While many world football fans focused on the late-season exploits in the Premier League — and the dramatics were absolutely epic thanks to the brilliant battle between Manchester City and Liverpool — the fight for the three EFL Championship (a.k.a. Sky Bet Championship) promotion spots to the Premiership was extremely exciting as always in its own right.
Let’s take an early glance at the three teams — Norwich City, Sheffield United, and Aston Villa — that will join the EPL next season, replacing Cardiff City, Fulham, and Huddersfield Town who are headed the other way. Keep in mind, of course, that there will likely be significant roster turnover in the summer as the teams look to improve their quality in stepping up to a much higher level of competition — Now that they’re up, they’ll want to stay up.
Norwich City won the league with a dazzling offensive display, led by Teemu Pukki’s 29 goals. The Canaries are the only one of the trio who can say they beat a Premier League team last season, although just how much they can brag about defeating Cardiff City is up for debate.
How Promoted: Automatically as EFL Championship winners with 94 points
Nickname(s): The Canaries, the Yellows
Colors: Yellow and green
Main Sponsor: LeoVegas AB
Owner(s): Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones
Location: Norfolk, the eastern part of the central English coast
Stadium: Carrow Road (27,244 capacity)
Most Recent Season in EPL: 2015-16 (19th place)
Offense: Ranked #1 with 93 goals scored, six up on 2nd-most West Brom
Defense: 8th fewest with 57 goals conceded, 16 more than Sheffield United and Middlesbrough which allowed the fewest
Goal Differential: 2nd best with +36, one off Sheffield United
How the Team Fared Against EPL Competition: Won 3-1 at Cardiff in the 2nd round of the EFL Cup, lost 2-1 at Bournemouth in the 4th round.
Manager: Daniel Farke
- Striker Teemu Pukki led the league with 29 goals, four more than second-best Tammy Abraham (Aston Villa) and Neal Maupay (Brentford), while also contributing 9 assists. Not surprisingly, the 29 year old Finland international was named the team’s Player of the Season.
- Midfielder Emiliano Buendia led the team with 12 assists, which tied for 2nd in the league.
- Wing-backs Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis are rated as the most valuable defenders on the team by TransferMarkt.
- As a former fixture at Newcastle United, goalkeeper Tim Krul, who finished 6th with 13 clean sheets for the season, is the most recognizable name to EPL fans.
Main Rival(s): Norwich City’s biggest rival is Ipswich Town, which was just relegated from the Championship to League One. The team does not have any notable rivals among current Premier League teams.
Sheffield United is the biggest Cinderella story of the bunch, returning to the EPL following over a decade-long drought. The Blades’ success is based on defensive excellence: they tied for fewest goals conceded, and keeper Dean Anderson was the league leader in clean sheets. Casual EPL fans will probably not recognize many — or any — of the Blades’ players, at least not until the team buys and borrows this summer.
How Promoted: Automatically as 2nd place finisher with 89 points
Nickname: The Blades
Colors: Red and white
Main Sponsor(s): Ramsdens Currency and DoorDeals
Owner(s): Kevin Prince and Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
Location: South Yorkshire, a landlocked area of central England
Stadium: Bramall Lane (32,609 capacity)
Most Recent Season in EPL: 2006-07 (20th place)
Offense: 4th most with 78 goals
Defense: Tied for fewest allowed (with Middlesbrough) at 41 goals
Goal Differential: #1 at +37
How the Team Fared Against EPL Competition: Did not play any EPL teams in 2018-19.
Manager: Chris Wilder
- Forward and team captain Billy Sharp was 5th in the league and led the team with 23 goals, adding 4 assists.
- Forward David McGoldrick (15 goals, 4 assists) was named the team’s Player of the Year.
- Midfielder John Fleck led the team with 10 assists, adding 2 goals.
- Central defenders Jack O’Connell and John Egan are rated as the most valuable players in the back line by TransferMarkt.
- Keeper Dean Henderson (on loan from Manchester United) led the league with 21 clean sheets.
Despite boasting a team chock full of EPL veterans in defensive midfield and the back line, Villa’s path to the Premiership came from its offensive prowess which was headlined by the exploits of Tammy Abraham, on loan from Chelsea.
How Promoted: After finishing 5th with 76 points, won the playoff (defeating 4th place West Brom in a semifinal, then 6th place Derby Dounty in the final)
Nickname(s): The Villans, Villa, the Villa, the Lions, the Claret & Blue Army
Colors: Claret and sky blue
Main Sponsor(s): 32Red, LUKE, and Unibet
Owner(s): NSWE Group and Recon Group
Location: Birmingham, a landlocked region in the central English midlands
Stadium: Villa Park (42,785 capacity)
Most Recent Season in EPL: 2015-16 (20th place)
Offense: Ranked #3 with 82 goals scored
Defense: 11th-fewest with 61 goals conceded
Goal Differential: #5 at +21
How the Team Fared Against EPL Competition: Did not face any EPL teams in 2018-19
Manager: Dean Smith
- Forward Tammy Abraham (on loan from Chelsea) was 2nd in the league with 26 goals, adding 3 assists.
- Central midfielder Conor Hourihane tied for 5th in the league with 11 assists, adding 7 goals.
- Fellow central midfielder John McGinn (7 goals, 9 assists) was named team Player of the Season.
- Attacking midfielder Jack Grealish put in a fine all-around season with 6 goals and 6 assists.
- Central defender and team captain James Chester is rated as the most valuable player in the back line by TransferMarkt.
- Several other players who featured prominently for Villa in 2018-19 boast well known Premier League pedigrees: defensive midfielders Mile Jedinak and Glenn Whelan, as well as defenders Ahmed Elmohamady, Alan Hutton, Tyrone Mings (on loan from Bournemouth), and Neil Taylor.
Main Rival(s): Birmingham City (which finished 17th in the Championship) and West Brom (4th in the Championship, losing in the playoff semis) are the team’s two biggest rivals; Wolves will be the team’s main EPL rival.
[SOURCE NOTE: Championship statistics came via the official Championship website as well as Footystats; other statistics and information came from the official club sites, TransferMarkt, and Wikipedia]
Which side are you most excited to see back in the Premier League, and what players are you looking forward to watching? What do you think the prospects are so far for the teams succeeding next season by staying up in the EPL? Please share your thoughts in the comments section!