Nottingham Forest, Luton, QPR, Luton... The surprise packages Sheffield United's Ben Osborn expects to challenge for promotion this season

Ben Osborn, the Sheffield United midfielder, expects the Blades, Fulham and West Brom to lead the charge for promotion this season after being relegated from the Premier League next term – but hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a dark horse mounting a challenge from the Championship either.

By Danny Hall
Saturday, 7th August 2021, 10:00 am

The Blades have been installed as one of the bookmakers’ favourites to bounce straight back into the top flight after last season’s demotion, with new boss Slavisa Jokanović’s presence in the Bramall Lane dugout also seen as boosting United’s chances.

Fulham and West Brom are also likely to be strong, but Osborn wouldn’t be surprised if a more unfancied team put themselves into the mix this season, which kicks off again this weekend.

"There will probably always be a team that takes you by surprise,” Osborn said.

"The teams that the players have spoken about that are always going to be difficult to play against; Cardiff, Middlesbrough under Neil Warnock.

"Chris Hughton's Forest will always be a tough team to play against, the way they set up, and then you're going to get a team that might over-achieve."

The surprise package last season were Barnsley, who lost in the play-off semi-final to Swansea before losing boss Valerien Ismael to West Brom.

Ben Osborn of Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

"The surprise team this time could be a Luton, who have been together for a while now and got some good results last season and have added a couple of good signings,” Osborn said.

"Millwall are always going to be tough to play against and they've made a couple of good signings.

"I played under Mark Warburton at Nottingham Forest and I was very impressed and really enjoyed my time under him.

"He wants to play almost total football and every time I see QPR I can see the kind of stuff that he's doing.

"They did tighten up towards the end of the season and again, if he can get them ticking and get a solid XI on the pitch who can play his kind of football, then they could be up there as well.

"It's such an unpredictable league, but you would expect the ones who came down and possibly Bournemouth to be leading the fight up there."