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Championship

Who will win the Championship golden boot?

The Boot Room

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Laying in the heart of any Championship team trying to propel themselves out of the division needs to be a dependable goalscorer. Promotion simply isn’t attainable for a side without a striker who can notch more than 20 goals in a campaign. For example last year, Watford succeeded in the hands of Troy Deeney, Bournemouth would have struggled without Callum Wilson and Cameron Jerome was key to Norwich’s push. As the trio won promotion, the strikers will be plying their trade in the top tier this season, so who’s likely to follow in their footsteps this season?

The eventual winner of the golden boot last term came as a surprise to many, with Ipswich’s Daryl Murphy collecting the accolade come May, with a hugely impressive 27 goals. It’s certainly questionable whether the 32 year old can replicate the form, with internal competition also coming in the form of Brett Pitman, Freddie Sears and David McGoldrick at Portman Road.

The top scorer two seasons ago, Ross McCormack, who was then snapped up by Fulham struggled in his debut season for the Cottagers. This time around, however, the Scottish forward will be hoping to rekindle the form that made him worth such a hefty fee upon his arrival at Craven Cottage. He proved his abilities whilst at Leeds and showed that he was a reliable goalscorer, picking up a knack of pouncing in and around the penalty box, and he will be key for any sort of Fulham success this season.

Middlesbrough would have been left nursing wounds after the bitterly disappointing Play-Off Final loss against Norwich last year which saw their hard graft throughout the season go unrewarded. Manager Aitor Karanka snapped up Leicester City forward David Nugent this summer, and with his proven Championship record, this clever acquisition could lead Boro to the automatic spots that they so crave. He will look to partner up with Spanish forward Kike, who became popular with the Riverside faithful after his arrival from Murica last season. Both of the forwards can easily fight the golden boot award, which Boro fans will hope can lead them to promotion.

Jordan Rhodes has been at the centre of much speculation over the last few years, and the Blackburn Rovers forward has been constantly linked with moves to the Premier League and more substantially, Middlesbrough this window. The 25 year old has scored more than 20 goals in all of his three seasons with Blackburn, and wherever he is playing this season, he is bound to be at the top of the charts once more.

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New look Derby County have a brand new frontline, and we can expect either of new signings Andi Weimann or Darren Bent to be right up there in the scoring charts come May, with a more familiar face also likely to have another successful scoring season in Chris Martin. The big forward has always lingered in with the high scorers, and if Derby can find form under new boss Paul Clement, then Martin will expect to have another season at the top.

Andre Gray completed his £9 Million move from Brentford to Burnley last week, and the ex-Luton man will look to build on his 16 Championship goals to help Burnley in their mission to bounce back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. The pacy forward built a reputation last season for his ability to beat defenders before finishing, and Sean Dyche will be looking for Gray to continue this feat.

Wolves striker Benik Afobe has been the subject of interest from Norwich recently, before Wolves stated that the ex-Arsenal youth player is not for sale. After his arrival at Molineux, he struck up a deadly strike force alongside Nouha Dicko and Bakary Sako to light up the Championship at the second half of last season. With Sako departed, Wolves will rely on Dicko and Afobe to provide the goals for their playoff push.

The bookies favourite still remains a top target for Premier League sides. Very few people would have expected to see Charlie Austin in a QPR shirt at the beginning of this season. After scoring an astounding 18 in Rangers’ disappointing season that ended with relegation, constant speculation has persisted throughout the summer, linking the ex-Burnley man to Crystal Palace, West Ham, Newcastle, Leicester and Southampton, to name just a few. With four goals in his first four appearances, if he does stay at Loftus Road this season he is certainly a clear favourite for the golden boot.

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Other contenders could be Chuba Akpom and Nikica Jelavic of Hull City, Chris Wood of Leeds, Sam Vokes of Burnley, Tomer Hamed of Brighton, Nahki Wells of Huddersfield or Tjaronn Chery of QPR. With the famous unpredictability of the Championship, it could well go to anybody, like we saw with Murphy last year.

However, I don’t think there’s any looking past Charlie Austin if he stays with the West London boys. If, though, he does indeed depart Loftus Road, Benik Afobe is certainly one to look out for. It promises to be a high scoring season in the second tier of English football, and until the end of the campaign, we can only play a guessing game as to how the table will pan out and who will top the goalscoring charts.

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Wolverhampton Wanderers

Goncalo Guedes and Andre Gomes would make Wolves top-six contenders

Wolves have been linked with a move for the Portuguese pair this week.

Mathew Nash

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Wolverhampton Wanderers fans are getting used to seeing their team linked with big names. But two of the players linked in the last seven days would truly take the club to a new level. The Portuguese pairing of Barcelona’s Andre Gomes and PSG’s Goncalo Guedes are both being linked with moves to Molineux.

Of course, the common denominator is their agent. Jorge Mendes represents both players and has previously facilitated their moves to Valencia.

Now both players are said to be available at their clubs, who are trying to balance Financial Fair Play.

According to The Sun, the Barcelona midfielder Gomes is available for around £30 million. Guedes, who was chosen to lead the line with Cristiano Ronaldo at the World Cup recently, is set to be sold by the French champions who need to balance their books in the eyes of UEFA.

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According to Get French Football, PSG need to raise around £53 million by July from player sales. The club wants a fee of up to €60 million (£52 million) for the player but there appears an acceptance that €45 million (£39.3 million) might get the job done.

If Wolves have that sort of money available from the Fosun group then spending nearly £70 million on the Portuguese dup would be a magical piece of business.

Both are excellent commodities who would walk into many of the top clubs in European football. If Wolves were to actually bring them in, with talk of Rui Patricio also abounding, then they would be serious contenders for the Premier League top six next season.

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Leeds United

Should Uwe Rosler offer Pawel Cibicki a Leeds United escape route?

The Swedish forward has struggled to make an impact at Leeds United.

Mathew Nash

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Last summer Leeds United beat off plenty of competition to sign Swedish attacker Pawel Cibicki from Malmo. As reported by The Sun the forward cost Leeds a fee in the region of £1.5 million and it seemed a wise deal. Capable of playing anywhere across the front-line the Malmo star was known to current Leeds star Pontus Jansson and looked something of a coup.

That has not been the case.

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The 24-year-old played just 10 times for Leeds this season and despite impressing some fans, even bagging two assists, he was not given a prolonged chance under either Thomas Christiansen or Paul Heckingbottom.

Therefore, his future seems to be away from Elland Road and perhaps a return to Malmo would be the best option for the player.

If he did so he would be joining up with someone else who knows all about the brittle nature of a Leeds career. Uwe Rosler was recently appointed the new boss at the Swedish powerhouse.

The German lasted just 12 games as Leeds manager before being given the ceremonial axe by ‘manager-eater’ and former chairman Massimo Cellino.

Now he is being tasked with taking Malmo to the next level and fans at the club would love to see Cibicki back at the Swedbank Stadium. It could prove to be a match made in Leeds reject heaven.

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Leeds United

Leeds United should target Marcelo Bielsa teacher’s pet Stephane Sparagna

Leeds United’s new boss was a big fan of Sparagna at Marseille.

Mathew Nash

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Leeds United have completed one of the more eye-catching managerial appointments in Championship history, with the appointment of Argentine legend Marcelo Bielsa before the weekend.

The former Athletic Bilbao and Marseille boss is a cult hero in the sport for his revolutionary tactics and influence on some of the best young managers in the world today.

He also often sees things in certain players that others don’t. He can make a player thrive, who then falls away once he departs. Aurtenetxe at Athletic Bilbao a prime example. From playing in the Europa League final and being on the verge of the Spanish national team, to being released by Dundee.

Another player who fits this bill is French central defender Stephane Sparagna.

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Bielsa plucked him from the reserves back in 2014 just as his Marseille career appeared to be dwindling away. Bielsa quickly turned him into a squad regular and soon Arsenal were snooping. When Bielsa left, Sparagna fell out of favour – with injuries also a contributing factor.

But Bielsa’s influence cannot be understated. Sparagna said so himself, telling Europe1 Sports that the Argentine was the ‘only one who believed in him.’

Nowadays the 23-year-old is impressing in Portuguese football with Boavista but Leeds need a new central defender. They need players Bielsa can trust, especially if a three at the back formation is implemented at Elland Road.

The former French youth international underwent corrective knee surgery in May but is expected back for the new season.

Considering he would be an affordable, trustworthy former Bielsa product in a position that Leeds need reinforcements, Sparagna would be a welcome recruit.

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