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English Championship Season Preview
This season looks as competitive as ever and it will take a team with a good strong squad to be challenging for promotion. We will look at the main contenders and how they are set up for the season ahead. At the time of writing, a lot of clubs have not completed their transfer business, so leave your bets as late as possible. The early fixtures are also of huge importance and any team getting off to a flier could be difficult to peg back. The prices are general and correct at the time of writing.
11/2 Stoke City: Bookmakers have Stoke as the favourites and it is hard to argue that they are not right, although whether they are much value is open to question. New manager Gary Rowett is looking to make further signings before the season starts as he prepares the club for life in the Championship after their relegation. He has been given money to spend and so far, has picked up players proven at this level namely Benik Afobe and James McClean. Favourites but not unbeatable.
8/1 West Brom: Darren Moore will hope to continue the form from the end of last season and has made a couple of moves in the transfer market. Out go Jonny Evans, Ben Foster and James McClean but in come Kyle Bartley and a couple of young goalkeepers. Assuming he can hold on to the likes of striker Rondon, they look to have a squad that is solid at the back and they could be the team that the rest have to beat. A good mixture of experience and youth, goals may be the major problem.
8/1 Middlesbrough: Will lack nothing in grit and determination as demanded by Tony Pulis and he has added a couple of decent players in Flint and McNair but he must try and hold on to Traore and Clayton as this will be vital for their promotion challenge. If he can keep them and or recruit well to cover any losses, they should certainly be around the top six towards the end of the campaign.
10/1 Nottingham Forest: Ex Boro boss Aitor Karanka has been given funds and has been active in recruiting as well as letting a few players go. They have brought in Lewis Grabban from Bournemouth and Costel Pantilimon from Watford as well as securing free deals for Michael Dawson and Jack Robinson, but the main signing was young Portuguese starlet Joao Carvalho who could make them tick in midfield. They look an exciting squad who if they get some confidence early on, and with the managers experience, they could be pushing for promotion.
11/1 Leeds: Marcelo Bielsa has been brought in to find some stability at the club and will surely be active in the transfer market before the deadline. Can he get this Leeds team to gel in time to mount a serious title challenge? If they do, then they are a danger to all and I think a lot depends on how they start the season. They don’t have an easy run with Stoke, Derby and Swansea to play in the first five games but if they get through that period with a few points and Ekuban, Roofe and Roberts find their scoring boots they can challenge.
12/1 Swansea: Swansea also must adapt to Championship life and a lot will depend on whether they keep Alfie Mawson having lost Ki to Newcastle and how “rookie” manager Graham Potter copes with a return to English football following his success in Sweden. On balance it may be a rebuilding season as the manager looks to recruit his own players and at 12/1 I can easily overlook them.
12/1 Aston Villa: Beaten in last year’s Play-Off final, Aston Villa would normally be favourites on that form, but there are many problems behind the scenes and the club has huge debts so will need to sell their best players. The likely loss of Jack Grealish to Spurs will severely weaken the team and the manager will struggle to bring in a replacement anywhere near his quality. John Terry has also moved on and it remains to be seen how the team will be affected by all the problems. For me we have to leave them alone although at the prices some will consider them worth chancing each-way.
14/1 Derby: Came up short last season and even with the arrival of Frank Lampard as manager, it is asking a lot for the current squad to take the Rams to the title this season. Loan signings will be important, and Lampard has already raided Liverpool and Chelsea for two youngsters in Harry Wilson and Mason Mount respectively. The experienced players will be key and if they get on a run early, confidence could grow, and they could challenge for promotion.
Other teams to consider are Norwich who often flatter to deceive but have a decent looking squad, Brentford who have looked good in pre-season and should go well despite the loss of Egan and Jozefzoon and Preston, with the latter decent outsiders at 33/1. Alex Neil has instilled a great work ethic into the side and they will be a tough side to beat. If he can add a little quality, on a shoestring budget, then they can be challenging the bigger clubs towards the end of the season. They will also need Callum Robinson to find his scoring touch early on.
Overall it is as wide open as the betting suggests and it is hard to tip any team with confidence so much so that I would not put anyone backing a team we have not discussed. It may be worth watching the first two or three games and then making a decision based on new players and current form. I have given Preston a good mention at 33s but that is a little speculative and of the ones at the front of the market, West Brom probably look the most solid. I couldn’t suggest them as an each-way angle as they are too short, but a small win bet may be the way forward. We will keep you updated with our thoughts during the season.
Note: Odds are subject to change and will change once the season starts.
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