Ian Holloway's Championship table prediction: Aston Villa 'could go down again'

Ian Holloway Championship prediction table 31/7/16
Image: Ian Holloway predicts the Championship table

It could be his toughest task in football to date as we’ve asked Sky Sports Football League analyst Ian Holloway to predict the exact outcome of the Sky Bet Championship table.

Trying to keep Blackpool up in the Premier League was a doddle in comparison!

VOTE: 2016/17 Championship table

VOTE: 2016/17 Championship table

Agree or disagree with Ollie? Have your say on how the Championship will finish...

Holloway is back to spearhead our Football League analyst team for what is shaping up to be one of the most exciting Championship seasons in many a year.

Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Norwich City - relegated from the Premier League - have joined a division brimming with illustrious football clubs, most of which have expectations of winning promotion. But only three can taste success. 

Click on the club names to read our detailed previews. Let's take a look at his predicted table:

1st Newcastle (7/4 with Sky Bet to be champions)

They have the biggest budget, arguably the biggest fan base and the most experienced and illustrious manager ever to have graced the Championship in Rafa Benitez. It's hard to look past them for the title.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 14:  Rafael Benitez manager of Newcastle United looks on prior to the Barclays Premier League match against Leicester City
Image: Will Newcastle bounce straight back up to the Premier League under Rafa Benitez?

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2nd Brighton (10/3 with Sky Bet to be promoted)

I think Brighton will use the disappointment of last season to their advantage and get automatic promotion. They have a solid defensive unit, but also can attack you from all angles. It's a great mix. The relationship between the manager and the board also is very stable while their recruitment policy is spot on. It's only a matter of time until they reach the Premier League. This could be their year.

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Brighton and Hove Albion Manager Chris Hughton during the Sky Bet Championship match at the AMEX Stadium, Brighton.
Image: Brighton and Hove Albion Manager Chris Hughton.

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3rd Norwich (9/4 with Sky Bet to be promoted)

By keeping Alex Neil, who is a bright and inventive manager, it looks like Norwich are focusing on stability, which will stand them in good stead. He'll have learned a lot last season and will get stronger. If they find a goalscorer they could easily go up automatically - I've seen they're in for Ross McCormack, that could make the difference. He's the best player outside the Premier League.

Norwich City players applaud supporters following relegation during the Premier League match between Norwich City and Watford
Image: Norwich City players applaud supporters following relegation.

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4th Derby County (11/4 with Sky Bet to be promoted)

Nigel Pearson deserves big credit for what Leicester City achieved last season - Claudio Ranieri definitely benefited from Pearson's work. I can't wait to see how he handles Derby County - what will the 'Derby Way' be under Pearson? I think the first thing he needs to look at his chairman and tell him 'I want you to do this but don't do that'. They have a wonderful squad of players - I think he'll unite them to get them playing as a team.

Nigel Pearson thinks Derby have the foundations in place for a tilt at promotion
Image: Nigel Pearson thinks Derby have the foundations in place for a tilt at promotion

5th Sheffield Wednesday (7/2 with Sky Bet to be promoted)

I can only see Wednesday spending more money and getting better. They'll have to deal with more expectation, but I can see them growing as a football club. It was a privilege to see them progress last season. It's amazing what togetherness can do. They could easily finish higher, but finishing fifth would be no mean feat.

Sheffield Wednesday's Portuguese head coach Carlos Carvalhal
Image: Sheffield Wednesday's Portuguese head coach Carlos Carvalhal

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6th Leeds United (11/1 with Sky Bet to be promoted)

These are my dark horses for the season. Well done, Mr Cellino - you've made your best ever signing in Garry Monk. No one was applauding louder than me when he appointed Monk. He was a huge part of what Swansea achieved - he'll build an identity and a way of playing at Leeds United. It's what the fans deserve.

Monk Leeds
Image: Garry Monk was appointed Leeds head coach in the summer

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7th Ipswich Town

Two words: Mick McCarthy. I'm doing him a disservice by putting them outside the play-offs but it's about adding to what they've already got and spend some money. They could do what Middlesbrough did last season, given the funds.

8th Cardiff

Cardiff are a solid side, full of experience but they might just lack a goalscorer to get them into the top six. They'll win plenty of games though.

Sky Bet Championship odds

Sky Bet Championship odds

Who will go up this season? Find Sky Bet's odds here.

9th Birmingham City

I think Gary Rowett will be a man in demand this season and Birmingham will do well to hold on to him. They're a club going in the right direction, but they may just lack the financial muscle to compete with the top six.

10th Bristol City

I can see the club making great strides this season. City's new stadium could do wonders for their home form. It will also have a huge effect on their budget as they'll be able to attract more fans through the gate. The people of Bristol will completely relish the challenge that clubs like Aston Villa, Newcastle will provide them.

Lee Tomlin had given the visitors a first-half lead
Image: Lee Tomlin signed for Bristol City after an impressive loan spell

11th QPR

I'm not entirely sure about the QPR squad yet. Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink is the right man for the job but they haven't replaced Charlie Austin. It's okay to play in a certain style but you need to have a striker like Jimmy to bang in the goals. 

12th Nottingham Forest

Forest will have more to shout about this season and I can see them potentially troubling the top half if the new manager hits the ground running and adapts to the league.

13th Wolverhampton Wanderers

This is a hard one to weigh up with the new takeover. You can't be playing catch-up in the Championship - you need to get a plan in place.

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 30: Walter Zenga manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers before the Pre-Season Friendly match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and
Image: Walter Zenga is the new manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers.

14th Preston

It's amazing what Preston achieved last season. With Simon Grayson and Steve Thompson at the helm it will be more of the same. A mid-table finish and maybe a good cup run would be another fine achievement.  When you see some of the teams I've predicted to finish below them, 14th is a sensational effort. It's such a strong league.

Preston North End manager Simon Grayson
Image: Preston North End manager Simon Grayson

15th Reading

It's hard to predict how Jaap Stam will cope with the Championship - his reputation got him the job. I think he fell out with Sir Alex Ferguson once, so he should be good to watch. They could be a dark horse or they could struggle, hence why I've put them in mid-table.

Jaap Stam is set to be announced as the new manager of Reading
Image: Jaap Stam has his first managerial job in England with Reading

16th Aston Villa

They're lucky I've put them this high. Last season Villa's players felt the weight of the shirt, but not the importance of it. They didn't respect the badge enough. I'm worried nothing will change.

They could easily get relegated again, with the lack of investment and the lack of unity within the playing squad. They've got Roberto Di Matteo, who is a wonderful man, but it's a huge job to carry that expectation. It's going to take something special to turn it around.

Roberto Di Matteo
Image: Roberto Di Matteo has a tough job on his hands, according to Ollie

The overpaying they would have done thinking they're just a nailed-on Premier League side means they're now in the mire. Most of the players wouldn't have had relegation clauses in their contracts and they're now going to be on huge wages, lacking motivation.

I don't care who they've got on the bench or who's running the club, they have to sort out the squad, the mentality and the crowd's expectations. It's not going to be easy. Teams as big as Villa have suffered back-to-back relegations. They need to be really careful. 

Aston VIlla players leave the Old Trafford field following their club's relegation from the Premier League
Image: Aston VIlla players came under fire following their club's relegation from the Premier League

17th Fulham

Fulham's problem is that they've got a lot of overpaid experience and too many youth players. They could have another tough season, especially without the goals of Moussa Dembele and potentially Ross McCormack.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 12:  Ross McCormack of Fulham celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Fulham and Bri
Image: Ross McCormack of Fulham is the best player in the Championship, according to Ollie

18th Blackburn

Owen Coyle will need a tin hat and a bullet proof car if things don't go well at Blackburn this season with his Burnley and Bolton connections! It's hard to judge how Rovers will do, but I do know selling Grant Hanley to Newcastle won't help their cause.

19th Barnsley

I really liked the look of Barnsley in the play-offs last season. They could easily surprise a few people and will be an entertaining team to watch.

20th Wigan

It all depends whether can Wigan can add a bit more quality to their squad. If they can, then they'll stay up. Gary Caldwell is a fresh young manager going places.

Wigan Athletic chairman David Sharpe, manager Gary Caldwell and owner Dave Whelan celebrate promotion
Image: Wigan Athletic chairman David Sharpe, manager Gary Caldwell and owner Dave Whelan celebrate promotion

21st Burton Albion

What an amazing story it would be if Burton stayed up. I think they will, as will all three of the promoted clubs. Football is all about these kind of stories. They'll be hard to beat at home - not many teams will fancy playing there.

22nd Brentford (8/1 with Sky Bet to be relegated)

Brentford are regressing. Mark Warburton got them punching above their weight. They still haven't replaced Andre Gray and Alan Judge will be missing for the start of the season. They could be in trouble.

23rd Huddersfield (13/2 with Sky Bet to be relegated)

I haven't seen much progression from the club during the back end of last season. David Wagner is pretty inexperienced and if results turn, then they may struggle to turn things around. 

24th Rotherham (7/4 with Sky Bet to be relegated)                                                           

Without Neil Warnock I fear for Rotherham. They've got to start all over again and although it was a tough decision, they look most likely to finish bottom.

Rotherham United manager Neil Warnock is awarded with the Sky Bet Manager of the Month award. Pic: Dougie Allward/JMP
Image: Rotherham United will miss former manager Neil Warnock, says Ollie
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