Fri08172018

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Championship Preview

August marks the start of league campaigns across Europe and those teams in the second tier of English football are starting earlier than most. Nottingham Forest and Millwall will start things off on Friday August 4 but who is being tipped to take the title at the end of 2017/18?

Usually, those clubs who have just dropped down from the Premier League tend to dominate the markets but the leaders in the title betting have experienced a tough ride in the Championship since their relegation in 2016/17.

Front runners

It was a very mixed campaign for Aston Villa last time out but things improved when new manager Steve Bruce took over at the helm. Villa eventually finished in 13th place but despite that modest position, they are the bookies’ favourites to go up at best odds of 15/2 with SportingBet, find more enhanced odd on dailynhanced.co.uk.

Close behind are Middlesbrough at a top price of 8/1 with 188Bet. New boss Garry Monk brings Premier League experience to the manager’s job and a key player this year could be Patrick Bamford, the striker who has yet to deliver on the potential that he showed as a fringe player with Chelsea.

Fulham narrowly missed out on promotion last season and the Cottagers are third favourites to take the Championship title at a best of 10/1 with 32Red and 888Sport. Fulham finished in sixth place at the end of 2016/17 but Slavisa Jokanovic’s men went on a late surge that carried them into the play offs and that momentum is the reason why the West London side feature so well in the betting.

Sheffield Wednesday were another side to miss out in the play offs last time out and the Owls are quoted at a top price of 12/1 with 188Bet to take the title. They were an entertaining side to watch last season and a top six place should be guaranteed but as we know, it can all become a lottery from that point.

Also featuring strongly are Norwich City at 14/1 with 188Bet and Betway while Derby County follow on at that same 14/1 best price with Bet365 and Paddy Power.

The verdict

Aston Villa certainly improved under Steve Bruce: At one point they looked to be heading for the third tier but while their turnaround was an impressive one, their position as favourites may be based on reputation and history rather than their capacity to deliver with the side that they currently have at their disposal.

Middlesbrough are certainly a better option, retaining much of the squad that got them promoted in 2015/16 and with some key additions, they look better primed to go all the way next season. Much could depend on Patrick Bamford who was strangely underused by Boro at the end of 2016/17 but in the Championship, this potentially prolific striker has the capacity to go and prove that Chelsea were wrong to let him leave.

Fulham could also be worth a punt at that tempting 10/1 price and will only have to carry on the form from the end of last season to gain automatic promotion at the very least. The remaining sides seem to be battling it out for play off places but there could be some value in Leeds United as an outside punt at best odds of 18/1 with Paddy Power.

Further change led to the departure of Garry Monk as manager but last season was a positive one at Elland Road – on the pitch at least – so don’t rule Leeds out if they can keep that momentum going.

Other options

If you don’t want to take a bet on the outright title winners then there are other options. To be promoted is a market where three sides will eventually come through at the end of the season and make it through to the Premier League and you could also speculate on a top six finish which would take some of those teams into the play off places.

At the wrong end of the table, the relegation odds for next season show Burton Albion as favourites to go down at a general 6/4 from the likes of Bet365 and Betway. That looks a fair price but a good tip here could be Nottingham Forest who only just survived last season and don’t look to be any better equipped for 2017/18.

Forest are quoted at best odds of 13/2 with Paddy Power for the drop.

There are lots of permutations to consider here and lots of questions to be answered ahead of the new Championship season. It’s been a long summer for most of us without any competitive football but it’s soon to be over and the second tier sides in England will be back in a matter of days in what should be a fascinating new campaign.