Arguably the most unpredictable league in English football kicks-off on 03 August as 24 teams battle it out for the promise of Premier League riches come May next year. With last season’s relegated top-flight clubs, those who narrowly missed out on promotion last season, the newcomers from League One and the long-time Championship residents all gearing up for their campaign with undoubted optimism and enthusiasm, this league once again promises drama and excitement of the highest order. Read on for our assessment of how we think each team will fare along with our best betting tips.
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Secured the second automatic promotion spot from League One last season, helped in no small part by top goalscorer Brett Pitman who bagged 19 goals in 26 league appearances. He looks set to play a big part once again in The Cherries’ season, who can be considered lively outsiders for promotion.
Best Bet: Bournemouth to be promoted – 7/1 with Betfred
Avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth last season when they looked doomed at Christmas. Manager David Flitcroft looks to have made some shrewd summer signings, notably Wales international defender Lewin Nyatanga, and Bayern Munich forward Dale Jennings. The Reds should fare better than last season, with a top half finish not necessarily beyond them.
Best Bet: Barnsley to finish in the top half – 5/1 with BetVictor
Clearly looking to improve on last season’s mid-table finish, Blues boss Lee Clark has made a raft of summer signings including Premier League defenders Kyle Bartley and Dan Burn both on season-long loan deals. Too many draws ended Birmingham’s promotion hopes last season, but with the changes in personnel they ought to improve into play-off contenders at the very least.
Best Bet: Birmingham to finish in the top six – 4/1 with Sky Bet
Finishing a lowly 17th last season, you never quite know what Blackburn are going to serve-up whilst the Venky’s are pulling the strings at Ewood Park. With the club having no less than five different managers last season, it is frankly astonishing that Rovers managed to retain their Championship status. They may not be so fortunate in this campaign.
Best Bet: Blackburn to be relegated – 14/1 with William Hill
The Seasiders will be buoyed by the news that last season’s leading scorer Tom Ince has turned down a move to Cardiff City. Despite Ince’s goals however, Blackpool finished 15th and were only five points from safety. With Gary MacKenzie their sole summer signing to date, it is difficult to see where any significant improvement will come from. Relegation is a genuine threat at Bloomfield Road this season.
Best Bet: Blackpool to be relegated – 9/2 with BetVictor
The Trotters were denied a play-off spot at the death last season by Leicester City, who found an injury-time winner at Nottingham Forest on the last day of the season to break Bolton hearts. Dougie Freedman has made several signings as he looks to ready his side to mount another serious challenge for promotion, and they look solid candidates to consider.
Best Bet: Bolton to be promoted – 7/2 with Paddy Power
Brighton & Hove Albion
Made it into the play-offs last season but were defeated over two legs by Crystal Palace. Former Barcelona midfielder Oscar Garcia was then named head coach following Gus Poyet’s dismissal in June, and the Spaniard has been quick to go on record promising an attacking brand of football from his side. Last season was Garcia’s first in management as he guided Maccabi Tel Aviv to the Israeli title and Seagulls fans will be hoping he can replicate that success on the south coast. They might just get their wish.
Best Bet: Brighton to win the Championship – 16/1 with Ladbrokes
Finished mid-table on 61 points last season and relied heavily on top goalscorer Charlie Austin who looked set for a summer move to Hull before failing a medical. The Clarets should be set for a similar season, and although they ought to have enough quality to avoid being dragged into a relegation scrap, they also seem unlikely to challenge for promotion.
Best Bet: Burnley to finish in the top half – 7/2 with BetVictor
Finished 9th last season after an excellent end-of-season run saw them fall just short of the play-offs. They have yet to make any summer signings although they could yet prove to be dark horses for promotion if they can build on that surging finish from last season. A top six finish could be within Charlton’s grasp.
Best Bet: Charlton to finish in the top six – 9/2 with Betfred
Having steered his side to a mid-table finish last season, Nigel Clough will demand further progress from his players as he continues to build a team capable of challenging for promotion. He has made several summer signings, including exciting striking talent Johnny Russell from Dundee United. Automatic promotion is probably beyond the Rams at the moment, but making the play-offs must be a realistic target.
Best Bet: Derby to finish in the top six – 7/2 with Sky Bet
Promoted as League One champions last season, Doncaster’s stay in the Championship looks set to be a short one. Despite a few summer signings, Rovers’ squad looks devoid of any real quality and I would be surprised if they don’t struggle with the step up. Relegation looks almost certain for Paul Dickov’s side, who rate as a decent bet to finish bottom.
Best Bet: Doncaster to finish bottom – 7/1 with BetVictor
The Championship’s worst-disciplined team last season will probably be a popular selection in the relegation market. However given a few additions to their squad in the close season I reckon the Terriers probably have just enough quality to avoid the drop.
Best Bet: Huddersfield to stay up – 1/3 with BetVictor
Finished 14th last season and had the worst goalscoring record in the division, netting just 48 times in 46 league matches. Despite being active in the summer transfer market, manager Mick McCarthy’s signings so far are less than inspiring. Another mediocre season is about as good as it is likely to get for the Tractor Boys.
Best Bet: Ipswich to finish in the bottom half – 13/8 with BetVictor
United fans will demand an improvement on last season’s mid-table finish, and at the least manager Brian McDermott has to be aiming for the play-offs. With a couple of shrewd summer signings in Luke Murphy from Crewe and Noel Hunt from Reading, Leeds could be dark horses for promotion this season.
Best Bet: Leeds to be promoted – 13/2 with Sky Bet
The Foxes edged out both Nottingham Forest and Bolton for a play-off place, only to have then lost out to Watford over the two-legged semi-final. Disappointment at the play-offs may weigh heavy on the Leicester players minds, and they may struggle to hit the same heights this season. No summer signings have been made at the Walkers Stadium as yet, and Nigel Pearson’s side could be a value punt for a bottom-half finish.
Best Bet: Leicester to finish in the bottom half – 9/2 with William Hill
After a decent start to last season, Boro eventually finished in 16th place after losing 15 of the 23 league matches they played after Christmas. In terms of summer transfer activity manager Tony Mowbray has signed Dean Whitehead from Stoke, and Hungarian international utility player Jozsef Varga on a season-long loan from Debrecen. Middlesbrough should improve under Mowbray’s stewardship but promotion looks beyond them at the moment.
Best Bet: Middlesbrough to finish in the top half – 5/4 with BetVictor
Having narrowly avoided relegation last season, the Lions then parted company with manager Kenny Jackett and brought in Steve Lomas from St Johnstone as his replacement. Lomas had a reasonable measure of success in the Scottish Premier League as he led the Perth club to successive top-six finishes whilst working on a limited budget. With a few personnel changes already made by Lomas, Millwall could prove to be a different outfit this season. They look a good bet to finish in the top half.
Best Bet: Millwall to finish in the top half – 4/1 with Sky Bet
Were unfortunate not to make it to the play-offs last season after a closely-fought battle with Bolton and Leicester. Manager Billy Davies has been active in the summer transfer market as he looks to build a side capable of reaching the Premier League, and his wheeling and dealing does not yet look finished as there are reports linking Forest with a number of other quality players including Celtic defender Kelvin Wilson and Burnley striker Charlie Austin. Forest’s ambition cannot be underestimated and they are lively contenders for promotion.
Best Bet: Nottingham Forest to be promoted – 4/1 with Sportingbet
Queens Park Rangers
After finishing bottom of the Premier League last season, the club that were more famed for their wage-bill than their football have unsurprisingly been installed as promotion favourites. But it is unlikely to be a walk in the park for Arry’s boys, even if the pre-season reports of the manager working the players extremely hard at training are true. QPR are a best price 2/1 to secure promotion and that price may well tempt punters who will correctly point out that Redknapp has managed to retain a lot of his experienced Premier League players. That is of course the same group of players who thought they were good enough to stay in the Premier League without putting in too much effort. If they have the same mentality in the Championship then they will struggle to finish in the top half.
Best Bet: QPR to finish in the bottom half – 11/2 with William Hill
The Royals have been on something of a summer spending spree as they aim to bounce straight back to the Premier League. Backed by Russian owner Anton Zingarevich, manager Nigel Adkins has already brought in Royston Drenthe, Wayne Bridge and Danny Williams, and the indication from the Madejski Stadium is that there could be more new additions to the squad before the season starts. Reading look a solid bet in the promotion market.
Best Bet: Reading to be promoted – 3/1 with Coral
Finished in the bottom half last season, avoiding relegation by only four points. In an attempt to improve the squad over the summer, manager Dave Jones has brought in Man City winger Jimmy Helan and has also been linked with Ipswich Town striker Michael Chopra. Despite the manager’s extensive Championship experience, he will do very well to get this Wednesday outfit anywhere near the promotion places. A similar season to the last one looks likely for the Owls.
Best Bet: Sheffield Wednesday to finish in the bottom half – 2/7 with William Hill
The Hornets came agonisingly close to a Premier League return last season, losing 1-0 to Crystal Palace in extra-time in the play-off final. As he looks to ready his side for another promotion push this season, manager Gianfranco Zola has made no fewer than ten summer signings with the Hertfordshire club again benefitting from their close ties with Udinese. Watford are priced at double-figure odds to win the Championship and are surely worth a punt.
Best Bet: Watford to win the Championship – 12/1 with Ladbrokes
After winning the FA Cup last season, Wigan then went on to be relegated from the Premier League and then subsequently lost Roberto Martinez who departed for the hot-seat at Everton. In his place has come Owen Coyle, and he has not wasted time in putting his own stamp on the playing staff, making seven new signings including Grant Holt from Norwich. Out the door at the DW Stadium have gone Arouna Kone and Antolin Alcaraz who have both followed their old boss to Goodison Park. The Latics will no doubt be aiming for a quick return to the Premier League, and with the squad Coyle has at his disposal there is no good reason why they should struggle.
Best Bet: Wigan to be promoted – 9/2 with Sportingbet
Promoted via the play-offs last season, the Glovers face a tough task to remain in the Championship this season. Manager Gary Johnson has brought in some new faces in an attempt to bolster the squad, but the reality for Yeovil is that they will likely be battling near the foot of the table for most of the season.
Best Bet: Yeovil to be relegated – 11/10 with Ladbrokes
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