When you look at all the 2013-14 fixtures for the English Football League Championship, you cannot miss that this is a league tougher than trying to a chew a steak cut from Susan Boyle’s back.
It doesn’t get the viewing figures that the Premier League does, as there aren’t the big names and the tempo is a little lower. But the Championship is the place where spells of world-class play meets "have-you-ever-played-football-before?" defending.
And, in terms of competitiveness, the EPL doesn’t come close to the Championship.
Who’s favorite to win the Premier League? Manchester United, Manchester City or Chelsea. Even though all those teams have a new manager, you still wouldn’t bet on a team outside of those three lifting the trophy.
However, predicting who the contenders are for automatic promotion to the Premier League is a much harder task. Winning the Championship is a lot like Rihanna; you can’t help but think everyone has a chance.
Let’s try to pick the front-runners:
You have to presume the three relegated teams will be in the mix, so Wigan, Reading and QPR.
Watford were so close to getting promoted twice, with their final day heartache at Leeds and losing to Crystal Palace in the playoff final, so you include them.
Brighton & Hove Albion and Leicester City were in the playoffs too, so they’re on the list.
Bolton Wanderers, Nottingham Forest and Charlton Athletic were all whiskers away from the playoffs, so they need to be considered.
And when you look at the squads of Leeds United, Blackburn Rovers, Blackpool and Birmingham City, you can’t write them off.
So that’s 13 teams, over 50 percent of the league, that you wouldn’t be surprised if they topped the Championship table.
And don’t forget both Southampton and Norwich City got promoted to the Premier League in their first season in the Championship after being promoted from League One, so Doncaster Rovers, Bournemouth and Yeovil Town could all realistically be within a sniff of England’s top flight.
There’s a higher number of contenders for the Championship than the number in Tahiti’s Confederation Cup “Goals Against” column.
So with Wednesday’s announcement of the 2013-14 Championship fixtures we’re identifying the 10 games that could decide the English Football League Championship.