The Championship is often referred to as the most competitive league in the world. Wolves’ runaway mission at the top has undermined that somewhat, but the second tier is still tense as teams chase playoff spots and look to escape the bottom three.
You can find our Saturday accumulator on our blog. Here, though, we are looking at the outright options…
Okay, we can say with a fair bit of confidence that Wolves are going to win the Championship this season. I know that’s outlandish and all, but let’s just leave it at that.
What we are really looking at is the ‘to finish 1-6’ odds. Aston Villa’s stunning run of late has them at 1/20 to finish in the top six. Steve Bruce’s side are as good as nailed on for the playoffs having won their last seven in the league.
Derby are cosy as well, sitting nine points ahead of seventh and at 1/10 to earn a top six berth. The Midlands pair remain in close competition for the second automatic promotion place.
It’s further down the table that this market gets interesting. Middlesbrough, who are four points off sixth, are as short as 5/4. Tony Pulis’ team are my value pick here, however. Their budget dictates promotion is a must. They have the quality to make it to the playoffs, and I would certainly back them to make it to Wembley. Boro are 4/1 to get promoted.
Preston are worth a look 7/2. The Lilywhites are built on rigid defence and are immensely hard to beat. Goals are the trouble, but that looks a lengthy price for a team just three points off sixth.
Matej Vydra leads the Championship scoring charts with 17. Unsurprisingly, Derby’s main man is atop the betting market at 2/1. The versatile forward has been finishing at a remarkable rate so far, however, which suggests his production will regress at some point. The challenge is whether that will be enough for anyone to catch him.
There are only two players within four goals of Vydra. The first is veteran Leon Clarke, who is on 15. Sheffield United’s striker had a ludicrous hot streak in November, but has now scored just one in his last 10 matches. Following that red-hot run, the Blades’ form has dipped with Clarke’s. I don’t see any merit in backing him at 5/1.
Albert Adomah has found the net 13 times thus far. His 7/1 price is not enough to really turn any heads. The Aston Villa winger has not been getting the same quality of chances as his two main competitors all season long. It would take a special patch of form to win the golden boot.
My favoured picks from this market are Britt Assombalonga at 9/1 and Diogo Jota at 20/1. Both players are on 12 goals at the moment, and I expect their respective teams to finish the season strongly.
Barnsley are the team to watch in the relegation market. Sitting just one point from safety at the moment, they have hired Jose Morais, who has frequently worked with Jose Mourinho. The new boss has plenty of work to do, however, with the club having won just once in 16 league matches.
The 9/10 price to be relegated will depend on how you view that appointment. I think it will have a positive impact on the team, who can expect increased productivity from Tom Bradshaw and the trademark new manager bounce.
If Barnsley are to build a resurgence, there’s going to have to be a team to drop into that bottom three. Hull are currently teetering one point above, but have shown signs of a turnaround with their recent FA Cup form. The 3/1 is a bit short given the quality in the squad.
Bolton are the team offering the best value here, I think. Having lost Gary Madine to Cardiff, the 7/5 price on the Wanderers to end up in League One is good value. It could all come down to their last two matches of the season against Burton and Nottingham Forest, but I think the Lancashire club will be fighting a losing battle by then.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*