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Who are the main contenders for the Championship in 2015/2016?

After an enthralling Championship season in which places at both ends of the table were decided on the final day, it would be unsurprising if 2015/2016 followed in the same manner.

A dramatic final few weeks saw Bournemouth pip Watford to the title, Middlesbrough lose out in the three-horse race for the automatic promotion spots, and Rotherham, despite being deducted three points for fielding an ineligible player, managed to survive and send Millwall down in the process.

It illustrated just how competitive the Championship is, and although the three teams relegated from the Premier League are instantly placed amongst the favourites to go up, it is by no means a foregone conclusion in a division where anyone can beat anyone on their day.

Fans and punters have already begun to predict the favourites to be triumphant next year, and with the standard continuing to rise, it may be the most difficult season to call in recent history.

Burnley

Burnley did themselves, and the rest of the Football League, proud by showing the level of work ethic and dedication to the cause to compete at the highest level despite not having the ability to match the financial strength of their opponents.

Sean Dyche’s men proved that it is possible for any team from the Championship to win promotion to the Premier League with the right attitude and effort, but although their relegation may have come as little surprise to some, they will return to the second tier better off for their experience of top flight football.

Keeping hold of Danny Ings could be key to their chances of bouncing straight back up at the first attempt, but with a number of Premier League clubs showing interest and Ashley Barnes ruled out until next year, Dyche will need to find a proven goal-scorer in the transfer market. However, it is their resilience and never-say-die attitude that should put Burnley among the favourites for promotion.

Middlesbrough

A wonderful campaign in Aitor Karanka’s first full season in charge of Middlesbrough almost resulted in the club heading back to the Premier League after a six-year hiatus, but missing out on automatic promotion and then losing in the Play-Off Final against Norwich will make them even hungrier for success next year.

Middlesbrough built their success on a rock-solid defence which ensured they finished the 2014/2015 season with the best defensive record in the Football league, but they may look to add more goals to their game in order to go one step further. It remains to be seen whether loan stars Patrick Bamford, who scored 19 league goals, and Jelle Vossen will return to the Riverside next season, but if they manage to take full advantage of their link with Chelsea and bring in top quality players, then Middlesbrough will be serious contenders once again.

Wolves

Narrowly missing out on the play-offs was an excellent achievement for a Wolves side that have shown signs of returning to their very best. Kenny Jackett has lifted the club from the doldrums of being relegated to League One to one that is more than capable of being serious contenders for promotion to the Premier League in 2015/2016.

They may well be considered amongst the dark horses to challenge at the top, but there is certainly excitement building a Molineux due to the impressive foray of attackers they have at their disposal.

Question marks remain over whether star winger Bakary Sako will sign a new contract or move onto pastures new, but any team with the firepower and goal-scoring abilities of Benik Afobe and Nouha Dicko could see Wolves firmly in the mix at the top of the table.

This article was brought to you by The Football League Paper. On-sale every Sunday, the newspaper provides extensive coverage for all 72 Football League clubs with news, features and gossip plus comprehensive match reports.
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