Championship preview: Caltex Socceroos chase Premier League dream

The lure of a spot in the Premier League is what will be driving most of the 24 clubs involved in England’s EFL Championship in the upcoming 2019/20 season.

Once again, there will be a stack of Australians involved in the Championship, with a number of them set to play key roles for their clubs when the competition gets underway this weekend.

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When are your Caltex Socceroos in action this weekend?

How will our Caltex Socceroos fare in what is an always gruelling, ultra competitive season of football?

Check out our Championship preview below to find out.

Title contenders

We got a glimpse of them Down Under last month and it’s Leeds United who are most pundits' favourites to clinch the 2019/20 Championship crown.

Marcelo Bielsa’s men looked on course for automatic promotion last season until a late fade saw them finish third, before being bundled out in the play-offs.

The Whites have brought in the likes of Helder Costa (Wolves), Jack Harrison (Manchester City) and Jack Clarke (Tottenham) to strengthen their already impressive squad.

Leeds United, who spent part of their pre-season in Australia, are among the title favourites
Leeds United, who spent part of their pre-season in Australia, are among the title favourites

Fulham drop back to the Championship from the Premier League but play the type of football than can thrive in this division.

New recruits Ivan Cavaleiro (Wolves) and Anthony Knockaert (Brighton) are proven at this level and will form a great attack alongside Aleksandar Mitrović.

Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City are also well-placed to go straight back up, while the likes of Aaron Mooy's Huddersfield Town, Stoke City and Middlesbrough can’t be discounted.

There’s also plenty of noises being made about potential promotion pushes from West Bromich Albion and Derby County, who are under new management in Slaven Bilic and Phillip Cocu respectively.

Star players

The Championship is a competition filled with some exceptional talent and the 2019/20 season will be no different.

New Leeds recruit Helder Costa played 30 games for Premier League surprise-packets Wolves in all competitions last season and is sure to be a star man for Bielsa.

Hull City’s Jarrod Bowen scored a stack of goals last season and has been linked with a move to the Premier League, but manager Grant McCann has so far kept hold of his exciting attacker.

Sheffield Wednesday’s Adam Reach produced an impressive highlight reel of spectacular goals last season, while this could be the season that Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon really comes of age.

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Brentford’s French import Neal Maupay scored 25 goals last season and is a predatory striker, while Aaron Mooy will pull the strings for Huddersfield.

Other notable stars include Jack Marriott at Derby County, English international goalkeeper Jack Butland at Stoke City and Charlton’s Lyle Taylor, who scored 21 goals in 41 games for the club in League One last season.

Hull City's Jarrod Bowen celebrates a goal with Jackson Irvine
Hull City's Jarrod Bowen celebrates a goal with Jackson Irvine

The Aussies

Aaron Mooy played a major role in Huddersfield Town’s incredible rise to the Premier League in 2017 as one of the best players in the Championship.

And the 28-year-old midfielder is again likely to shoulder much of the burden to produce something magic if the Terriers are to pull off another promotion.

Mooy's Australian colleague Jackson Irvine is an established part of the Hull City squad and will be looking to hit the ground running with the Tigers this season.

As captain, Bailey Wright will again look to lead by example for Bristol City, who have faded late over the last two seasons to miss out on spots in the play-offs.

Massimo Luongo is always one to watch at Queens Park Rangers, while Adam Federici will continue to push English international goalkeeper Jack Butland at Stoke City.

Survival is likely to be the aim of newly-promoted Barnsley, where fringe Caltex Socceroo Kenneth Dougall has starred in recent seasons, while James Meredith is likely to be another ever-present at Millwall.

Bailey Wright will skipper Bristol City into the new season
Bailey Wright will skipper Bristol City into the new season

Newcomers

Luton Town make their return to the Championship a 12-year absence, having won League One in 2018/19.

Luton are joined by Barnsley, as well as Charlton Athletic, who beat Sunderland 2-1 in the League One play-off final.

Mooy’s Huddersfield are back in the Championship after their relegation from the Premier League, along with Fulham and Cardiff City.

Opening fixtures

Wright’s Bristol City arguably face the toughest test of the opening weekend, with the Caltex Socceroos defender to lead his club at home against promotion heavyweights Leeds United.

That match will take place on the morning of Monday, August 5 at 1.30am (AEST).

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Huddersfield and Mooy begin their campaign at home against Phillip Cocu’s Derby County at The John Smith’s Stadium on Tuesday, August 6 (4.45am kick-off AEST).

Dougall’s Barnsley host Fulham on Sunday morning (12am kick-off AEST), while Irvine’s Hull City are on the road against Swansea City. Meredith's Millwall, meanwhile, take on Preston North End at the same time.

Luongo's QPR are on the road for their season-opener, heading to the bet365 Stadium to take on Adam Federici's Stoke City at 12am on Sunday morning (AEST).