Make no mistake, competing week to week in the Championship is tough. If you want to excel in the league, you’re going to need to overcome a number of obstacles.
Firstly, the season is a slog. Comprising 46 league fixtures, plus additional matches for teams that make the Play-Offs, long-term fitness is key to a successful season. As is grit. The league has a real mixture of teams and playing styles, but almost every game is a battle. Especially with the sides that are newly promoted from League One.
For promotion hopefuls, big match mentality is a must. Last season, Derby finished in 6th place, nine points behind third-placed Leeds. But it was Derby who triumphed in the Play-Off semi-finals. Play-Off winners Aston Villa finished 18 points behind title winners Norwich, but it mattered not during the Play-Offs as they sealed promotion in “Football’s richest game” at Wembley.
Finally, if you want to win the title, you need quality. Because if you do make it to the promised land of the Premier League, you need to have a core of players within your squad with the ability to step up a level and keep you there.
LEEDS – As the highest placed team from last season that remained in the league, Leeds are understandably favourites to top the table. Marcelo Bielsa’s revolution of the former giant continues unabated, with Leeds hoping to return to where they belong – the top flight of English football. Leeds were unlucky to miss out last season in the Play-Offs – they were the best team in the league on the stattos favourtie stat, XG – and will hope to secure an automatic spot this time around.
FULHAM – The Cottagers have made an immediate return to the Championship following their ‘one and done’ stint in the Premier League. Scott Parker took over managerial duties towards the end of the season and helped squeeze a couple of wins out of the side that would finish the campaign with the worst defensive record in the league. While Jean Michaël Seri and Ryan Babel have both left the club and joined Turkish side Galatasaray the club have retained start striker Aleksandar Mitrović who scored 12 goals in 17 appearances the last time the club competed at this level.
CHARLTON – As is the way of things with promotion/relegation, the promoted sides are almost always favoured to drop back down again. In this case, Charlton are no different. Having secured their passage to the Championship via a dramatic last-minute win in the League One Play-Off final against Sunderland, The Addicks also – eventually – signed manager Lee Bowyer to a new contract. Last season’s top scorer Lyle Taylor has also re-signed, but Play-Off hero Patrick Bauer has moved to Preston.
READING – Of the non-promoted sides, The Royals look the most likely to get sucked into a relegation battle. They finished one spot above relegation, in 20th place, for the second campaign in a row and continued the trend of finishing 17th or lower in four of the past five seasons. Last season they managed back-to-back league wins just once – with those victories coming against bottom side Ipswich and Wigan who were dreadful on the road. Manager Jose Gomes has parted ways from six clubs before reaching the 17 games in charge mark. Reading have also done little business outside of signing Charlie Adam. So, all in all, it’s not looking positive.
Leeds are favourites to win the title at 9/2 (5.50). Whilst the other main contenders to win the league are Fulham at 7/1 (8.00), Cardiff at 10/1 (11.00) and Stoke at 12/1 (13.00). Charlton are relegation favourites at 11/4 (3.25), closely followed by Barnsley at 5/2 (3.50), Reading at 9/4 (3.75) and QPR at 3/1 (4.00). For a top-six finish, and therefore automatic promotion or a Play-Off spot, you can back West Brom at 11/10 (2.10), Brentford at 3/2 (2.50) and last season’s losing finalists Derby at 9/4 (3.25). Aleksandar Mitrović is favourite to finish top scorer at 6/1 (7.00).
*Odds subject to change. Odds correct at time of publishing.