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How Championship is shaping up and who will win £200million Premier League jackpot – SunSport’s mid-season predictions

WE’RE now firmly into the second half of the race to make the Premier League promised land.

Leicester and Ipswich have been setting the pace from the front – although the Tractor Boys have been reeled in recently by the blistering form of Southampton.

Ipswich still occupy an automatic promotion spot despite Southampton's strong form

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Ipswich still occupy an automatic promotion spot despite Southampton’s strong formCredit: Rex
Bournemouth striker Kieffer Moore is a target for several Championship clubs

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Bournemouth striker Kieffer Moore is a target for several Championship clubsCredit: Getty

With the transfer window open, we look at what the runners and riders need if they are to up the pace as the clubs make a dash for the winning post and the £200million jackpot prize of top flight football.

Here SunSport looks at the top FOURTEEN teams who are currently in contention – and apologies to Swansea and Millwall down in 15th and 16th. I don’t see either as genuine contenders but, hey, this is the Championship, we might be left with egg on our face come May!

Leicester

Enzo Maresca’s side are going to be playing top-flight football next season.

The squad is too good for the Championship so the focus must be now on building a team, philosophy and identity that will be able to stay in the Premier League.

The Foxes will need to strengthen in attacking areas because they surely cannot be relying on veteran Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho next season. Their midfield needs more creativity too. They do look a bit one-paced.

Inter Milan and Italy midfield ace Stefano Sensi, 28, is said to have agreed to join the club this month in a move that will cost just under £2million.

Ipswich

What the Tractor Boys have been achieving this season with the same team that won promotion from League One last season is nothing short of remarkable – but they do lack the strength in depth that rivals such as Southampton boast.

The ruthless Championship fixture schedule had been taking its toll on Kieran McKenna’s men in recent weeks with Saints chasing them down – so they sensibly brought in Lewis Travis, who made his debut on loan from Blackburn against Sunderland on Saturday, while attacking midfield ace Jeremy Sarmiento from Spurs came off the bench.

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Conor Chaplin has been superb up front but Ipswich have been eyeing up a loan deal for Bournemouth striker Kieffer Moore while Wigan centre-back Charlie Hughes, 20, is also on the club’s radar.

Chief scout Sam Williams has been personally watching him this season.

Southampton

Russell Martin never doubted that the Saints were going to be in the automatic promotion argument – even after four straight losses in September and a leaky defence at the time made it look unlikely.

Their 4-0 thumping of Sheffield Wednesday made it 14 wins and five draws from their last 19 unbeaten Championship games.

But with Kamaldeen Sulemana crocked and a lack of experienced replacements, Martin is keen to add another winger to his ranks to help push the Saints over the line in what is looking like a three-way fight with Ipswich and Leeds for second spot.

David Brooks from Bournemouth is a realistic option while the Saints are keeping tabs on Manchester United kid Amad Diallo as a loan option after he was superb for Sunderland last season.

Leeds

Daniel Farke says the club will be reserved during this window as he is happy with his lot at Elland Road – after a chaotic summer where he was unable to nail down his squad until the last minute.

The club have been in good form although they can be a little inconsistent. For example, they smashed Ipswich at home, only to lose a few days later at Preston.

They could do with another left-back with Sam Byram having a string of injury issues while Junior Firpo has not exactly pulled up any trees.

Rangers ace Borna Baristic could be an option.

West Brom

The Baggies need to bolster their attack if they are to be a serious threat in the business end of the season.

As good as they can be on their day – especially at The Hawthorns – they lack a cutting edge at times. In fact, they are the lowest scorers in the top six.

Bristol City striker Andreas Weimann is on their radar and West Brom boss Carlos Corberan said he wants someone who has good Championship experience.

Coventry

The Sky Blues are building up a nice head of steam right now. Their 3-1 comeback win over Leicester means they have now won seven, drawn four and lost just one of their last 12 league games and moved into the top six for the first time this season.

Last year’s play-off finalists were hurt in the summer by the loss of star players Viktor Gyokeres and Gustavo Hamer.

Boss Mark Robins has signed this month midfielder Victor Torp in a £2.1m deal from Norwegian top flight club Sarpsborg to fill the void he had not yet filled left by Hamer.

Their top priority this winter should be to tie down attacking midfielder Callum O’Hare, who scored twice on Saturday, to a new deal as his form has turned around Coventry’s season and his current deal expires this summer.

Sunderland

Two things that must happen this month at the Stadium of Light is to keep Jack Clarke and sign a striker.

The Black Cats look a bit short at the moment of making the play-offs and will have no chance if they fail to secure the above.

Clarke scored his 13th of the season and is being chased by West Ham, Brentford and Crystal Palace but Sunderland must reject all advances.

Bournemouth’s Kieffer Moore and Blackburn’s Sam Gallagher are on boss Michael Beale’s radar.

Hull

One of the surprise play-off contenders that has emerged this season is Liam Rosenior’s men – but he will be keen to maintain their push beyond this transfer window.

And the club have already been active in boosting their ranks.

Bringing in attacking midfielder Fabio Carvalho on loan from Liverpool after he was recalled from RB Leipzig is a great piece of business. Although he flopped in Germany, he is a proven performer in the Championship with Fulham.

And bringing in experienced former Sheffield United striker Billy Sharp, who was a free agent, could prove to be inspired.

Middlesbrough

Michael Carrick’s men brought in veteran right-back Luke Ayling on loan from Leeds and attacking midfielder Finn Azaz from Aston Villa.

But they do need a striker, like a lot of clubs competing, and must keep hold of man of the moment Hayden Hackney.

The midfielder has been on fire for Boro and scored the winner against Chelsea to give his side a 1-0 Carabao Cup semi-final first-leg advantage – but Tottenham are preparing a January swoop after keeping a close eye on him.

Norwich

Although the Canaries spent most of 2023 sitting in mid-table, this morning despite being 10th they have just two points behind the play-off spots so the first half of 2024 could be far from a write-off if they can get their act together.

David Wagner is one of several managers chasing Bouremouth’s Moore but an interesting target is United winger Facundo Pellistri, 22, who they want to bring in on loan.

United have a good relationship with the Canaries and were happy with how the Norfolk side looked after and developed Brandon Williams a couple of seasons ago.

Preston

North End fans are bracing themselves for a boring month with hardly any business expected to be done at Deepdale after a busy summer of activity.

The team are sitting 11th but are just a couple of points behind the top six.

Preston have been rumoured to be after Newcastle’s defensive midfielder Isaac Hayden after he was recalled from his loan to Standard Liege.

Cardiff

After being under a transfer embargo for a whole year, the Bluebirds can splash the cash this winter – and boss Erol Bulut has made it clear he expects exactly that.

He wants to make “three or four signings” but a striker is the absolute priority.

And they have joined the queue for Bournemouth’s Moore.

He also wants a winger, midfielder and centre-back.

Watford

The Hornets would like to bring in a left-back during this window.

Wesley Hoedt is the only natural left-footer in their defence.

Valerien Ismael has got Watford into the play-off mix and will go all guns blazing in the remaining 19 games.

Bristol City

It’s madness usually to consider a team sitting 14th in mid-January as a serious promotion contender – but, right now, the Robins are exactly that, just four points behind sixth-placed Coventry.

And one of their targets this month is a controversial one… Bristol Rovers striker Chris Martin.

Martin, 35, only left Ashton Gate last January, to join QPR, and moved to bitter rivals Rovers in the summer where he has been tearing up League One.

The Robins want a No10 and striker before the end of the month.

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