Football League Championship: Season Preview

The Football League Championship returns next week following a few months of relative calm, and for punters this means one thing: plenty of medium risk, high reward betting for punters around the world.

Before we get stuck into our preview for the first round of matches, we’ll take a closer look at how we expect the season to pan out. Let’s check it out.

To Win Outright
Newcastle 7/4 | Aston Villa 8/1 | Norwich 9/1 | Derby 12/1 | Brighton 14/1 | Wolves 14/1 | Sheffield Wednesday 16/1

Fallen Giants
Newcastle and Aston Villa find themselves having to rebuild from scratch this season following the pair’s unceremonious relegation from the Premier League. Villa – who were a shambles last season – will have a mountain to climb if they want to achieve promotion at the first attempt. The club have, however, laid the groundwork by bringing Roberto Di Matteo in to manage the club with the vastly experienced Steve Clark assisting the former Chelsea boss.

Fortunately for Villa, they do possess a bit of quality within their squad. Rudy Gestede has stayed on with the Midlands club and is a proven Championship centre-forward having scored 33 times in 82 appearances for Blackburn Rovers in all competitions. They’ve also retained the services of Jack Grealish, Gary Gardener, Scott Sinclair, Joleon Lescott and Jordan Ayew – all of whom should be more than capable in this league.

Newcastle United are rightly favourites to lift the Championship title come the end of the season. They’ve kept hold of just about all of their stars, albeit with some  massive clubs shooting flirtatious glances at the likes of Moussa Sissoko and Ayoze Perez. They’ve already lost Georginio Wijnaldum to Liverpool and could lose one or two more players before the season gets underway. Even so, they will retain the spine of their team.

Most importantly, the Tyneside club have managed to secure the services of Rafa Benitez for at least another season. The Spanish manager is vastly experienced having won the Champions League with Liverpool, the Spanish top-flight with Valencia as well as managing the likes of Real Madrid, Napoli and Chelsea. That being said, managing a team in England’s second tier is no easy task. The matches come thick and fast, and if the squad isn’t managed properly, he could find himself falling short of the play-off positions.

The Contenders 
Newcastle United are my favourites to win the league this year. They’ve maintained a very strong spine comprised of quality Premier League talent, while also landing the coup of the season in convincing Rafa to stay on board. They should walk the league this year, leaving the rest of the field in their dust.

Brighton and Hove Albion have been steadily improving for the last few seasons, and while they can’t hold a candle to Newcastle United, they are more than capable of  making the play-offs. Like many of the sides who have achieved promotion over the last few seasons, they’ve kept hold of the likes of Anthony Knockaert, Tomer Hemed, Lewis Dunk and David Stockdale, while adding the likes of Glenn Murray and Steve Sidwell to their ranks.

Derby County are another side that I’d keep an eye on. While they fell away quite badly toward the end of last season, one feels that they would have learned from the experience. They’ve cut a lot of fat after going big in the transfer market last season. The exodus sees the likes of Stephen Warnock, Connor Sammon, Ryan Shotton, Jake Buxton and Raul Albentosa all shown the door. Nigel Pearson hasn’t brought anyone in yet, however, that could change with a few shrewd loan signings in the the next week or two.

Going Down
While it’s always tempting to think that newly promoted clubs from League One will be relegated after their first season, you’d be surprised at how rarely it actually happens. In the last 11 seasons only six sides have suffered immediate relegation to League One following promotion to the Championship – MK Dons were one such team last season. All three of the promoted teams this season – Barnsley, Wigan and Burton Albion arrive in the league with settled squads as well as the momentum gained from an outstanding 2015/16 campaign.

Rotherham are a definite runners to go down this year following their heroics at the end of last season. Losing a manager with the experience and guile of Neill Warnock is not something that small clubs typically deal with well. Blackburn are also major relegation contenders for me. They’ve been in decline for a few years now under the farcical leadership of the Venky’s group. They’ve now lost Jordan Rhodes to Boro and one wonders where the goals will come from for the Lancashire outfit. While their defence has generally performed well, they simply don’t score enough. Failure to score in this league invariably leads to a relegation scrap.  Couple their inadequacies on the pitch with Owen Coyle’s uninspired managerial appointment and you’ve got a potential recipe for disaster.

Verdict: Newcastle 7/4
There’s not much value here, however, they are a class above the rest of their competition. Couple this with the cunning and tactical astuteness of Rafa Benitez, they should canter home with plenty to spare. 

Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets.

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