Championship 2012-13 season: Club-by-club guide

The Championship will be as competitive as ever this season with all of the relegated Premier League clubs looking to return to the top flight at the first attempt.

But Wolves, Blackburn and Bolton will be facing stiff competition from plenty of other ambitious sides, including last season's play-off runners-up Blackpool plus semi-finalists Birmingham and Cardiff.

Before the action kicks off this weekend, BBC Sport experts assess each side's preparations with a club-by-club guide to the new season.

You can also check out the BBC's guide to the Premier League, League One and League Two.

Barnsley

Manager: Keith Hill

Last season: 21st

Best summer signing: Jacob Mellis

One to watch: Paul Digby

Barnsley

BBC Radio Sheffield's Andrew Giddings: "Keith Hill's side will have to defy the odds to stay up again, but that is a battle Barnsley face every season at this level.

"Hill's pre-season plans have been hampered by the injury to marquee signing Mido, who looks likely to miss the first three months of the season.

"The Tykes started well last campaign and their brand of football served them well until Christmas but once Ricardo Vaz Te left and Jacob Butterfield (who joined Norwich this summer) got injured, they really struggled. If they can get Mido fit and scoring goals they can survive and that will be their aim."

Birmingham City

Manager: Lee Clark

Last season: 4th

Best summer signing: Peter Lovenkrands

One to watch: Ravel Morrison

Birmingham City

BBC Radio WM's John Platt: "Birmingham approach their second successive season in the second tier in much better shape squad-wise than they did this time 12 months ago.

"Only young midfielder Jordon Mutch has departed so far, but this has been more than compensated for by the arrivals of Darren Ambrose, Hayden Mullins and Ravel Morrison. Another newcomer, Peter Lovenkrands, looks set to form a potent strike force with Marlon King.

"The goalkeeping position is interesting with the rise to prominence at the Olympics of Team GB's Jack Butland. Another tilt at the play-offs isn't beyond Blues."

Blackburn Rovers

Manager: Steve Kean

Last season: 19th (Premier League)

Best summer signing: Danny Murphy

One to watch: Nuno Gomes

Blackburn Rovers

BBC Radio Lancashire's Andy Bayes: "When you speak to people at Blackburn, they tell you it does not do any good to spend time dwelling on last season. It is hardly a surprise, as last season was disappointing on and off the pitch.

"With the exception of Yakubu, last season's signings didn't prove to be good enough to help the club beat the drop. Promotion back to the Premier League is their one and only target.

"Attendances will take a substantial knock, with some fans refusing to return to Ewood Park until Steve Kean is removed as manager. The loss of Leon Best to injury is a huge blow, and a goalscorer has to remain a priority in the transfer market."

Blackpool

Manager: Ian Holloway

Last season: 5th

Best summer signing: Scott Robertson

One to watch: Tom Ince

Blackpool

BBC Radio Lancashire's Ian Chisnall: "Having lost to West Ham in the play-off final, many thought that Ian Holloway would have been lured away. The fact that he and young stars Matt Phillips and Tom Ince are still at the club could promise another successful campaign.

"The squad has a good balance. Veterans Barry Ferguson and Kevin Phillips will look to bow out in style and, with the development of Angel Martinez allied to the return of Elliot Grandin, the midfield has both creativity and strength.

"Goalkeeping cover for Matt Gilks and some physical presence up front are still priorities but the team will play with flair and again be easy on the eye. A play-off place is the minimum requirement."

Bolton Wanderers

Manager: Owen Coyle

Last season: 18th (Premier League)

Best summer signing: Keith Andrews

One to watch: Tim Ream

Bolton Wanderers

BBC Radio Manchester's Jack Dearden: "A summer clearout has seen most of the big earners move on but manager Owen Coyle has retained some key personnel who could provide the platform for promotion.

"The big problem last season was the number of goals Bolton conceded, and that is one area they must improve on this time around. The fact they have only kept one clean sheet in seven pre-season matches might give some cause for concern.

"I don't expect as many problems at the opposite end of the pitch, with Marvin Sordell set to make up for lost time and the arrival on loan of Arsenal striker Benik Afobe, whilst Kevin Davies will surely be a handful for most Championship teams."

Brighton & Hove Albion

Manager: Gus Poyet

Last season: 10th

Best summer signing: Bruno Saltor

One to watch: Andrew Crofts

Brighton & Hove Albion

BBC Sussex's Jonny Cantor: "Albion finished a creditable 10th last season after flirting with the play-offs in their first year back in the Championship. The form of Vicente, who has committed to another season, will be key to their fortunes.

"Thomas Kuszczak and Bruno are solid signings, Wayne Bridge could play an important role after signing on a season-long loan from Manchester City.

"Craig Mackail-Smith has struggled for goals but he and Ashley Barnes have given the Seagulls two consistent performers. Gus Poyet is still searching for another forward - a masterstroke could be required for promotion, similar to that of Jason Roberts at Reading last season."

Bristol City

Manager: Derek McInnes

Last season: 20th

Best summer signing: Jody Morris

One to watch: Albert Adomah

Bristol City

BBC Sport's Caroline Chapman: "After scrapping for survival last term, manager Derek McInnes is under pressure to keep Bristol City out of a relegation battle.

"The Scotsman has spent the summer reshaping the squad he inherited from predecessors Keith Millen and Steve Coppell, but they still seem to be missing that marquee signing that would signal their intent and direction for the season.

"However, the arrival of experienced midfielder Jody Morris certainly whetted the appetites of expectant City fans, and if McInnes can bring in the prolific goalscorer they have craved since Nicky Maynard's departure - along with a strong centre-half - things could be looking up."

Burnley

Manager: Eddie Howe

Last season: 13th

Best summer signing: Jason Shackell

One to watch: Charlie Austin

Burnley

BBC Radio Lancashire's Scott Read: "Eddie Howe is about to embark on his second full season in charge, after suffering a dip at the end of the last campaign which saw them win just three of their last 15 games.

"Howe will once again do things his way. He has strong beliefs on how the game should be played and is building a young team that will be coached and encouraged to pass the ball.

"Tasked with replacing Jay Rodriguez this summer, the Clarets will rely on Charlie Austin, who scored 17 goals last season, along with Sam Vokes, Martin Paterson and Danny Ings to try and fire them into the play-off places."

Cardiff City

Manager: Malky Mackay

Last season: 6th

Best summer signing: Craig Bellamy

One to watch: Jordon Mutch

Cardiff City

BBC Wales's Mark Poyser: "Amid the backdrop of the Malaysian owners' controversial decision to change the club's home colours from blue to red, Cardiff manager Malky Mackay has been making some shrewd signings.

"Craig Bellamy's arrival could bring the fans together after the split over the re-branding and the new players could add the 'X-Factor' that some claim was missing last year.

"If the fans put their opposition to the off-field changes to one side to support the team, and the new players gel, Cardiff will be there or thereabouts again at the top of the table after three successive play-off disappointments."

Charlton Athletic

Manager: Chris Powell

Last season: 1st (League One)

Best summer signing: Salim Kerkar

One to watch: Bradley Wright-Phillips

Charlton Athletic

BBC London 94.9's Jamie Reid: "Charlton were the best side in League One last season, finishing eight points clear of second-placed Sheffield Wednesday. Chris Powell's side broke all sorts of records on their way to their 101-point total, and justifiably won the league.

"Life in the Championship promises to be much tougher. So far, the Addicks have only signed three new players so lots will be expected of those who performed so well last season.

"Powell is a highly respected young manager and, you feel, he will have to use all of his tactical nous if the club is to enjoy life back in a higher division."

Crystal Palace

Manager: Dougie Freedman

Last season: 17th

Best summer signing: Joel Ward

One to watch: Jonathan Williams

Crystal Palace

BBC London 94.9's Jamie Reid: "Crystal Palace manager Dougie Freedman should be proud of his achievements at Selhurst Park. Idolised as a player by the club's fans, the Scot has adapted well to life as a manager.

"Freedman has made Palace hard to beat with a mix of experienced heads, together with some youthful exuberance. It looks like his talented young troops will continue to get their opportunity with new signings in short supply over the summer.

"Goals were hard to come by last season but if Freedman can sign someone to make the net bulge then a mid-table finish shouldn't be beyond them."

Derby County

Manager: Nigel Clough

Last season: 12th

Best summer signing: Richard Keogh

One to watch: Michael Jacobs

Derby County

BBC Radio Derby's Colin Bloomfield: "Derby's finish in 2011-12 was their highest in five seasons. Appointed in January 2009, Nigel Clough is the second longest serving manager in the Championship and the emergence of five players from the academy into the first team suggests the Rams continue to build for the long term rather than overnight success.

"The summer sale of star defender Jason Shackell angered supporters, but his replacement, Richard Keogh from Coventry, should be a more than capable replacement.

"New signings Paul Coutts and Michael Jacobs should provide energy and versatility to the midfield but, with money tight, the search for a prolific, proven Championship striker continues and could be the stumbling block to sustaining a credible top-six push."

Huddersfield Town

Manager: Simon Grayson

Last season: 4th and play-off winners (League One)

Best summer signing: Oliver Norwood

One to watch: Jordan Rhodes (if he stays)

Huddersfield Town

BBC Radio Leeds' Paul Ogden: "Watching Huddersfield compete in the Championship should be fascinating; they routinely looked too good for League One, but left it very late to finally secure promotion in a bizarre Play-Off final penalty shoot-out. However deserved it was, many fans would have preferred something more convincing.

"Their stadium and infrastructure will fit easily into the higher environment, but to survive in the Championship the squad needs to be consistently better for longer periods than in recent seasons.

"A third consecutive summer of fairly heavy recruitment could well make this possible, but Jordan Rhodes will be heavily relied on again for goals."

Hull City

Manager: Steve Bruce

Last season: 8th

Best summer signing: Nick Proschwitz

One to watch: James Chester

Hull City

BBC Radio Humberside's David Burns: "When the owners, the Allams, rather disgracefully pressed the exit button on home-town hero Nick Barmby at the end of last season, you feared for the future. In fairness though their appointment of Steve Bruce has dug them out of a hole and optimism levels are rising among the support.

"The owners' backing so far suggests a play-off place is achievable. Much may depend on what sort of return they get from German striker Nick Proschwitz.

"The last two seasons have faltered on a lack of goals, but if Proschwitz can dovetail with Matty Fryatt then I think they'll be play-off contenders. My only caveat is the owners don't do anything daft."

Ipswich Town

Manager: Paul Jewell

Last season: 15th

Best summer signing: Luke Chambers

One to watch: Michael Chopra

Ipswich Town

BBC Radio Suffolk's Graeme McLoughlin: "Last season's influx of established names promised so much at Ipswich but failed to deliver, and manager Paul Jewell knows his team will need to get off to a decent start this time around in order to satisfy a Portman Road faithful who have had little to shout about in recent years.

"Striker Michael Chopra appears to have put last season's off-field woes behind him and has had a good pre-season in terms of both goals and performances.

"However, it's at the back where Ipswich are most in need of improvement. There'll also be pressure on new goalkeeper Scott Loach to establish himself as the number one Town have been in need of."

Leeds United

Manager: Neil Warnock

Last season: 14th

Best summer signing: Lee Peltier

One to watch: Tom Lees

Leeds United

BBC Radio Leeds's Adam Pope: "A lot depends on if the prospective takeover occurs. If it comes in time for funds to be released for Neil Warnock to really strengthen his side then Leeds will be at the sharp end of the Championship table.

"Fans in general want a change in regime as they feel the club lacks ambition under current chairman Ken Bates.

"However, despite the loss of star player Robert Snodgrass to Norwich City, there appears to be genuine optimism amongst fans. Warnock is desperate to win his eighth promotion with Leeds and if he does then he claims it will be his finest achievement."

Leicester City

Manager: Nigel Pearson

Last season: 9th

Best summer signing: Jamie Vardy

One to watch: Kasper Schmeichel

Leicester City

BBC Radio Leicester's Ian Stringer: "The Foxes are some bookmakers' favourites for promotion but the expectation in the city has been tempered by the ever level-headed manager Nigel Pearson.

"I'm not too sure it will have the desired effect though, as the Leicester public believe Premier League football is around the corner. The new-look defence will need time to settle but the strikeforce looks incredibly potent and Pearson has an embarrassment of riches in midfield.

"The Blue Army should secure a play-off place at worst with a top-two spot desired by all at the King Power Stadium."

Middlesbrough

Manager: Tony Mowbray

Last season: 7th

Best summer signing: Jonathan Woodgate

One to watch: Adam Reach

Middlesbrough

BBC Tees' Alastair Brownlee: "Boro finished just outside the top six last season which was a disappointment as for the majority of the campaign they had been in a play-off position.

"The close season has brought more change at the Riverside with Tony Mowbray bringing in seven new players and six of the previous squad have moved on.

"Marvin Emnes had a terrific season last time around scoring 18 goals. If he can keep up that standard and a few more goals can be found from elsewhere, then the team should at least compete for a top-six finish."

Millwall

Manager: Kenny Jackett

Last season: 16th

Best summer signing: Scott Malone

One to watch: Andy Keogh

Millwall

BBC London's Deano Standing: "Millwall finished the 2011-12 campaign in promotion form. The Lions will be looking to keep that momentum going but Kenny Jackett's men are relative minnows in financial terms.

"The manager has a settled and well balanced squad but a significant improvement on their 16th-placed finish last time round will depend on some good fortune with injuries and effectively replacing the goals of Spurs loanee Harry Kane.

"Jackett wants his side to play a passing game, and considerable investment in a new pitch at The Den should help. Add in a passionate home support and it is possible to make a case for Millwall to be one of the dark horses."

Nottingham Forest

Manager: Sean O'Driscoll

Last season: 19th

Best summer signing: Adlene Guedioura

One to watch: Dexter Blackstock

Nottingham Forest

BBC Radio Nottingham's David Jackson: "After such a traumatic season last year, it's been a summer of change at the City Ground with new owners - the Al-Hasawi family - and a new manager, albeit last season's first-team coach, in Sean O'Driscoll.

"Most fans would now happily take a season of transition - as long as that still means they stay clear of the relegation zone this time.

"Realistically they'll need their entirely new-look, and rather hastily assembled, defence to gel quickly if they're to pose any threat to the top half of the division. They're also crying out for another goalscorer."

Peterborough United

Manager: Darren Ferguson

Last season: 18th

Best summer signing: Bobby Olejnik

One to watch: Kgosi Ntlhe

Peterborough United

BBC Radio Cambridgeshire's Peter Swan: "Posh beat the drop by 10 points last time out, despite winning just four matches after New Year's Day. Darren Ferguson has continued to invest in youth over the summer and will hope to have uncovered at least a couple of rough diamonds.

"Goalkeeper was a problem position last season so Bobby Olejnik looks like a sound investment from Torquay. Scottish midfielder Danny Swanson could prove to be a steal should he recapture his best form.

"Overall, a third successive season of Championship football would be a great achievement for a club the size of Peterborough."

Sheffield Wednesday

Manager: Dave Jones

Last season: 2nd (League One)

Best summer signing: Michail Antonio

One to watch: Rhys McCabe

Sheffield Wednesday

BBC Radio Sheffield's Rob Staton: "Expectations are high among Sheffield Wednesday fans after winning promotion back to the Championship in dramatic style last season.

"Dave Jones knows the division better than anyone and he'll be backed by an ambitious chairman in Milan Mandaric. Jones has added experience with goalkeeper Chris Kirkland and defender Anthony Gardner and promise with Chris Maguire and Rhys McCabe.

"This should complement a solid backbone led by the popular Jose Semedo. Wednesday might not do a Southampton this year, but a top-half finish is achievable and it won't be a total shock if they challenge the top six."

Watford

Manager: Gianfranco Zola

Last season: 11th

Best summer signing: Almen Abdi

One to watch: Sean Murray

Watford

BBC Three Counties Radio's Jon Marks: "After another summer of huge change at Vicarage Road, there is cautious optimism amongst Watford supporters who wait to see how a new team and style of play under head coach Gianfranco Zola fares in the Championship.

"There is now off-field stability following the acquisition of the club by the Pozzo family, who have achieved great success with the clubs they own in Italy and Spain.

"The link between the Hornets, Udinese and Granada has already begun with new players arriving to bolster Zola's squad. If the likeable Italian can get his side off to a good start then maybe last season's highly commendable mid-table finish can be bettered."

Wolves

Manager: Stale Solbakken

Last season: 20th (Premier League)

Best summer signing: Bjorn Sigurdarson

One to watch: Anthony Forde

Wolverhampton Wanderers

BBC Sport's Steve Marshall: "The surprise appointment of Norwegian Stale Solbakken as manager in May helped lift some of the gloom that enveloped Molineux following last season's relegation.

"But the departure of Michael Kightly to Stoke, with probably Steven Fletcher and Matt Jarvis to follow him out of the door, has now left Wolves fans wondering what this term will bring.

"There should be enough talent left at the club to mount a serious promotion challenge, but after getting into the habit of losing games last season, Wolves could do with getting off to a fast start."