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EPL Promotion Watch: 5 Favorites to Earn Promotion This Season

Joe TanseyFeatured Columnist IVDecember 29, 2016

EPL Promotion Watch: 5 Favorites to Earn Promotion This Season

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    While we are still two weeks away from the opening of the English Premier League season, the rigorous 44-match schedule of the championship starts on Saturday.

    The English second flight is known as one of the most competitive leagues in the world because of its vast size and treacherous scheduling.

    Last season, Cardiff City, Hull City and Crystal Palace catapulted themselves up to the EPL while Queens Park Rangers, Reading and Wigan slipped back down to the lower division.

    Are one of the three newly demoted clubs in line to make a move back up to the EPL this season?

    Read on to see who are the five clubs with the best chances of clinching promotion to the top flight this season.

Reading

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    Of the three newly demoted clubs playing in the championship this season, Reading have the best chance of going back up to the EPL.

    Manager Nigel Adkins has seen success in the division before with Southampton, and the Royals have made some inroads in the transfer window to make sure that they are near the top of the table all season.

    Former EPL players Wayne Bridge and Royston Drenthe have joined up with the Royals at the Madejski Stadium to provide some veteran leadership to the squad.

    Also remaining on the squad from last season's relegation are forwards Adam Le Fondre and Pavel Pogrebnyak, as well as midfielders Jobi McAnuff and Garath McCleary.

    With a group of players who have seen success in the championship before as well as having a few strong veterans in the mix, Reading have to be considered the favorites for promotion.

Watford

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    Out of all the clubs that were in the fight for promotion last season, Watford were the club that deserved a move to the EPL—but lost out in the end.

    Former Chelsea star Gianfranco Zola is still in charge of a Hornets side that has to regroup and challenge for promotion once again.

    Fans at Vicarage Road were treated to some spectacular football last season with a group of loanees led by Matej Vydra driving the charge up front.

    Without Vydra in the squad this season, the pressure will shift on to the shoulders of Troy Deeney to become the main goalscorer for the Hornets.

    If Watford can rally around Zola for a second consecutive season, we could very well see the Italian managing against his former club during the 2014-15 EPL season.

Brighton and Hove Albion

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    After they fell flat on their face during the end of last season, Brighton and Hove Albion are back with a new manager and are hoping to generate plenty of buzz on the South Coast of England.

    Oscar Garcia will replace Gus Poyet as manager and luckily for the new man in charge, he will have most of the same squad that qualified for the promotion playoffs last season at his disposal.

    The major change in the squad comes in the back four as Wayne Bridge has departed to join Reading while Matthew Upson has returned to the Amex Stadium after a year on loan with Stoke City.

    With attacking threats like Craig Mackail-Smith, Leonardo Ulloa and Andrea Orlandi in the side once again, the Seagulls have a strong chance of avoiding the playoffs and securing automatic promotion to the EPL this season.

Nottingham Forest

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    The return of Nottingham Forest to the promised land could come as soon as this season.

    Forest finished in eighth place in the championship last season, which meant they missed out on the promotion playoffs by two positions.

    Billy Davies had his club in the promotion mix all season and he could be leading the club over the hump after making a few big signings.

    Making debut appearances at The City Ground this season will be Jamie Mackie to bolster the attack as well as Eric Lichaj and Gonzalo Jara to sure up the back four.

    With a squad that has a good amount of depth, a strong manager and a good backing from ownership, this could be the year for Forest to rise amongst the cream of the crop and earn promotion.

Bolton Wanderers

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    Bolton Wanderers possess one of the best young managers in the English game in Dougie Freedman.

    Freedman, who joined the club from Crystal Palace last October, is poised to have the Trotters contend for one of the three promotion places. 

    Unfortunately for American fans, midfielder Stuart Holden will not be playing a part in Bolton's success this season after his latest injury setback.

    However, there is another American in the squad with defender Tim Ream, formerly of the New York Red Bulls, manning the back four for the club.

    As for the rest of the squad, forward Jermaine Beckford will be joining the squad this season as a much-needed lift to the attack.

    Expect Bolton to fly under the radar early in the season and to emerge as a contender as the first full season under Freedman progresses.

     

    Which clubs do you think will challenge for promotion this season?

    Comment below or leave me a comment on Twitter, @JTansey90.

     

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