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Opponents 2016/17: Three tipped for the top

17 June 2016

We profile three clubs who are tipped to fly high in the coming season...

As fixture release day draws ever nearer we are taking a look at some of the clubs which Reading will be facing in 2016/17! Having already covered the three newly promoted teams to the Championship and the trio that have dropped out of the Premier League, we are now turning our attention to three sides who are tipped for success in the league this coming season, according to the bookies.

Despite the shortest odds for promotion being for the three clubs that have just come down from the Premier League, running them close are Derby, Brighton and Sheffield Wednesday, who all had a 2015/16 campaign to remember…

Sky Bet Odds promotion odds: 9/2

Derby had a topsy-turvy 2015/16 season in the Championship, with the club getting off to a flying start under the management of former Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid assistant Paul Clement.

The Rams were sat at the top of the Championship table on Boxing Day, with Clement’s side looking favourites to win automatic promotion to the Premier League. The first half of the season saw Derby in outstanding form, only losing two of their opening 23 games, and picking up a notable 2-0 away victory against promotion rivals Hull City.

Derby’s season took a nosedive after Christmas however, and two months later in February 2016 Clement departed the iPro Stadium following a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Burnley. Darren Wassall was appointed head coach until the end of the season, and despite finishing in the Play-Off places, the Rams never really rediscovered the kind of form they showed in the early stages of the season.

Finishing fifth in the table, Derby faced fourth-placed Hull in the Play-Off semi-finals with both sides desperate to book a place at Wembley. Derby suffered a humiliating 3-0 home defeat at the hands of the Tigers in the first leg, but nearly turned it around in the second-leg with Hull eventually scraping through 3-2 on aggregate.

Derby have been quiet in the transfer window so far this summer; they have however appointed a new manager, with former Leicester City boss Nigel Pearson taking the reins at the iPro Stadium. Derby will be hoping Pearson can guide them to the Premier League, just as he did with the Foxes three seasons ago.

For pre-season the Rams will be heading to Portugal for a training camp, before heading back to face Walsall, Chesterfield and Sheffield United in friendlies as they gear up for the new season.

The last meeting between the Royals and Derby was back on January 12th on a Tuesday evening. In a tight contest Jason Shackell handed Derby the lead after 11 minutes, but the Royals hit back in the second-half with a Danny Williams strike. Despite pushing for a winner in the closing stages Reading were unable to find a second with Derby holding on to earn a point.

Sky Bet promotion odds: 5/1

Brighton were one of the league’s most solid sides in last season’s Sky Bet Championship. Under the management of former Newcastle boss Chris Hughton, the Seagulls were an ever present in the top three, occupying an automatic promotion spot for large swathes of the campaign.

They were the league’s early front-runners, winning six of their opening seven games. Houghton’s side were notoriously difficult to break down, as Reading found out when they were held to a 1-1 draw at Madejski Stadium, despite dominating possession. The south coast club stayed unbeaten in the league until December 19th, when they fell to a 3-0 defeat at home to promotion rivals Middlesbrough.

Following their defeat to Boro, Brighton dropped out of the top two, but fought their way back into automatic promotion contention later in the season with a win over the Royals at home on March 15th.

In a very tightly congested top three, automatic promotion went down to the final day of the season with the Seagulls needing to beat Middlesbrough away in a straight shoot-out for a Premier League place. It was not to be however, with the game ending 1-1 and a point enough to see Boro promoted on goal-difference.

After missing out on automatic promotion on the final day, Brighton struggled to raise themselves for the Play-Offs and were beaten over two legs in the semi-final by Sheffield Wednesday.

So far this summer the Seagulls have completed the signing of winger Ben Hall form Motherwell, as Hughton’s team look to go one better this season and finish inside the top two. Former Royal Steve Sidwell has also joined the Seagulls permanently on a free transfer, following his contract expiring with Premier League outfit Stoke City at the end of last season.

Brighton have five pre-season fixtures confirmed as they turn their attention to 2016/17 with friendlies against Crawley Town, Fulham and Luton as-well-as match ups with Stevenage and Oxford United.

Sky Bet promotion odds: 11/2

Sheffield Wednesday finished the 2015/16 season very strongly as their late Play-Off push nearly saw the Yorkshire club promoted at Wembley - only to be denied by Steve Bruce’s star-studded Hull team.

Head coach at Hillsborough Carlos Carvalhal guided his team to the Play-Off places in his first season in charge at the club, with his team only losing four of their last 21 fixtures in the campaign. After a slow start to the season the Owls found themselves in the bottom half of the table and despite pushing themselves away from the relegation zone, by mid-November they were still outsiders to reach the play-offs.

After strengthening the squad considerably in January however Carvalhal’s side put together some impressive results and found themselves in the top six for the first time by January 16th. The club only dropped out of the Play-Off places once from then on, securing sixth position and setting up a Play-Off semi-final clash with Brighton.

The Owls beat the Seagulls at Hillsborough in the first leg, taking a 2-0 lead to the Amex Stadium thanks to goals from Ross Wallace and Kieran Lee.  After a 1-1 draw in Brighton, Wednesday walked onto Wembley to face Hull City who had overcome Derby in their semi-final. In a tense and close encounter under the arch, the Owls were edged out thanks to a superb strike from Tigers’ midfielder Mohammed Diame. His strike came on the 72nd minute in front of a crowd of over 70,000, with Wednesday unable to muster a response as Hull went onto clinch promotion back to the Premier League after one season away.

Sheffield Wednesday are yet to make any movement in the transfer market this summer, though it is still very early on, with the club yet to release their pre-season fixture schedule as they look towards the new campaign.

Reading’s last meeting with Sheffield Wednesday was on the 23rd of January, with the Royals falling behind to an early goal at Madejski Stadium. Academy graduate Jake Cooper headed home in the 74th minute to level the scores, and despite the Royals pressing for a later winner, Carvalhal’s side held on for a valuable point in the hunt for a place in the top six.

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