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Football League: Derby and Boro Championship favourites, Adkins eyeing instant impact

Derby County and Middlesbrough are favourites to secure promotion to the Premier League after flexing their financial muscles in the transfer market ahead of the new Championship season.

Derby looked destined to return to the top flight until they fell apart in spectacular fashion under Steve McClaren, winning just two of their last 13 games to plummet from the top of the table and finish eighth.

McClaren was sacked and has since taken over at Newcastle United, with former Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea number two Paul Clement replacing the ex-England boss.

The likes of Tom Ince, Jason Shackell, Andreas Weimann and Darren Bent have been recruited in a new era under Clement, who will be eager to hit the ground running in his first experience as head coach when Derby travel to Bolton Wanderers on Saturday.

Boro suffered the heartbreak of losing the play-off final to Norwich City in May after also looking set for automatic promotion only to be denied by Bournemouth and Watford.

Aitor Karanka remains at the helm and the Spaniard will have high hopes of atoning for the blow of missing out last season, particularly after pulling off a major coup by bringing Stewart Downing back to Teesside from West Ham.

Hull City, Burnley and QPR will attempt to return to the top tier at the first attempt, but all three clubs have lost key players after being consigned to the drop.

James Chester and Robbie Brady headed out of the KC Stadium exit door, while Burnley lost Danny Ings, Kieran Trippier and Shackell. 

Steven Caulker left Loftus Road to join Southampton on a season-long loan and it would be a surprise if star striker Charlie Austin is still at the London club when the transfer window closes at the end of this month, with Joey Barton and Bobby Zamora having also departed.

Brentford, Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United will all be aiming to make strides under a new boss, while Bristol City, MK Dons and Preston North End must prove they can make the step up after securing promotion from League One.

Sheffield United are expected to be among the front-runners in League One under new manager Nigel Adkins, who replaced Nigel Clough after his failure to guide the club back into the Championship.

Wigan Athletic and Millwall will be striving to ensure their stay in the third tier is only a brief one, while Blackpool appear more likely to face another relegation battle than harbouring promotion ambitions.

Paul Cook has been charged with the task of masterminding a League Two promotion push for Portsmouth after leaving Chesterfield to take over at Fratton Park.

Craig Mackail-Smith is a stand-out signing by Luton Town, who should also challenge for a place in League One, and Oxford United could be a force to be reckoned with under Michael Appleton.

Wed 5 Aug, 2015
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