Football League Championship: Five promotion contenders

Cardiff City Fans

We take a look at the five favourites to achieve promotion from the Championship this season - featuring Derby County, Cardiff City, Norwich City, Fulham, and Wigan Athletic.

Cardiff City - 9/4

Last seasons 20th placed Premier League team still have a squad capable of winning the second division. Whilst numerous players have been linked with moves away from the Cardiff City Stadium, David Marshall, Steven Caulker, Gary Medel and Frazier Campbell are still contracted to the Welsh club - players good enough for a number of Premier League sides. On top of their squad from last season, strong reinforcements have been brought in, with Adam le Fondre and Kagisho Dikgacoi very good players at Championship level. Despite having arguably the strongest squad in the division, the real question still lies over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's management abilities, with which he flattered to deceive during his short spell in charge last season. Have played one pre-season friendly, away at Carmarthen Town, in which they won 3-0.

Likely finish: Play-Off Finalists

Derby County - 11/4

Losing the play-off final is seen as something of a nightmare, with the team required to shake off the psychological hangover that remains until the start of the new season. However, the Rams look well equipped to cope in 2014/15, securing the core of their team to new contracts, and not changing the first-team squad for the sake of it. Craig Bryson, Jake Buxton and Will Hughes have all confirmed they are staying at the iPro Stadium for the next few years, and with a full pre-season to coach his players, Steve McClaren should have an even greater impact this season. Whilst still relying on the goalscoring of Chris Martin, fans will be hoping that Patrick Bamford returns from Chelsea to offer another threat. Three pre-season friendlies against non-league opposition have brought two victories and one draw.

Likely finish: Champions

Norwich City - 3/1

Relegation from the Premier League was preceded by the appointment of Neil Adams as interim manager, who has been awarded to job on a full-time basis. Despite his lack of management experience, his reputation at the club will prevent too much opposition from fans. Robert Snodgrass has departed for Hull City, and whilst his creativity has not been replaced, 22-goal striker Lewis Grabban has arrived from Bournemouth. Northern Ireland international Kyle Laffert has also signed, and he will be hoping to kick start his career in English football with a good goal return. Have yet to play a pre-season friendly, with their first coming this weekend.

Likely finish: Mid-table

Fulham - 3/1

Also relegated from the Premier League, manager Felix Magath has wasted no time strengthening his squad. Championship top-scorer Ross McCormack has arrived for £11 million, along with Shaun Hutchinson, Adam Taggart, Tim Hoogland, Kay Voser and Kostas Stafylidis. Magath is know for his extreme training methods, so expect the Cottagers to work hard for the duration of the season. Very much relying upon the goalscoring of McCormack, and hoping that Kostas Mitroglou can stay injury-free and prove why he was so highly rated upon his arrival. A squad good enough to achieve an instant return to the Premier League, the only fears remain over Magath's coaching methods - with stories of player mutinies echoing from every club he has worked at. 3-0 victory over East Fife in their only pre-season game so far

Likely finish: Second Place

Wigan Athletic - 3/1

Reached the semi-finals of the play-off's last season, and head coach Uwe Rosler has remained at the club. The departures of Jordi Gomez to Sunderland, and Nick Powell back to Manchester United will hurt, although five incoming signings have been confirmed, including two Cardiff outcasts. A desire to play attractive football draws a lot of fans, although the lack of an out-and-out goalscorer - Powell and Gomez were joint top scorer last season, with just seven goals each - will cost them. Marc-Antoine Fortune and Grant Holt can lead the line, but neither offer real attacking threat. Hoping that their good defence - conceded just 48 goals in 46 games - can see them back into the Premier League. Have beaten TSV Havelse of the German Regionalliga Nord 3-1 in their only pre-season friendly.

Likely finish: Mid-table

Odds courtesy of SkyBet.

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