Championship: winners & losers
Will Boro battle back?
Hull, Middlesbrough and Sunderland were out of their depth in last season’s Premier League, finishing as the three lowest ranking sides. Despite what some former Blackburn Rovers owners may think – that always leads to relegation.
So, who will bounce back, who will battle their way through the play-offs, which set of fans are doomed to another season watching boring midtable football and who is a League One side in disguise? The English second flight is amongst the most competitive divisions in European football. Let’s see how the pre-season betting is shaping up…..
Smoggies expected to win the Championship
You may think Sunderland would be automatically placed near the head of the betting to win the Championship and return to the head table, but you’d be mistaken. They’re not even close. Middlesbrough promised much when promoted a couple of years ago, but failed to live up to their own hype, and quickly fell back down again. Boro a yo-yo club? Well, there’s every chance they will be, and our traders have Garry Monk’s side as 6/1 favourites to lift the title.
They’ll do so ahead of Aston Villa in second, if our boys are correct, the Villans – complete with Chelsea legend John Terry as captain – 13/2 second favourites at the time of writing. As you may have noticed, there’s plenty of value around if you’re shrewd enough to call the winner before a ball has been kicked, but you’ll deserve that value if you correctly predict the champion. Last season’s neck-and-neck race between Newcastle and Brighton was another example of just how competitive this group can be.
Sunderland given little chance
The way the Championship is set up, it’s possible to finish third in the table and not be promoted, while a team ending sixth goes up. In fact, it’s more than possible, it’s very likely. We’ve had a few sides go up through the play-offs that have had no business being in the Premier League, and have shown themselves up at that level, but we all love the drama of play-off football at the end of the regular season. Giving the market leaders a safety net, Middlesbrough are 15/8 to go up, regardless of the method they use to achieve it, while Villa are 2/1.
Sunderland were rotten last season, and they have since sold off a few of their higher earners, dumped misfiring manager David Moyes and brought in Preston’s Simon Grayson. The 47-year-old Englishman’s side were hammered 5-0 by Scottish Champions Celtic in a pre-season friendly, which doesn’t do an awful lot to inspire confidence in The Black Cats. They don’t have much of a chance at winning the league either, Coral handing out 12/1, while there’s 9/2 about promotion. Fulham going a step further than last year and returning top football to Craven Cottage is 11/4.
Burton backed to sink
At the other end, we have Burton Albion priced as the most likely side to be relegated come the final count. They finished 20th last time, just a point better than Blackburn Rovers who went down, but won’t get off lightly in 2018. Draws cost them dear, ending level in as many matches as they managed to win, but they did lose 20 times, and that was the same amount as Wolves up in 15th. So, they’re not doomed.
A play on Nottingham Forest to sink looks a more interesting bet, and we’ll give you a cracking 11/2 on that one. Forest beat the drop by two goals last season, and manager Mark Warburton doesn’t fill us with confidence. He plays attractive football, but the Championship is not the place for pretty stats, it’s about grinding out results.