This weekend marked the return of the Second City derby in the league for the first time in five years. And while Aston Villa headed into it as slight-favourites, Birmingham City boasted the home advantage and the sides shared the points, despite the visitors taking the lead.
That draw meant Blues remained six points ahead of their bitter rivals, but it hasn’t stopped traders making Steve Bruce’s men 11/8 favourites to finish as the top side in the Midlands in this season’s EFL Championship.
As things stand, five of the six Midlands clubs sit in the bottom-half of the table, with Gary Rowett’s City side sitting comfortably in seventh-place – only out of a play-off spot on goal difference.
But the arrival of promotion-king Bruce over at Villa Park has seen a turn in fortunes of late for the Claret and Blues. They’re unbeaten in four games since the 55-year-old took over the reins, and perhaps offer decent value to top the Midlands mini-table.
In fact, the Blues aren’t even second-favourites in the battle for local pride. That’s a spot Steve McClaren’s Derby County currently occupy, despite being seven points behind Rowett’s men.
However, while the Rams are picking up points on more of a regular basis than they were in the opening weeks of the season, they’re still struggling to find the net – remaining the only side in the division yet to score 10 goals.
Next in the market is managerless Wolverhampton Wanderers at 4/1. And the pride of the Midlands tag is one which they’re not exactly unfamiliar with in the Championship, pipping Derby to that position back in the 2014-15 campaign.
However, their board will have to act quickly in appointing someone following Walter Zenga’s early dismissal if they are to stand any chance of keeping up with their local rivals.
Philippe Montanier has struggled to get his Nottingham Forest side going since arriving at the East Midlands outfit in pre-season. The Reds have more pressing matters at hand though at the moment, given that they sit rather uncomfortably above the relegation zone by a point.
However, the outsiders in this market, and probably rightly so, are Burton Albion at 33/1. The Brewers have enjoyed a fine start to their first ever campaign in the second tier of English football, but to expect them to finish above the likes of Aston Villa, Wolves, Derby and Blues is perhaps asking too much from the Staffordshire outfit.
Top Midlands Club
Aston Villa – 11/8
Derby County – 11/4
Wolves – 4/1
Birmingham City – 5/1
Nottingham Forest – 18/1
Burton Albion – 33/1
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing