The Championship looks fascinating this year, the most competitive it’s been in a long time according to the market, with significant question marks over all of the major contenders.
The three relegated clubs from the Premier League have all changed managers, with Gary Rowett, Darren Moore (on a permanent basis) and Graham Potter taking over at Stoke, West Brom and Swansea.
Nottingham Forest have invested heavily in players from abroad, looking to become this season’s Wolves. Leeds have landed a major coup in appointing ‘El Loco’ Marcelo Bielsa, infamous for his style of play which has been adapted by the likes of self-confessed ‘Bielsistas’ Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino.
Derby have brought in Frank Lampard for his first taste of management and they look to have added well to their squad. Aston Villa finally paid their tax bill, brought in new owners and decided to keep Steve Bruce over Thierry Henry (for now) and, most importantly, have managed to keep hold of Jack Grealish (again, for now).
There could be a surprise or two from the group below as Bristol City, Preston and Sheffield United had good seasons last year and have spent. Wigan and Blackburn join the Championship as two of the most highly-rated League One promotion winners in recent memory.
There are also some interesting management changes towards the bottom of the league. Mick McCarthy left Ipswich and Ian Holloway bid adieu to QPR to be replaced by Steven McClaren. The relegation battle will be a close one too with Rotherham, Bolton, Ipswich, QPR, Reading and Birmingham likely to be in the mix.
Stoke all day long for me here. We have them 9/2 currently for the league crown. Their squad just looks a cut above the rest and they look the most complete team.
They’ve managed to hang on to the likes of Jack Butland, Ryan Shawcross, Bruno Martins Indi, Joe Allen, Darren Fletcher and, for the moment, Bojan, Mame Diouf and Chiupo-Moting.
They’ve also added wisely, signing Ashley Williams, Oghenekaro Etebo, Tom Ince, James McClean and Benik Afobe.
Another reason to like Stoke in the betting is because of how short Leeds and Nottingham Forest are, which is pushing the Potters’ price out.
Forest have tried to replicate Wolves from last season and the punters have been keen to get on board after seeing how things went for them last season. However, there are a few notable differences between the two projects.
Wolves only excelled in their second season after an initial Championship campaign where they added some players and found out that Paul Lambert might not be the answer. In addition, Aitor Karanka is certainly no Nuno and the quality of players they have brought in just isn’t the same as it was for Wolves.
They should certainly improve on last season’s 17th place finish but a league winning push is too much of an ask. We’re pricing them about 10/1.
Leeds are a similar story. Bielsa is a potentially fantastic appointment, however, he is prone to an outburst and he hasn’t lasted too long in his last few jobs – 13 games at Lille, 2 days at Lazio and a season at Marseille (where he famously sat on a cup of hot coffee during a game).
This is a Leeds squad that finished 13th last season and were lucky to do so. They have only recently started to invest in players but a huge improvement to last season’s squad would be needed to even think about challenging for honours. We make them a 12/1 shot.
Middlesbrough are second favourites for us but one that we’re happy to take on at 8/1. They haven’t addressed their issues from last season and look set to lose key players Adama Traore and Ben Gibson, having already sold Patrick Bamford to nearby rivals Leeds.
Brentford is the selection I really like here. They are the best run club in the division and historically excellent in the transfer market. They were consistently rated as a top-six in the league last season and if not for some bad luck and late freak goals against them, they would have finished much higher.
Their price on opening day against Rotherham tells us that they’re still considered one of the best teams in the division.
They have a fantastic young squad and if they keep hold of everyone before the end of the transfer window, which looks likely now, they’ll only improve again this season under the management of Dean Smith. They’re 11/2 to go up currently.
I wouldn’t put anyone off Bristol City at 9/1 or Preston at 10/1 either, both teams I really liked last season that again have young improving players and excellent coaches. Both have added well to their squads from last season and should go close. We make Leeds and Forest both 7/2, and Boro 11/4.
Reading look on the big side here. Two seasons ago they made the playoffs despite being rated as a bottom half team and last season that really caught up on them.
They were considered one of the worst teams in the league last season and their underlying numbers never improved when Paul Clement took over in late March. We’re offering 3/1 on them for the drop.
QPR also look at risk at 7/2. Ian Holloway performed miracles to keep them out of relegation danger last season with their current squad. They’ve bowed to fan pressure and replaced him with Steve McLaren whose recent managerial record hasn’t been much to shout about. They could really struggle this year.
*All odds correct at time of posting