English League Championship: 5 Favorites to Win Promotion to EPL This Season
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England's second division, the Championship, begins play just one day before the top flight start their season.
Last season, Reading, Southampton and West Ham United were promoted to the Premier League.
The three clubs that were sent down to the Championship were Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Now, with the 2012-13 season upon us, it is time to showcase the five clubs that go into the upcoming season with the best chance of winning promotion to the world's most popular league.
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Cardiff City came very close to being the second Welsh team in as many years to earn promotion to the Premier League but they fell short in the playoffs.
The Bluebirds fell to West Ham in the semifinal round of the playoffs, as they failed to score a goal losing on aggregate, 5-0.
The club has been in the news during the offseason as their new ownership changed the club's colors and crest after both had been nearly unchanged for 104 years.
On the pitch this season, Malky Mackay's club will have a few new faces in the squad including Heidar Helguson from QPR and South Korean Olympian Kim Bo-Kyung.
With their rivals, Swansea City, thriving in the Premier League last season, the Bluebirds will be desperate to improve on their fifth-place finish last season and move into the top flight.
Brighton and Hove Albion
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After finishing 10th in their first season back in the Championship last year, Brighton are poised to fight for a playoff spot at the least.
Brighton boast one of the best new managers in the game right now in Gus Poyet, who led them to the 2010-11 League One title and then last season's top-half finish.
During the offseason, Poyet brought in two Premier League veterans in need of playing time, keeper Tomasz Kuszczak and defender Wayne Bridge, to strengthen his squad.
With the core of the squad returning, plus the few additions made to the club by Poyet, look for Brighton to contend for a promotion spot.
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Middlesbrough missed out on the promotion playoffs by one place in the table last season.
It seems that manager Tony Mowbray has gotten the club back on track since he took over for Gordon Strachan in 2010.
American fans should take a bit of interest into Boro's 2012-13 campaign as defender Seb Hines should play a part in Boro's success this season.
Hines, who has played for England in his youth career, is eligible to play for the United States because his father is American. A good season in the Championship puts him in position to see interest from both American and English national teams.
Another defender to watch out for is Jonathan Woodgate, who is looking to resurrect his career with his former club this season.
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Blackpool were one game short of earning promotion back to the Premier League, just one season after being relegated from the top flight.
However, the Tangerines fell to West Ham in the playoff final and were stuck in the Championship for a second straight season.
Now, Ian Holloway and company will have to avoid a letdown and contend for a promotion spot yet again.
The club will start basically the same lineup as last season and that consistency in the squad is a good thing as they look to get back to the Premier League.
Fans of the English top flight may be rooting for the Tangerines just for Holloway to back in the spotlight for his famous post-game quotes that entertained EPL fans during the 2010-11 season.
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Out of the three clubs that were relegated to the Championship from the Premier League last season, Blackburn have the best chance to go right back up.
Blackburn have filled the voids left in their squad after Yakubu and Junior Hoilett left the club and have bolstered their squad with veterans.
Former Portuguese international Nuno Gomes and former Newcastle player Leon Best were brought in to replace the departed strike partnership at Ewood Park.
Also coming into the club for the 2012-13 season are former Fulham midfielders Danny Murphy and Dickson Etuhu.
With a group of experienced players and a manager, Steve Kean, who is trying to finally prove himself to Rovers fans, promotion should be easily attainable.