Predicting the Championship: Brentford to spring a surprise
Another opportunity to bounce up into the Premier League awaits the 24 teams contesting the Championship, with two sides given the favourites’ chance of winning the division by Ladbrokes.
Derby and Middlesbrough are the pair handed the tag, at 6/1, in a campaign that looks less like the wide-open race for silverware it usually is.
On paper, Derby look far and away the strongest side in the division, with a raft of quality signings joining Paul Clement for his debut season as a manager.
Middlesbrough, who are the highest-finishing side in the Championship from last term, also warrant respect, but the capacity for the Championship to surprise takes precedent for Ladbrokes News, as they stick their necks on the line with some seasonal predictions:
Champions: Brentford (12/1 to win the Championship)
The last market favourite to win the Championship was Manchester City in the 2001/02 season, so backing either Boro or the Rams is hardly the most confident move.
Instead improvement from Brentford is expected at a price, despite moving manager Mark Warburton on and losing influential on-loan midfielder Alex Pritchard back to Tottenham.
Marinus Dijkhuizen is the new man in the dugout to continue the attractive football the London outfit play. It was a style that suited last season’s champions Bournemouth and a number of new signings at Griffin Park, including Chelsea’s Josh McEachran, will stand them in good stead.
Automatic Promotion: Derby (12/5 to finish in the top two)
Signing Tom Ince, Andreas Weimann, Alex Pearce, Darren Bent, Jason Shackell, Scott Carson and Chris Baird make Derby a strong outfit this term.
While the division’s propensity to bite favourites in the backside means they can’t be backed for the title, they surely cannot finish outside the automatic promotion places.
Middlesbrough (9/4 to qualify for the play-offs) have added Stewart Downing to their midfield, but haven’t signed a striker capable of replacing Patrick Bamford’s goals as yet, although links with Blackburn’s Jordan Rhodes remain. Without one, a play-off place looks their best hope.
Burnley (11/4) should fare well in their first season back in the second tier, despite losing Shackell, Danny Ings and Kieran Trippier, while Ipswich and Wolves (both 3/1) can maintain their impressive seasons from last term.
Staying up last season was a huge effort for Rotherham (13/8 to be relegated) but the club have lost key men in the shape of Ben Pringle and Craig Morgan and look justifiable favourites in the market.
Bolton (4/1), look good value to join them having operated on a shoe-string budget during the summer and losing Adam Bogdan, Alex Baptiste and Matt Mills, while Leeds (4/1) have offered Uwe Rosler another chance at management after the German struggled with Wigan and have a lack of firepower.
Top Scorer: Chris Martin (11/1)
Martin managed 18 league goals for the Rams despite suffering hamstring problems throughout the final third of the season.
That impressive return followed a 20-goal haul the campaign prior to that and the leader of Derby’s attack should benefit from the purchase of Ince and Weimann on the wings.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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