The 2017/18 season of the Sky Bet Championship is almost upon us. England’s second flight is one of the most competitive leagues in the world, which makes finding value harder and harder for the average punter. Still I am very pleased to present this article to my readers. My friend and punter Sam Shan is following this league and was kind enough to share his opinion and insights about upcoming games. I absolutely agree with him that Championship is the most difficult league to make money but hopefully you can take something out of this article and convert it to money.
“Around 12 months ago Newcastle United started out 2.75-2.9 favorites which was an absolute freak and no team is remotely close to that short for this campaign. Only three clubs are currently trading at single figure odds, Boro, Aston Villa and Fulham making them the bookies favorites.
I disagree on Villa to be honest. Yes they are much better than last year, but they were supposedly a close second to Newcastle last year and ended up 13th…
Here are my thoughts on both ends of the table:
Middlesbrough to Win @ 8 (Unibet)
Last week Aston Villa were the favorites to win the title, it seems that some money has come in for Boro this week which has pushed them into the driving seat as far as the bookmakers are concerned. The current best price is 8 with Unibet/888bet/32redbet.
To me Boro looks a great shout to lift the title and bounce straight back to the top flight. They have a new and very good manager in Gary Monk at the helm and have splashed the cash spending £40 million in the transfer window.
Last year Boro were very disappointing. Aitor Karanka who done so well to bring them into the Premier League struggled massively with top flight football. While boro remained solid at the back they were toothless going forward and fully deserved to be relegated.
If they manage to hold onto local lad Ben Gibson, which looks more and more likely by the day then they have pretty much the same back line which done so well in the Championship in previous seasons.
They now have a plethora of attacking options with the likes of Patrick Bamford who has shown time and time again what he is capable of at Championship level. Recent signing Britt Assombalonga is unstoppable when fit and again a proven goalscorer at Championship level.
Other signings Martin Braithwaite, Jonathan Howson and Ashley Fletcher can all play various attacking roles, which adds great strength and depth to Middlesbrough’s already talented squad.
At the time of writing Gaston Ramirez is still a Boro player, he is a phenomenal talent, the only problem is whether or not his heart is in it. If it is then he is head and shoulders above the majority in the league and can be a real match winner in the bigger games.
Sheffield Wednesday Top 2 Finish @ 6 (SkyBet)
Sheffield Wednesday have finished sixth and fourth in the past two seasons in the Championship. They know what the league is all about and know all too well the heartache of failing at final hurdle.
Owls boss Carlos Carvahall has retained almost all of the players he has worked with over the last two seasons and those boys were so close in the 2015/16 season, losing in the playoff final against Hull.
They have bolstered their attacking lining with the signing of Jordan Rhodes from potential title rivals Boro. Rhodes was never really given a chance at Boro. I personally think that the £10 million price tag is great business for Wednesday and he could certainly give them the firepower up front to power them into a top 2 finish. Fernando Forestieri has been an important player for Wednesday over the past few seasons. The addition of Rhodes will take some of the pressure off him as well as creating some healthy competition between them, which should really get the best out of the Argentine.
Brentford To Win @ 27 (Betfair)
I think the bookies have missed a trick as far as Brentford are concerned. The Championship has been won by a 20+ outsider on numerous occasions. Bournemouth, Brighton and Burnley instantly spring to mind at 26, 34 and a huge 81 respectively.
So if you want to back an outsider to win it, then Brentford are my pick and are currently 27. Since sealing promotion from league one they have finished 10th place or better every season.
The Bees have no significant outgoings this season and have bolstered their squad with the highly regarded striker Neal Maupay and the midfield will now have the physical presence of Kamohelo Mokotjo. Not to mention the exciting prospect that is Ollie Watkins. Worth to mentioned that Brentford is owned by successful businessman and betting legend – Matthew Benham. For sure he has few aces in this sleeve.
Obviously some big clubs have been left out here. I am trying to pick out bets that represent value, but that obviously comes at the cost of missing some teams that are very likely to do well.
I alluded to Villa being too short a price at the beginning of this article and I stand by that. Having said that the club has a real Premier League pedigree and they’re desperate to get back to the top flight of English Football.
I think they are too short to bet right now but they are worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses.
Steve Bruce has set out to make his side strong at the back, nobody can say he hasn’t done that. He has somehow managed to attract the services of John Terry, which is perhaps the most notable signing of the window. John Terry would be a good signing for any Premier League club, he would be a great squad player for the top clubs and a great first team player for any of the others.
His experience and leadership qualities inside the dressing room alone will give Villa a huge boost and that is before he even steps foot on the pitch. Yes he is getting on a little, but he will still be one of if not the best defenders in the league in my opinion.
Alongside Terry, Steve Bruce has brought in defenders Ahmed Elmohamady, Chris Samba and defensive midfielder Glenn Whelan.
I would say with this back line Villa will prove very difficult to beat indeed, but my worry is at the opposite end… Can they score enough goals to be a real title threat? I would say no. Last season Villa’s top scorer was Jonathan Kodjia who hit the back of the net a total of 19 times.
Nobody but Kodjia impressed though and they haven’t strengthened anywhere near enough in attack. If Kodjia has a dip in form or suffers an injury then Villa are left without any real threat and will struggle to pick up points.
Fulham are currently the third team along with Boro and Aston Villa to be on single figure odds. Currently best priced at 10 they will no doubt be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.
The cottagers were the surprise package last season. Many predicted they may even be relegated… They started in poor form and then really weer on their game in the latter half of the seasons outperforming all of the rivals and eventually finishing sixth.
I personally think they over achieved somewhat and that the bookies have overreacted making them too short to back considering the strength of the other contenders.
If they start this campaign poorly like last then they could certainly be worth looking at mid way through the season.
Last season Fulham certainly knew where the back of the net was, they finished with a goal difference of +31 and I expect them to score plenty again this season. Home form was the only black mark last season. They should come into this campaign full of confidence and if they can turn the cottage into a fortress who knows what this group can achieve this time around.
So, that’s the top of the table sorted. Relegation is perhaps harder still to decide. Once again due to the long and tough season many things can change along the way. Teams struggling at Christmas can often turn things around with summer signings and perhaps new management.
Having said that there are a few teams that seem destined to struggle from the outset and here is my pick who will struggle this campaign.
QPR To Be Relegated @ 5 (Unibet)
At the time of writing QPR can still be found at 5 to be relegated, which seem s a big price to me. They finished just two points shy of relegation last season and ended on some woeful form.
Only four other teams conceded more goals than QPR in England’s second flight last season, despite this fact Rangers are yet to bring in any new players to strengthen their back line.
They may well have just enough to stay up, but 4/1 is too big a price for me and I will certainly be backing them to go down this year.
Preston To Be Relegated @ 7 (Blacktype)
Blacktype are still offering 7 for Preston to go down this season. Considering they are as short as 3.6 elsewhere (PaddyPower) this seems an autobet for me.
Firstly Sunderland have taken Preston’s inspirational manager Simon Grayson. Now he is not the best in the business but he has done relatively well at Preston and no club wants to have their manager nabbed just before the season kicks off.
New manager Alex Neil has managed to bring in 5 signings since his arrival, but none of them really jump out as game changers and I believe that other championship clubs have done much better business this summer. Clubs coming up and down into the Championship this season are strong and overall the league has become tougher.
This is certainly not a sure thing, but the fact BlackType are offering such generous odds should not be ignored, 7 for sure represents value.
Sunderland to Finish Bottom Half @ 2.2 (SkyBet)
This is dropping all the time, so you might have to be quick. The Mackems had a horrendous season last year and found themselves dumped into the Championship and now face a long and grueling season in one of the world’s most competitive leagues.
New manager Grayson has had good success in league 1, earning promotion into the Championship three times via the playoffs and once automatically but has yet to reach the Premier League.
Sunderland have been in terrible form in pre season and have lost a whole host of players going into the season including Seb Larsson, Jordan Pickford and Jermaine Defoe. So, Grayson really does have his work cut out. I think they will start poorly and that could be the beginning of the end and will lead to huge pressure on the manager from the fans and the club itself as well as unrest in the dressing room.
These days Premiership clubs going down shouldn’t struggle with the huge parachute payments on offer, but I feel everything is in place for Sunderland to have a poor season and I will be backing accordingly.
The bookies favorites to go down are Burton Albion and Bolton who can be had at around 2.5. I agree that both sides should likely struggle but that price does not offer any value.
This time last year Albion were predicted to struggle. They never made any waves last season, but they weren’t really in trouble at any point, so for me 2.5 is far too short a price.
Newly promoted Bolton will almost certainly find life difficult in the Championship, but again their price offers no value. League One clubs coming into the Championship tend to do okay. They’re usually coming into the season with some extra cash, a lot of confidence and great support from fans. This is often enough to remain competitive and do enough to stay afloat.
Once again the Championship is likely to be one of the toughest leagues to predict. There has been a lot of movement in and out for the majority of clubs in terms of players and staff. This only makes things harder, but I really think my own beloved Boro are still value at 8.0 to lift the title.
They have the best squad in the league that is full of Championship proven players, if new signing Britt Assombalonga can stay fit then he will certainly do the business for the Boro. This price will only get shorter, so take it now.
The bottom half is a tough one, the bookies have priced a lot of the teams correctly in my opinion. Sunderland to finish bottom half is my favorite bet here. I think the odds are generous considering how bad their preseason has been as well as the whole host of other problems at the club.
The North East fans can easily turn on their clubs and if this happens it is going to be very difficult for Sunderland to gain any traction this season.”
Sam Shan ([email protected])
OneSharpGambler: Odds are correct at the time of writing. Obviously, you will look for the best odds if you are going to take any bets. Remember to check your local bookies, they usually sleep longer instead of updating odds. Personally, took small bet on Brentford to win outright. Fingers crossed. Took my bet on Betfair, so I always have chance to trade out.
I just wanted to thank Sam once again for his article. If anyone wants to get in touch with him, his details are above.