EFL season predictions as Leeds, Leicester and Wrexham's promotion fates decided

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EFL season predictions as Leeds, Leicester and Wrexham
EFL season predictions as Leeds, Leicester and Wrexham's promotion fates decided

Here we go again then.

Some 67 days after Josh Windass' header in the dying seconds of extra-time secured promotion from League One for Sheffield Wednesday at Barnsley's expense, it'll be the Owls who kick off the new EFL season on Friday night when Southampton come calling in the Championship.

The Saints had a very different end to last season of course, as their 11-year stay in the Premier League came to a dismal end with a meek relegation.

Can they bounce back at the first time of asking? How will fellow relegated sides Leeds and Leicester get on? Who will drop down to League One?

Meanwhile there will be plenty of eyes on Wrexham for obvious reasons, as the north Wales outfit return to the Football League for the first time since 2008.

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We asked our Mirror Football team for their season predictions across the divisions.

Alex Richards

Championship Winners: Leeds

Promoted: Southampton, Middlesbrough

Top Scorer: Ross Stewart

Surprise Package: Ipswich Town

Relegated: QPR, Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham

League One Winners Derby County

League Two Winners: Stockport

‌Leeds United are back in the Championship, but in Daniel Farke they have the right man to lead them back into the Premier League promised land.

Farke knows this terrain better than most, having twice won the Championship title with Norwich City, and Leeds have a fine mixture of youth and experience which will stand them in good stead for a title tilt - especially if another quality centre-forward arrives before the transfer window closes, or Georgino Rutter finally starts to show why he was made the club’s record signing.

Everton chiefs face transfer backlash from fans after deadline day disasterEverton chiefs face transfer backlash from fans after deadline day disaster

Southampton and Leicester will both be in the promotion mix, although both could still lose key players before the end of the window, while Michael Carrick did a sterling job at Middlesbrough last season, so expect to see them up challenging again.

EFL season predictions as Leeds, Leicester and Wrexham's promotion fates decidedMichael Carrick has impressed in his managerial career so far (MI News/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock)

Don’t be surprised too if newly-promoted Ipswich Town are in and around the play-offs. Kieran McKenna’s side will be looking to dominate, no matter who they play, and he’ll be hoping that keeping a consistent squad can help take them where they want to go.

At the other end, it’s Rotherham - a season too far - QPR - struggling to make any headway with Gareth Ainsworth - and Sheffield Wednesday - all over the place off the field - going down for me.

Paul Warne knows how to get teams out of League One and if Derby pick up a head of steam, they’ll take some stopping in the third tier and in League Two, Stockport went close last season and, with Nick Powell back in the fourth tier over a decade after leading Crewe to promotion, they’re the team to beat.

James Whaling

Championship Winners: Leicester

Promoted: Middlesbrough, Ipswich

Top Scorer: Chuba Akpom

Surprise Package: Plymouth

Relegated: Rotherham, QPR, Hull

League One Winners: Portsmouth

League Two Winners: Wrexham

‌Leicester should have never been relegated with the squad they had at their disposal in the Premier League and should have too much for the Championship despite losing James Maddison and Youri Tielemans. The Foxes seem to have managed their relegation calmly and have added astute players for the level they are now competing at.

I fancy Michael Carrick and Middlesbrough to launch a more sustained assault on the top two than they could manage last term, providing they manage to hold on to Chuba Akpom. Ipswich look to be in with a shout of back-to-back promotions after a mightily impressive conclusion to their League One campaign. Plymouth have also recruited sensibly and I think a few could be surprised by how well they do under their young manager Steven Schumacher.

At the bottom, Rotherham finally ended their run of yo-yo seasons between the Championship and League One by preserving their second-tier status last term, but look likely to be in for another struggle this time around. Gareth Ainsworth has not had the desired impact at QPR, and I fancy Rangers could fall through the trapdoor along with Hull.

Portsmouth were inconsistent in League One last year but showed they are a match for anyone on their day, and if they can tighten up at the back they should have enough to challenge for promotion. It's hard to look past Hollywood-owned Wrexham for back-to-back title wins in League Two.

Liam Prenderville

Championship Winners: Middlesbrough

Promoted: Leicester, Leeds

Top Scorer: Nathan Tella

Surprise Package: Stoke

Relegated: Hull, Cardiff, Rotherham

League One Winners: Barnsley

League Two Winners: Stockport

I am tipping two of last year's relegated sides to come straight back up but I don't fancy either will win the title. Middlesbrough were mightily impressive under Michael Carrick and can go one better this season, providing they can keep hold of Chuba Akpom. Leeds' chances may also depend on who remains at Elland Road past the transfer window but alongside Leicester, should have enough quality in their ranks.

Stoke have made some impressive additions and may well be in play-off contention while I think Ipswich will also make a mark under Kieran McKenna. Southampton's Nathan Tella is my shout for top scorer after his fine loan spell at Burnley last term.

Barnsley and Stockport both lost in the play-off finals last season but will be stronger from that experience. Wrexham should join Stockport in the top two on their return to the Football League and make it back-to-back promotions for their Hollywood owners.

EFL season predictions as Leeds, Leicester and Wrexham's promotion fates decidedRob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds have taken Wrexham back to the Football League (SWNS)

Ben Husband

Championship Winners: Leicester

Promoted: Coventry, Stoke

Top Scorer: Jamie Vardy

Surprise Package: Birmingham City

Relegated: Sheffield Wednesday, Plymouth, Rotherham

League One Winners: Derby

League Two Winners: Stockport

‌Leicester are an intriguing proposition. But as Burnley proved last season, teams can be successful while striving to play progressive football. Jamie Vardy still has more than enough in the tank, while Conor Coady and Harry Winks are impressive signings.

Coventry were a kick away from the Premier League last season - and on paper - look even stronger, despite losing Viktor Gyokeres. Stoke are my tip for the play-offs, after years of mediocrity they have recruited very well and under Alex Neil will be a team to look out for.

It's a new era for Birmingham City after their much-maligned owners were finally pushed out. It will be too soon for promotion, but a top-half finish would represent significant improvement.

Derby - after a full pre-season with Paul Warne - should have a good shot at a return to the second tier. And in League Two, many seem to be forgetting that Stockport, who finished above Wrexham in 2021/22, have a season's experience in League Two and proved they were more than capable of going even higher.

Mike Walters

Championship Winners: Leicester

Promoted: Swansea, Ipswich

Top Scorer: Kelechi Iheanacho

Surprise Package: Kieran McKenna – big clubs will come calling for Ipswich messiah

Relegated: Cardiff, Rotherham, QPR

League One Winners: Oxford

League Two Winners: Bradford

Clubs relegated from the Premier League don't bounce straight back as often as you'd think – the ratio is roughly one in four.

‌On that basis, Leicester look the best bet to regain top-flight status at the first time of asking because, on paper, they have one commodity above all others in the Championship: Goals, goals, goals.

‌If the Foxes - needlessly relegated after hitting the panic button by dismissing Brendan Rodgers without a successor ready to take over – can't find the bullseye with Patson Daka, Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho in their midst, the supply line must be faulty.

‌Although they have lost a lot of creative currency by selling James Maddison to Tottenham, new manager Enzo Maresca still has the best squad in the division. Leeds and Southampton will have to scramble for play-off places.

‌Watch out for Ipswich, who caught the wave so spectacularly on the League One run-in that they could mount a second consecutive promotion charge.

‌And Michael Duff made a great fist of his first two jobs in management at Cheltenham and Barnsley – under his tutelage Swansea look a good dark-horse bet to operate at the top end.

EFL season predictions as Leeds, Leicester and Wrexham's promotion fates decidedEnzo Maresca has taken his first managerial role (Getty Images)

Kieran King

Championship Winners: Southampton

Promoted: Middlesbrough, Leicester

Top Scorer: Adam Armstrong.

Surprise Package: Bristol City.

Relegated: QPR, Rotherham, Sheffield Wednesday

League One Winners: Derby

League Two Winners: Notts County

I expect Southampton to lose one or two players before the end of the window, but I am still backing them to top the division. Even if James Ward-Prowse and Romeo Lavia leave, they still have quality to replace them and I think Russell Martin’s style will suit them to a tee.

Having been knocked out in the play-offs last season, I think Michael Carrick‘s Middlesbrough will go and get promoted this time around. Chuba Akpom will be the catalyst for them, and while many do not know what to expect from Leicester, who have had the biggest turnover of players, I think the Foxes will have enough to bounce straight back up, albeit via the play-offs.

Despite his Premier League struggles, many forget how good Adam Armstrong is at Championship level, having scored 28 goals in 40 second tier matches in 2020/21, and I see Bristol City as dark horses for the play-offs this season IF they can keep hold of Alex Scott.

At the other end QPR’s recruitment has been poor this summer and I don’t think they will have enough to survive. The same applies to Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday.

In League One, Derby have strengthened well in Joe Ward and Sonny Bradley in particular and are my side that will win the division, ahead of Bolton, and I think Notts County will do better than Wrexham and win League Two. Although they have lost Ruben Rodrigues, the signing of David McGoldrick is simply outstanding for that level.

Mark Jones

Championship Winners: Leeds

Promoted: Southampton, Middlesbrough

Top Scorer: Joe Gelhardt

Surprise Package: Plymouth

Relegated: QPR, Rotherham, Hull

League One Winners: Derby

League Two Winners: Wrexham

Good in the Championship, average in the Premier League with brief flickers of showing just what he can do. Daniel Farke is the Patrick Bamford of managers, and the pair could form a beautiful union at Elland Road with Bamford providing the experienced foil for young forward Joe Gelhardt who is an outside pick for Golden Boot. Leeds know they are the biggest kill in the second tier, and I think they'll embrace it.

EFL season predictions as Leeds, Leicester and Wrexham's promotion fates decidedDaniel Farke has won the Championship twice before (Malcolm Mackenzie/ProSports/REX/Shutterstock)

Elsewhere, Russell Martin and Michael Carrick are both really good managers and I fancy them to lead their sides to promotion. I understand the overwhelming Leicester choices here but I'd be staggered if they get to the end of the window without losing three or four more big names, the forwards in particular.

Then it's a toss up between Plymouth and Ipswich for surprise package, while QPR and Rotherham were lucky to stay up last season and could go, and Hull don't inspire me. Derby to return from League One and the Wrexham train to keep on rolling straight out of League Two, with lots of Go Pro footage.

Fraser Watson

Championship Winners: Middlesbrough

Promoted: Leicester, Leeds

Top Scorer: Joel Piroe

Surprise Package: Neil Warnock

Relegated: QPR, Birmingham City, Plymouth Argyle

League One Winners: Derby County

League Two Winners: Wrexham

So, how do you make predictions for a league that's impossible to predict?

Middlesbrough's failure to go up via the play-offs last season may yet prove a long term blessing. Under Michael Carrick, you sense a squad that is still building. That little more experienced this time around, as long as key striker Chuba Akpom can overcome the injury problems that have plagued him in pre-season, then Boro can end the campaign back in the big time. And as champions.

Elsewhere, Swanse's Joel Piroe will build on 41 league goals in two seasons, whilst the bookies tipping Huddersfield Town to go down have still got plenty to learn about Neil Warnock's ability to defy the doubters.

Below the Championship, Derby County to bounce back at the second attempt and Wrexham - their momentum, and money of course, will make them hard to stop.

EFL season predictions as Leeds, Leicester and Wrexham's promotion fates decidedNeil Warnock is still going strong at the age of 74 (Phil Oldham/REX/Shutterstock)

Jacob Leeks

Championship Winners: Leicester

Promoted: Stoke, Middlesbrough

Top Scorer: Jamie Vardy

Surprise Package: Birmingham

Relegated: West Brom, Plymouth Argyle, Sheffield Wednesday

League One Winners: Derby County

League Two Winners: Wrexham

Leicester have had the best summer by far of the three relegated clubs, with Leeds and Southampton falling behind. That opens the door to two existing sides to challenge, with Stoke and Middlesbrough appearing to be the best placed.

With the Foxes set to storm to promotion, I feel like there will be final swansong for Jamie Vardy. Birmingham could challenge for the play-offs thanks to their incoming ownership, while boardroom problems at West Brom make them one of the favourites to go down.

Having only just been promoted, life could be difficult for Plymouth and Sheffield Wednesday in the second tier. Meanwhile, a full pre-season should put Paul Warne in the driving seat to guide Derby to promotion. The League Two promotion race is once again wide open, but Wrexham's big-spending owners put the Dragons in pole position.

EFL season predictions as Leeds, Leicester and Wrexham's promotion fates decidedJamie Vardy has been backed to fire in the Championship (Getty Images)

Alan Smith

Championship Winners: Leicester

Promoted: Middlesbrough, Ipswich

Top Scorer: Chuba Akpom

Surprise Package: Bristol City

Relegated: Rotherham, Huddersfield, QPR

League One Winners: Derby County

League Two Winners: Stockport County

Leicester City have retained enough quality, while adding Premier League-level players such as Harry Winks and Conor Coady, to make them big favourites. And Enzo Maresca's arrival from the School of Pep has fans more than optimistic of an immediate return to the Premier League.

Behind them Middlesbrough could make the leap into second if Chuba Akpom has another 25+-goal season, while Ipswich are a decent shout to go up via the play-offs.

Bristol City could surprise plenty by pushing from mid-table into a race for sixth.

In League One, Derby are the justified favourites now they are in a stable position off the pitch, while Stockport are the tip to pip Wrexham in League Two.

EFL season predictions as Leeds, Leicester and Wrexham's promotion fates decidedChuba Akpom was the top scorer in the Championship last season (Richard Lee/REX/Shutterstock)

Neil Moxley

Championship Winners: Leicester

Promoted: Southampton, Coventry

Top Scorer: Ellis Simms

Surprise Package: Ipswich Town

Relegated: Rotherham, QPR, Huddersfield

League One Winners: Bolton Wanderers

League Two Winners: Stockport County

Leicester have the talent to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking, and Southampton should also be up there following the appointment of Russell Martin. Leeds won't make it an immediate return for all three of the relegated sides though, as Coventry can go one better than the heartbreak of last season, especially following the arrival of Ellis Simms from Everton.

The impressive Kieran McKenna can keep working wonders at Ipswich, while at the other end of the table it looks to be a tricky campaign for Rotherham, QPR and Neil Warnock's Huddersfield Town.

Bolton impressed last season and have what it takes to win League One, while keep an eye out for Stockport in League Two.

Tom Blow

Championship Winners: Leicester

Promoted: Sunderland, Leeds

Top Scorer: Patson Daka

Surprise Package: Ipswich

Relegated: Sheffield Wednesday, QPR, Huddersfield

League One Winners: Barnsley

League Two Winners: Stockport

Leicester should be too strong for the Championship.

They've already brought in two players of Premier League quality in Conor Coady and Harry Winks, while the likes of Jamie Vardy, Ricardo Pereira, James Justin and Daniel Iversen are still there.

Leeds also have a strong squad and should be confident of an automatic return to the Premier League via the play-offs.

But every season, there's always a surprise package in the Championship. It was Luton last year, and I'm backing Sunderland to finish second this season. They seem to be heading in the right direction under Tony Mowbray.

I think Ipswich will also have a very good season under Kieran McKenna and qualify for the play-offs but come up just short.

In terms of the drop, it would be rude not to pick Sheffield Wednesday (as a Sheffield United fan). QPR don't fill me with confidence either, while it might be one season too many for Neil Warnock at Huddersfield.

There's not a standout candidate to win League One this season, so I'm giving Barnsley the nod. And everyone's talking about Wrexham, but Stockport are a good team too... keep an eye on them.

Dan Marsh

Championship Winners: Leicester

Promoted: Sunderland, Middlesbrough

Top Scorer: Ellis Simms

Surprise Package: Stoke

Relegated: Rotherham, QPR, Sheffield Wednesday

League One Winners: Bolton

League Two Winners: Notts County

Full disclosure? I backed Leicester to go down last year, but I fancy them to bounce straight back up under Enzo Maresca. Despite relegation last term, the squad Maresca has at his disposal has more than enough quality to take the Championship by storm. The fact that the Italian has been situated under the Pep Guardiola learning tree at Manchester City shouldn’t do Leicester’s chances much harm either.

Sunderland have an array of exciting young talent and I reckon the pain of last year’s play-off defeat will drive Tony Mowbray’s side to go one better this year. Middlesbrough were imperious under Michael Carrick but just fell off at the wrong time at the tail end of the season. They’ll be stronger for that experience too though and I fancy Boro and Sunderland to edge out the other two sides who were relegated from the Premier League last year.

Seeing as everyone else has backed Plymouth as their surprise package (which is absolutely right, btw) I’ll plump for Stoke. Am more than aware many have been burned by tipping Stoke to do well over the past couple of years, but I’ve been really impressed with the majority of their transfer business and genuinely believe the tide has turned for them.

Bolton have recruited well and will be hungry to avenge their play-off defeat against Barnsley last term. In League Two, I fancy Notts County to best Stockport and Wrexham in the race for the crown.

Liam Cope

Championship Winners: Leeds

Promoted: Southampton, Middlesbrough

Top Scorer: Chuba Akpom

Surprise Package: Ipswich

Relegated: Rotherham, QPR, Sheffield Wednesday

League One Winners: Bolton

League Two Winners: Stockport

Leeds look best placed to bounce back to the Premier League out of the three relegated sides. Leicester have lost all their best players and will need to find their feet back down in the Championship after a long time, and while Southampton have a lot of question marks over who's staying in their squad they'll still be ready to go. I've gone with Boro to get promoted via the play-offs as they looked the best of the rest last season outside of the two automatic promoted teams.

Scoring wise, Chuba Akpom was clear ahead of the rest last season, and unless an ageing Jamie Vardy finds his old goalscoring magic I can see him winning the golden boot for the second season in a row.

For a surprise I'm looking at Ipswich with Kieran McKenna in charge as I'm confident they can hold their own and be in the play-offs come May. At the other end Sheffield Wednesday seem to have taken three steps back after their incredible play-off exploits last season. Darren Moore leaving has rocked the boat and I'm not sure Xisco Munoz is the man to steer them to safety. Rotherham and QPR were probably lucky that Reading and Wigan both had points deductions last season as neither team were great by any means.

In League One, Bolton under Ian Evatt have been building a well established side the last couple of seasons, and are seemingly in the best position to kick on again this season and will fancy their chances of winning the title, while I'm going for Stockport to win the League Two tussle with Wrexham and be champions.

EFL season predictions as Leeds, Leicester and Wrexham's promotion fates decidedRussell Martin has taken over as Southampton (PA)

Nathan Ridley

Championship Winners: Leicester

Promoted: Southampton, Middlesbrough

Top Scorer: Kelechi Iheanacho

Surprise Package: Plymouth

Relegated: Rotherham, QPR, Sheffield Wednesday

League One Winners: Blackpool

League Two Winners: Wrexham

I'm putting faith in Enzo Maresca to be Pep Guardiola's next successful acolyte. Leicester's squad remains particularly strong for the second tier and boasts the technical capacity to pull off Maresca's ideal brand of football.

In terms of promotion, two more 'safe' calls but there's no doubting that Southampton, like Leicester, have the squad for it. Meanwhile, Michael Carrick's Middlesbrough now have the added experience of a superb 2022-23 season to build on - so long as they keep hold of the former Manchester United midfielder as boss.

Top scorer wise, what a selection of strikers the Championship has to offer this season. Iheanacho gets my vote, though, and he might have his own battle going on to beat team-mates Jamie Vardy and Patson Daka.

Backed by the bookies as second-favourites to be relegated, I'm thinking Steven Schumacher's men will spring another surprise and stay up relatively comfortably. Star striker Ryan Hardie is yet to play in the second tier but now's the time for him to show why he's so highly rated in Devonshire.

In League One Blackpool have Neil Critchley back at the helm and some serious funds to invest which stands them in good stead to challenge the likes of Derby and Bolton, and I've got a feeling they'll come out on top by going one better than their 2021 play-off final triumph.

And in League Two, once again I see Wrexham edging Notts County to the title. I'd then say it's a battle between Stockport and a resurgent Gillingham for the final automatic spot.

EFL season predictions as Leeds, Leicester and Wrexham's promotion fates decidedSteven Schumacher's Plymouth Argyle have been tipped to surprise in the Championship (PHIL MINGO/PPAUK/REX/Shutterstock)

Sam Meade

Championship Winners: Leicester

Promoted: Leeds, Middlesbrough

Top Scorer: Chuba Akpom

Surprise Package: Plymouth

Relegated: QPR, Hull, Rotherham

League One Winners: Charlton

League Two Winners: Wrexham

Leicester should never have been relegated in the first place, which is underlined by the strength of their squad and I think they'll ease to the title. Leeds have a man who knows how to win promotions in Daniel Farke, albeit their difficult and slow summer hasn't been ideal, but what they've got through the door has been quality. Further north Michael Carrick looks to be a top manager and Middlesbrough can use last season's play-off shortcoming as motivation.

QPR and Hull have had issues bubbling away for several years and, after years are existing in the Championship, they may eventually come unstuck.

Plymouth's impressive set-up saw them promoted last term and I wouldn't be surprised to see them finish comfortably in the top-half. League One is as open as its been for a while while Wrexham's fairytale could continue with a squad that already looks more than fit for the fourth tier, their only concern may be a slow start with the goals of Paul Mullin absent from their team.

Daniel Orme

Championship Winners: Leicester

Promoted: Southampton, Coventry

Top Scorer: Joel Piroe

Surprise package: Ipswich Town

Relegated: QPR, Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham

League One Winner: Barnsley

League Two Winner: Mansfield Town

It’s difficult to see past Leicester earning an instant return to the Premier League. Enzo Maresca is a risk but the Foxes have spent cleverly with the likes of Harry Winks, Conor Coady and Stephy Mavididi among their headline arrivals.

They should be joined by fellow relegated side Southampton, who have moved for an exciting manager in Russell Martin. Coventry might also be ones to watch despite the loss of Viktor Gyokeres.

Swansea forward Joel Piroe could certainly be a candidate for the Golden Boot. He has plenty of interest in him but his goalscoring ability cannot be questioned after 41 Championship goals over the previous two campaigns.

Elsewhere, recruitment hasn’t been great for either Rotherham or Sheffield Wednesday - despite the Owls ramping up their incomings recently. They could drop back into the third tier alongside QPR who have endured a frustrating summer of their own.

After going close to earning promotion last term, Barnsley and Mansfield both stand a great chance of finally getting up during the 2023/24 campaign.

Mark Jones

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