League One 2019/20 season preview: Promotion, play-offs, relegation?

The new Sky Bet League One season kicks off this weekend but who’s likely to be battling at the top and bottom?

We select the sides who look likely to be competing for promotion – and those who could be set for a season of struggle…

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Title challengers

Sunderland missed out on an immediate return to the Championship after heartbreak at Wembley but Jack Ross’s side are 7/2 favourites with Sky Bet to bypass the play-offs and lift the title in 2019/20.

Ross faced a major rebuilding job last summer but has spoken of his “calmness” this time around after making careful tweaks to a well-equipped squad. The goal return of strikers Will Grigg and Charlie Wyke was questioned last term but Marc McNulty thrives at this level and is a significant boost to the Black Cats’ firepower.

Portsmouth missed out to the Wearsiders at the play-off semi-final stage but are 6/1 tips for the crown, with Kenny Jackett having further bolstered his already ample attacking options. Ellis Harrison and Marcus Harness are exciting arrivals for a side who scored only fewer than champions Luton last term, and Jackett remains hopeful Jamal Lowe will stay put.

Paul Lambert has played down expectations for his relegated Ipswich side, who are battling a string of injuries as the opening weekend looms. Sky Bet rate them 6/1 title shots, though summer signing James Norwood – scorer of 30 League Two goals last season – has impressed in pre-season and is expected to shine a level above.

0:45 Ipswich manager Paul Lambert talks transfers to Sky Sports News.

Another side down from the Championship, Rotherham, are 10/1 to return in style – Freddie Ladapo an intriguing addition to a side sure to be hungry for a swift return under the inspirational Paul Warne – but Peterborough, also 10/1 for the title, look well placed to end a six-year absence from the second tier. Highly-rated goalkeeper Christy Pym, experienced defender Mark Beevers and forward Mo Eisa look smart signings for a side that can already boast exciting attackers like Siriki Dembele and Marcus Maddison.

Play-off hopefuls

Doncaster (5/1 for promotion) and Lincoln (9/2) are both fancied by Sky Bet to challenge. New boss Darren Moore should have Rovers competitive, though remodelling may be key after several departures, while Lincoln have added highly-rated playmaker Jorge Grant and could well maintain their upward momentum.

Fleetwood – whose impressive summer recruitment includes former Sheffield United midfielder Paul Coutts – are deemed an 11/2 shot, with Burton given the same shot. Harness’s switch to Portsmouth is a big blow for Nigel Clough’s side, though.

0:36 New Blackpool boss Simon Grayson is targeting League One promotion after signing a two-year contract at the club.

With the Oyston ownership finally over, Blackpool fans have celebrated before a ball has been kicked but with fan Simon Sadler at the helm and experienced Simon Grayson in the dugout, there are hopes of success on the pitch, too. Ryan Hardie and Adi Yussuf are attacking additions to a solid squad rated 9/1 for promotion. Coventry are shorter at 8/1 but despite Mark Robins’ best efforts, the Sky Blues must groundshare again – this time at St Andrews’ – and long-suffering fans remain dejected.

0:57 Coventry City owner Joy Seppala has apologised to the club's fans for their move to Birmingham.

Shrewsbury are a longer 14/1 promotion shot but Sam Ricketts’ extensive recruitment drive has included wily striker Steve Morison, who has linked up promisingly with Fejiri Okenabirhie in pre-season, and young Chelsea midfielder Luke McCormick.

Potential strugglers

Bury (1/7 to be relegated) and Bolton (4/6) are odds-on favourites to go down but the graver bigger picture concerns the very existence of two proud clubs. Both will start with 12-point deductions because of financial difficulties and Bury’s opener against MK Dons has been suspended after the club failed to satisfy the EFL that they have the necessary finances in place.

Southend (10/3) survived on the final day of last season and are braced for another scrap, with boss Kevin Bond admitting his squad is not yet ready to go, while Rochdale (7/2) are facing up to life without Keith Hill and Gillingham (5/1) have lost top scorer Tom Eaves, as well as goalkeeper Tomas Holy.

Top scorer

James Norwood has already talked of his determination to land the Golden Boot and the Ipswich arrival is the 9/1 favourite with Sky Bet.

Sunderland’s Will Grigg is deemed 10/1, with Doncaster’s John Marquis – the subject of interest but as yet no bid, according to Moore – at 11/1 and Peterborough duo Mo Eisa and Ivan Toney both rated 12/1.

Sourse: skysports.com

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