campaign.
For most of last season, The Whites appeared to be cruising back to the Premier League after 15 years outside the top tier. But a dreadful final two months saw them lose five of their last nine league games, including a home loss against Sheffield United, allowing their Yorkshire rivals and Norwich to bag the automatic promotion positions. Their chances of going up via the play-offs ended at the hands of Derby.
One suspects Leeds will have to start the new season strongly to help shake off the gloom they suffered towards the end of the last campaign, otherwise a mood of despondency may well remain over Elland Road for many more months.
As for Cardiff, one word describes the 2018-19 season – tragic – following the terrible death of Emiliano Sala in a plane crash over the English Channel during January. Somehow, Cardiff still managed to retain the hope of avoiding the drop into early May but ultimately fell two points short as Brighton claimed the highly sought after 17th position in the final Premier League table.
Possibly because of Warnock’s many years of experience as a successful Championship manager, the bookies rate their chances highly of an immediate return to the top table. If you look at their opening five games – Wigan (A), Luton (H), Reading (A), Huddersfield (H), Blackburn (A) – they have been given an excellent chance to hit the ground running during August.
Meanwhile, Swansea, who were relegated from the Premier League at the end of 2017-18, ended last season 10th in the table – nine points outside the play-offs. And if the bookies are to be believed, it is not going to improve next season. Take a peek at the various prices on Oddschecker and you will discover Swansea listed 11th.
After seven straight campaigns in the Premier League, which also witnessed a famous triumph in the Capital One-sponsored League Cup at Wembley, they returned to the Championship in the summer of 2018, with Swans’ fans left to rue a dreadful end to the season.
Five straight defeats left them three points adrift of Southampton who had won 1-0 at the Liberty in the penultimate match. Back in the Championship, they failed to set the league alight last season and the bookies believe there will be more of the same in 2019-20. Graham Potter proved to be an inspired appointment as he got them close to the play-offs on a limited budget and invested purely in young players during his time at the club. Unfortunately, his work didn’t go unnoticed as Brighton snapped him up straight after the season ended.
Steve Cooper is the man tasked with following in Potter’s footsteps and his work with the England U-17s could be pivotal in bringing the best out of the team. He is a bit of a left-field appointment with his lack of domestic experience, but the Swans have been unconventional in their recent history with managerial signings and some of them were huge successes so this one could very well be the same.
They open up at home to Hull, before facing a difficult away trip to Derby – who reached the play-off final in May when they lost to Aston Villa at Wembley – and then Swansea (H), QPR (A) and Birmingham (H) in quick succession. As for the when Cardiff and Swansea will face other, their first league meeting is currently scheduled for Saturday, October 26th in Swansea, with the return on Saturday, January 11th, although it is possible these dates could change.