When you’re down at the bottom of the table, you need some degree of luck on your side when you come up against the better teams in league. However if you don’t work hard at the basics and give a team space to play you will be punished, and that is exactly what happened to Hibs on Saturday.

With the pressure on both sides as the teams emerged from the Easter Road tunnel there were a couple of interesting selection choices from either manager. The home side started with Derek Riordan and Merouane Zemmama upfront, a strange choice with neither known as an out and out striker; Calderwood will have hoped their movement could cause problems to the Celtic defence.

Neil Lennon welcomed back Gary Hooper to the Celtic frontline and partnered him with Anthony Stokes in attack, relief for the Irishman after his frustrating lone role against Hamilton on Wednesday. Scott Brown started in place of Joe Ledley in the middle of the park, hoping the Scot would add more bite to team.

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I have spent my afternoon watching the first half of the Total Larsson DVD. If it isn’t obvious it’s a DVD that shows you nearly every goal Henrik Larsson scored for Helsingborg, Feyenoord, Celtic, Barcelona and Manchester United. It is an absolute pleasure to watch the man in his prime.

Something occurred to me while enjoying some of his best goals and I feel very very lucky. Although I had already been to Celtic Park on many an occasion I finally purchased my first season ticket in the same season that for a measly £650,000 Celtic secured the signature of Henrik Larsson from Dutch giants Feyenoord.

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A very tough season lays ahead for all 24 Championship teams, looking through the lineups I am struggling to pick upright favourtites, plenty of Play-off contenders, most teams stuck in limbo and a few tipped for the bottom, let’s meet the contenders

PROMOTION CANDIDATES

Leicester City

The only team that I think has the greatest chance of promotion this year, although they have lost Manager Nigel Pearson they have kept star striker Matty Fryatt a goal machine in the past 2 seasons, to gain promotion from this league you need a goal scorer, and Fryatt guarentee’s 15-20 goals a season, add to that the like of Richie Wellens, lloyd Dyer, Robbie Neilson and Dany N’Guessan and you have the makings of a strong team. Manager Paulo Sousa did a good job at Swansea, it is a tough ask to follow in Nigel Pearson’s footsteps however Paulo has the ability to not only follow him, but take Leicester one step further.

Other candidates – Middlesbrough, Swansea, Ipswich

PLAYOFF CONTENDERS

Bristol City

Another new manager at a potentially massive club boosted by the signing of England International David James in goals, also keeping the likes of Nicky Maynard, Damion Stewart and Gavin Williams they have a strong squad with lots of potential. I expect them to have a very strong season and with time still left to add that little bit more quality, they will be a team to beat.

Cardiff City

Dave Jones announced today that the transfer embargo had been lifted, this should be the catalysty Cardiff need to bring in some good players, added to an already talented squad the potential to have a good season is there, Jason Koumas has already signed more should follow. Joe Ledley has gone to Celtic, Chopra is constantly linked with a move away, they still have Peter Whittingham, Ross McCormack and Jay Bothroyd to fire them into play-off contention. It will take all of Dave Jones managerial nouse to pick the team up from last years play-off defeat to get them a good start to the season, if he does Cardiff’s new groud could be a hard place to visit.

Coventry City

My last team picked for the play-offs is a little bit of a long shot, however all the ingredients are there, talented manager who’s done it before, exciting players and a good home crowd, Gary McSheffrey returns to where he once cause so many problems, young Irish players Stephen O’Halloran and Roy O’Donovan, the experience of Lee Carsley and a really exciting player in Lukas Jutkiewicz who showed his class on loan at Motherwell last year a remarkable goal in the memorable match against Hibs. Aidy Boothroyd will need to gel the players quickly, helped by the likes of Freddy Eastwood, Michael Doyle and Martin Craine good times could return to Coventry and the Ricoh Arena.

Other Candidates – Sheffield United, Leeds United

RELEGATION CANDIDATES

Scunthorpe United

It must be hard being a Scunthorpe fan constantly punching above your weight, plucking strikers either from the scrap heap or obscurity, watch them score tons of goals, to then watch them be sold again to the highest bidder, Billy Sharp saved his career at Glanford Park only then to move onto Doncaster, and this year it was Gary Hooper’s turn 50 goals for The Irons and then the big move to Celtic, so again Scunny fans have to look for their next savoir, Chris Dagnall has been brought in from Rochdale on a free and given the number 9 jersey, hopes will be pinned on him, too many players have left, I think it will be a long old season, and it could have a horrible ending.

Portsmouth

It’s easy to pick on Portsmouth, the club is in a real mess, minutes away from non-existence 14 players in the squad, 2 of them due to leave at some point, there needs to be heavy rebuilding in the squad to give them any chance, the players they have can only be described as journeymen, Tommy Smith, Michael Brown, Danny Webber all players that will not strike fear into any team, Kevin-Prince Boateng and John Utaka will surely leave, maybe even Aaron Moekena would leave, a grim job for Steve Cotterill lies ahead.

Other Candidates – Millwall, Derby County

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