2019-20 Sky Bet Championship Fixture Analysis

Last Thursday saw the new Premier League fixtures released ahead of the 2019-20 season, so its now time for the Sky Bet Championship to reveal their fixtures for the coming campaign. 

This summer has already seen a series of changes from new managers arriving to the return of Huddersfield, Fulham and Cardiff whilst up come Luton, Barnsley and Charlton.

Now without further ado, let crack on with looking at how each team’s season is set to play out over the coming nine months, once the season starts on weekend of 3rd August.

 

Barnsley

Opening Fixtures Closing Fixtures
Fulham (H) Stoke (A)
Sheffield Wednesday (A) Luton (A)
Charlton (H) Wigan (H)
Birmingham (A) Leeds (H)
Luton (H) Nottingham Forest (H)
Wigan (A) Brentford (A)

After one season away in League One, Barnsley have quite an interesting season in store because rough is probably the best way to describe their whole season. 

October particularly looks tough with fixtures against teams like Derby, Swansea and Huddersfield so home form is going to be crucial throughout the entire campaign I feel. 

Safety in itself therefore would definitely be an achievement for the Tykes. 

 

Birmingham City

Opening Fixtures Closing Fixtures
Brentford (A) Fulham (A)
Bristol City (H) Swansea (H)
Nottingham Forest (A) Stoke (A)
Barnsley (H) Charlton (H)
Swansea (A) Preston (A)
Stoke (H) Derby (H)

Currently without a manager and planning to promote more academy players, Birmingham should be worried because their start looks very tricky with Barnsley at home their best hope of points. 

A slow start for the Brummies is therefore my tip but expect this team to be pushing for play-offs if can take points against the tougher looking fixtures, especially during their run-in. 

March in particularly could be defining with three home games that month so this could be an intriguing season at St Andrews’ that is hard to call right now. 

 

Blackburn Rovers

Opening Fixtures Closing Fixtures
Charlton (H) Leeds (H)
Fulham (A) Cardiff (A)
Middlesbrough (H) West Brom (H)
Hull (A) Millwall (A)
Cardiff (H) Reading (H)
West Brom (A) Luton (A)

With a great manager in Tony Mowbray, Blackburn shouldn’t fear these sets of fixtures, although the start of their run-in is perhaps their toughest yet potentially season defining if in the promotion mix. 

In summary, Blackburn should be a team to watch out for if have the right squad because they’re capable of challenging the big guns this season. 

 

Brentford

Opening Fixtures Closing Fixtures
Birmingham (H) Wigan (H)
Middlesbrough (A) Charlton (H)
Hull (H) Derby (A)
Leeds (A) Preston (H)
Charlton (A) Stoke (A)
Derby (H) Barnsley (H)

Brentford’s biggest issue in recent seasons have been slow starts but should realistically be aiming for seven points from their opening six this time around.

If can achieve that and continue to grow throughout the campaign as they usually do, I can see them firmly in the promotion mix because their closing six look very strong and if can overcome Derby and Stoke away, they should be right up there come the final day.

I however can see the festive season being the Bees’ defining point of this campaign with games against West Brom (A), Swansea (H), Millwall (A) and Bristol City (A) potentially proving decisive as to how their second half of this season plays out.

All in all, Brentford fans have cause for real optimism here as the club says farewell to Griffin Park.

 

Bristol City

Opening Fixtures Closing Fixtures
Leeds (H) Cardiff (H)
Birmingham (A) Hull (H)
QPR (H) Middlesbrough (A)
Derby (A) Stoke (H)
Hull (A) Swansea (A)
Middlesbrough (H) Preston (H)

Having twice gone close towards the Play-Offs in the last two seasons, Bristol City have a huge opportunity to get some early points on the board if maximise their home form plus take points off likes of Derby and Hull. 

Ultimately, my biggest worry regarding the Robins is that their run-in could once again be their undoing because all six opponents during the closing stages will surely all be in the play-off hunt, which is when they have tended to falter. 

In simple terms, Bristol City need to be pitch perfect throughout the entire season otherwise the phrase ‘third time lucky’ could well prove to be unlucky for them. 

 

Cardiff City

Opening Fixtures Closing Fixtures
Wigan (A) Bristol City (A)
Luton (H) Blackburn (H)
Reading (A) Fulham (A)
Huddersfield (H) Derby (H)
Blackburn (A) Middlesbrough (A)
Fulham (H) Hull (H)

Having come straight back down after one season in the Premier League, Cardiff really should make their start count given how tough their run-in looks.

If can keep the majority of last season’s squad then nine points after three games should definitely be possible but realistically, it is going to be games against teams like Derby and Fulham which are going to define Cardiff’s season.

Perhaps on that note, its a good thing that Cardiff’s run-in is brutal but I can see them slipping up at some point during those games but whether it proves costly should be an exciting watch.

Either way, Derby is definitely a team to watch out for at the top throughout this season.

 

Charlton Athletic

Opening Fixtures Closing Fixtures
Blackburn (A) Millwall (H)
Stoke (H) Brentford (A)
Barnsley (A) Reading (H)
Nottingham Forest (H) Birmingham (A)
Brentford (H) Wigan (H)
Reading (A) Leeds (A)

If this season is anything like previous Championship outings, I am expecting Charlton to struggle. 

My gut instinct says that Charlton are in for a slow start with points being picked up here and there, although their run-in could define their season as Brentford and Leeds aside, the other four could also be scrapping for survival come April. 

I therefore can see a very scrappy season for the Addicks because they really don’t look strong enough to mount a midfield push but safety would be a decent outcome. 

 

Derby County

Embed from Getty Images
Opening Fixtures Closing Fixtures
Huddersfield (A) Nottingham Forest (H)
Swansea (H) West Brom (A)
Stoke (A) Brentford (H)
Bristol City (H) Cardiff (A)
West Brom (H) Leeds (H)
Brentford (A) Birmingham (A)

Irrespective of who is in charge come the opening weekend, Derby’s promotion credentials are definitely going to be tested at both ends of the season after painfully losing last season’s Play-Off Final. 

It’s therefore hard to predict how this season will play out but getting wins over the likes of Luton and Charlton are now surely absolute musts, otherwise the Rams can kiss goodbye to an automatic promotion challenge. 

Putting Derby’s fixtures into context, I would say that they are going to have to go and win the lesser games but squeezing valuable points out of games against teams like West Brom and Leeds will define their season. 

 

Fulham

Opening Fixtures Closing Fixtures
Barnsley (A) Birmingham (H)
Blackburn (H) Nottingham Forest (A)
Huddersfield (A) Cardiff (H)
Millwall (H) West Brom (A)
Nottingham Forest (H) Sheffield Wednesday (H)
Cardiff (A) Wigan (A)

As Scott Parker prepares for his first full season as a manager, he will surely be pleased with how Fulham’s season is shaping up. 

Their start in particular looks good with Huddersfield and Cardiff the only two tough games early on but in terms of their early points targets, I am not making any judgement after numerous defensive shambles last season which will definitely face a tough test early on.

Home form however has been the Cottagers’ bright spark in past two seasons so if can rediscover their away form, West Brom will the only real test come the run-in so definitely a season which is too early to predict at Craven Cottage.  

 

Huddersfield Town

Opening Fixtures Closing Fixtures
Derby  (H) Preston (H)
QPR (A) Reading (A)
Fulham (H) Luton (H)
Cardiff (A) Sheffield Wednesday (A)
Reading (H) West Brom (H)
Luton (A) Millwall (A)

After a lacklustre campaign which led to relegation, Huddersfield face a rude awakening to life back in the Championship, although their run-in is kinder. 

Last season’s Play-Off losers – Derby plus their two fellow relegated rivals in their first four games of the new season is a harsh start, so a win at QPR is a must if they are instil confidence in pushing for an instant return to the promised land. 

February however is going a pivotal month for the Terriers with only Charlton and QPR looking their bet at points out of seven matches, which include clashes with Cardiff, Derby, Swansea and Bristol City all within a fortnight mid-month. 

If they do indeed survive that month plus their tricky start then I can see Huddersfield still in the hunt for promotion come March.

 

Hull City

Opening Fixtures Closing Fixtures
Swansea (A) West Brom (A)
Reading (H) Bristol City (A)
Brentford (A) Millwall (H)
Blackburn (H) Wigan (A)
Bristol City (H) Luton (H)
Millwall (A) Cardiff (A)

Currently without a manager, Hull should be pleased with how their season is looking because they have a decent start unlike some teams. 

Personally I feel that Hull should aim for seven points at minimum from their opening six games because they’re all winnable and likewise with their closing six, although successive away trips to West Brom then Bristol City could be key to their promotion hopes. 

As for any tricky months, November is probably their toughest with Fulham (A), West Brom (H), Middlesbrough (A) and Preston (H) all potential stumbling blocks but Hull’s schedule looks strong enough for a play-off push. 

 

Leeds United

Opening Fixtures Closing Fixtures
Bristol City (A) Blackburn (A)
Nottingham Forest (H) Stoke (H)
Wigan (A) Swansea (A)
Brentford (H) Barnsley (H)
Stoke (A) Derby (A)
Swansea (H) Charlton (H)

After last season’s impressive performance, Leeds are definitely in for an early test because I am expecting Bristol City and Forest to be stronger opposition whilst Wigan away are probably their best opportunity for three easy points early on. 

This season therefore probably going to be tougher for Marcelo Bielsa’s men if they want promotion, especially with March seeing them face the three relegated teams within ten days. 

Their run-in however looks better with Barnsley and Charlton at home likely to provide six vital points, even if this is going to be one of Leeds’ toughest seasons in a long time. 

 

Luton Town

Opening Fixtures Closing Fixtures
Middlesbrough (H) Reading (H)
Cardiff (A) Barnsley (H)
West Brom (H) Huddersfield (A)
Sheffield Wednesday (A) QPR (H)
Barnsley (A) Hull (A)
Huddersfield (H) Blackburn (H)

Having survived a mid-season managerial change to secure promotion, Luton are definitely going to need to impose their philosophy immediately if are to fight established top teams. 

If I was a Luton fan, I would therefore look at their opening six as a huge chance to send out a message that we are not here to make up the numbers, even if Barnsley would be our first realistic opportunity at taking a win. 

Likewise with the run-in if scrapping for survival because only Huddersfield looks a right stumbling block, which might be worth losing if can get enough points elsewhere this season. 

Speaking overall, I can see Luton either struggling or surprising with a strong push towards the top ten because they haven’t been in the second tier yet this century which makes them unpredictable. 

 

Middlesbrough

Embed from Getty Images
Opening Fixtures Closing Fixtures
Luton (A) QPR (H)
Brentford (H) Millwall (A)
Blackburn (A) Bristol City (H)
Wigan (H) Reading (A)
Millwall (H) Cardiff (H)
Bristol City (A) Sheffield Wednesday (A)

It’s all change at the Riverside this summer as Jonathan Woodgate takes over as a rookie manager.

I therefore would say that Boro have a kind start with only Blackburn and Bristol City their two difficult games early doors, although it’s bound to take time for the team to gel under Woodgate. 

Looking at the bigger picture, Boro do have a favourable schedule but late October will be key with home games against West Brom and Fulham in between a midweek trip to Huddersfield providing their toughest test of the whole season. 

This season therefore hinges on Woodgate’s tactics because the squad is there for a promotion challenge if can get their game plans correct. 

 

Millwall

Opening Fixtures Closing Fixtures
Preston (H) Charlton (A)
West Brom (A) Middlesbrough (H)
Sheffield Wednesday (H) Hull (A)
Fulham (A) Blackburn (H)
Middlesbrough (A) QPR (A)
Hull (H) Huddersfield (H)

Having struggled their way to safety last season, Millwall are definitely in for an interesting season because I can see a slow start here with home form potentially key to their survival. 

Millwall therefore should particularly focus on getting maximum points against teams like Charlton, Luton and Reading because they are also bound to be fighting the drop, particularly because their run-in could well come down to needing around seven points to secure another season at this level.

 

Nottingham Forest

Opening Fixtures Closing Fixtures
West Brom (H) Derby (A)
Leeds (A) Fulham (H)
Birmingham (H) Preston (A)
Charlton (A) Swansea (H)
Fulham (A) Barnsley (A)
Preston (H) Stoke (H)

Having enjoyed a solid season last time out, Nottingham Forest could very well be better placed for a promotion tilt if can come through their opening three games with at least five points. 

In fact, if they can improve their form against teams around them and take a step forward against the stronger opposition like Leeds and Cardiff then I can actually see them enjoying a strong campaign under Martin O’ Neill. 

 

Preston North End

Opening Fixtures Closing Fixtures
Millwall (A) Huddersfield (A)
Wigan (H) Sheffield Wednesday (A)
Swansea (A) Nottingham Forest (H)
Stoke (H) Brentford (A)
Sheffield Wednesday (H) Birmingham (H)
Nottingham Forest (A) Bristol City (A)

Preston have been around the top ten in recent seasons but need to start making a push for play-offs and with a solid start, they could do it if can get their season underway quickly. 

Across their opening and closing sets, Preston have a lot of winnable games if can avoid an injury crisis unlike last season and if like Forest, they can get more points against those around them and above then this could be a stronger campaign than usual. 

 

QPR

Opening Fixtures Closing Fixtures
Stoke (A) Middlesbrough (A)
Huddersfield (H) Wigan (A)
Bristol City (A) Sheffield Wednesday (H)
Swansea (H) Luton (A)
Wigan (H) Millwall (H)
Sheffield Wednesday (A) West Brom (A)

After a solid yet unspectacular season, QPR definitely will be hoping for better under new manager, Mark Warburton who has a rebuilding job on his hands with a solid squad full of potential. 

Another slow start therefore wouldn’t be surprising but hopefully they should be capable of pushing for victories quite quickly, and their run-in looks quite favourable with Middlesbrough and West Brom their only real concerns. 

I therefore can see an improvement on last season but should be another mid-table finish unless Warburton can work wonders which will take time. 

 

Reading

Opening Fixtures Closing Fixtures
Sheffield Wednesday (H) Luton (A)
Hull (A) Huddersfield (H)
Cardiff (H) Charlton (A)
West Brom (A) Middlesbrough (H)
Huddersfield (A) Blackburn (A)
Charlton (H) Swansea (H)

Reading have really underperformed in recent seasons although showed signs of promise under Jose Gomes during the second half of last season – losing one of their last six, so might be one of this season’s surprise packages.

Nevertheless, they do have a tough start but if can get two wins from their opening three, they could provide a stronger test at the Hawthorns and John Smith Stadium than many would expect before going on to have a more competitive season. 

Defence however could be their thorn like last season but if can pick up where they left off from May with the right reinforcement from the transfer window, this run-in might be easier than usual for them but not enough to challenge for promotion yet. 

 

Sheffield Wednesday

Embed from Getty Images
Opening Fixtures Closing Fixtures
Reading (A) Swansea (A)
Barnsley (H) Preston (H)
Millwall (A) QPR (A)
Luton (H) Huddersfield (H)
Preston (A) Fulham (A)
QPR (H) Middlesbrough (H)

Given Steve Bruce’s experience as a manager, I am expecting Sheffield Wednesday to be back in the promotion mix and their start is favourable. 

The only danger early on is probably Reading for reasons explained above but if can get a strong run together across the season, they could well be assured of a play-off spot by late April otherwise they need to make their home games against Huddersfield and Middlesbrough count. 

A strong season therefore is what I am expecting but the final stages could be where their season unravels if not careful.

 

Stoke City

Opening Fixtures Closing Fixtures
QPR (H) Barnsley (H)
Charlton (A) Leeds (A)
Derby (H) Birmingham (H)
Preston (A) Bristol City (A)
Leeds (H) Brentford (H)
Birmingham (A) Nottingham Forest (A)

After a difficult first season back in the Championship, Stoke have a great opportunity to form an early promotion tilt if can gather around eight points or more from their opening six.

September and October however could be important in shaping their season with seven of eight games seeing the Potters face teams likely to be around them in the table.

If they can come through that period with a solid haul of points then anything is possible throughout the rest of this season, even if the run-in does look slightly testing with Leeds and Bristol City away.

 

Swansea City

Opening Fixtures Closing Fixtures
Hull (H) Sheffield Wednesday (H)
Derby (A) Birmingham (A)
Preston (H) Leeds (H)
QPR (A) Nottingham Forest (A)
Birmingham (H) Bristol City (H)
Leeds (A) Reading (A)

Having lost Graham Potter to Brighton, I don’t know what to expect of Swansea under Steve Cooper. 

Those opening six games are therefore going to be key in my eyes to determining how their season could play out because if they can’t get at least five points, this could be a season of struggle unless an experienced manager comes in early Autumn to turn their fortunes around. 

Interestingly, the run-in features five teams who were around if not above them last season so depending on how they fare under Cooper, this could be an exciting run-in or one full of preparation for next season. 

In summary, Cooper’s performance as manager is probably going to be critical to how Swansea’s season plays out. 

 

West Bromwich Albion

Opening Fixtures Closing Fixtures
Nottingham Forest (A) Hull (H)
Millwall (H) Derby (H)
Luton (A) Blackburn (A)
Reading (H) Fulham (H)
Derby (A) Huddersfield (A)
Blackburn (H) QPR (H)

After crashing out in last season’s play-offs, I am expecting West Brom to come back stronger and push for automatic promotion under new manager, Slaven Bilic. 

I am therefore going to be quite tough on the Baggies here and say that they’re capable of at least ten points from their opening six, whilst seven would be a reasonable amount from their run-in. 

Ultimately they need to draw less and beat teams like Millwall this time round if want to go up automatically and with a strong schedule plus squad, West Brom have to be amongst if not the favourites to go up. 

 

Wigan Athletic

Opening Fixtures Closing Fixtures
Cardiff (H) Brentford (A)
Preston (A) QPR (H)
Leeds (H) Barnsley (A)
Middlesbrough (A) Hull (H)
QPR (A) Charlton (A)
Barnsley (H) Fulham (H)

Having survived primarily on strong home form last season, Wigan need to step it up this time because the competition for survival will be tougher. 

We therefore shouldn’t expect a decent start but away games against Preston and Middlesbrough are important in finding some sort of away form, having taken just 11 of their 52 points from last campaign on the road. 

If I am being honest though, I can see another scruffy season for the Latics but they cannot afford another pair of four match losing streaks otherwise relegation surely looms with their last away trip to Charlton potentially being a six pointer. 

 

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