2018/19 Championship Predictions

2018/19 Championship Predictions

2018/19 Championship Predictions

This Friday sees the return of the Championship, as Reading host Derby County at the Madejski Stadium. Frank Lampard’s visitors are early favourites to earn promotion to the Premier League at the end of the season after a ten year absence from the top flight, while Reading’s objectives will be to avoid a repeat of last season, where they found themselves battling relegation.

On Saturday, we see Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United host Graham Potter’s recently relegated Swansea City, while Tony Pulis’ promotion hopefuls Middlesbrough travel to last seasons surprise packages – Millwall, looking to start their campaign the correct way with three points. Elsewhere, Darren Moore’s West Brom welcome Phil Parkinson’s Bolton, as they look to bounce back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

So with all this mouth-watering action to come, we thought we’d offer our take on how the Championship will pan out this term. In our latest blog, we’ve assessed who we think will win the league, reach the play-off’s and sadly be in danger of relegation. Give it a read and let us know your thoughts by tweeting us @Oddschanger!

Title contenders

After dropping out of the Premier League last term, Stoke City are the bookmakers current favourites to win the Championship this season at 5/1. Former Birmingham & Derby manager Gary Rowett has taken the reigns at the Bet365 Stadium after Paul Lambert was relieved of his duties following the Potters demotion to the second tier back in May. Rowett has a wealth of experience in this division having endured two successful seasons at both St Andrew’s and Pride Park, and last season guided the Rams to the play-offs, before being knocked out by eventual winners Fulham. With a healthy budget to play with this term, Stoke have acquired some fantastic personnel during the transfer window. They’ve signed two players who have a proven record in this gruelling division, with winger Tom Ince joining the club from Huddersfield for £10million, and forward Benik Afobe joining from Wolves for £12million. Former West Brom wide man James McClean has also signed for £5million, while central midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo is the fourth new arrival for the Staffordshire outfit, joining from Portuguese side Feirense for £6.5million. With all of these new signing’s considered, alongside an experienced, driven manager at the helm, Stoke look great value for promotion this season, and we think they’re a strong contender for the title should they start the campaign strongly!

Middlesbrough are another side gunning for the league title this time out. The North East outfit dropped out of the Premier League at the end of the 16/17 campaign, but last season came incredibly close to bouncing back up to the top flight when they finished 5th and made it into the play-offs. Unfortunately for Boro though, it wasn’t to be as they were narrowly defeated 1-0 by Aston Villa over two legs. This time out though, Tony Pulis will be determined to get his side back into the Premier League and after the club have brought in the likes of Paddy McNair from Sunderland (£5million) and one of the Championship’s standout performers last season, Aden Flint from Bristol City for £7million, it definitely looks as though they can fulfil their objectives this time around. These acquisitions are certain to strengthen Middlesbrough’s back line, as they look to concede less than the 45 goals they did last time out. In attack, Boro have got some fantastic quality in the form of Britt Assombalonga and Adama Traore. Assombalonga bagged 15 league goals last season, while Traore netted 5 and clinched 15 assists with his blistering pace down that right hand side. With a manager like Pulis in charge, Boro are certainly expected to be a force next season and at odds of 9/1, we think they could be a really decent bet for the league title.

Two up, Two down

Another side that dropped out of the Premier League last season was West Brom. The Baggies endured a forgetful campaign last time out, but showed signs of promise right at the end, when current manager Darren Moore took charge following his promotion from assistant to head coach. With a squad packed full of Premier League quality, the West Midlanders will certainly be challenging for top spot this coming season. Jay Rodriguez, Jake Livermore, Salomon Rondon, Ahmed Hegazi, Kieran Gibbs, Gareth Barry and Matt Phillips are all more than accomplished players at this level, making West Brom an extremely experienced, promising outfit this season. Losing Ben Foster to Cardiff and Jonny Evans to Leicester was certainly a blow back at the start of the window, however the Baggies have bought well, bringing in goalkeeper Sam Johnstone from Manchester United for £6.5million and defender Kyle Bartley from Swansea for £4million. They’ve got great squad depth and know exactly what it takes to get out of the Championship after spending many years as one of the many ‘yo-yo’ teams in English football. One’s to watch for sure this season.

Play-Offs

Frank Lampard’s first managerial role comes at Derby County. The former Chelsea legend, who will go down in history as one of the greatest midfielders of all time has been thrown into the deep end and tasked with pulling the Rams out of the Championship, ten years after they toppled out of the Premier League under tragic circumstances. Derby have been the league’s ‘nearly men’ over the past five or six seasons; they’re always there or thereabouts when it comes to promotion, but just never quite make it. Last term they made it through to the play-offs after finishing 6th, however missed out on a spot in the final after losing to eventual winners Fulham 2-1 on aggregate. Prior to that, Derby recorded six consecutive top-half finishes, reaching the play-offs twice but ultimately fell short to both Hull City and QPR. This time around however, Derby will feel confident in their chances of a top six finish, with a fresh manager in charge, hungry to make his name within the managerial world. Signings wise, Derby have made some shrewd moves throughout the window so far. The Rams have signed promising Liverpool youngster Harry Wilson on loan for the season, which will give them so much more attacking threat going forward. They’ve also captured the signing of highly sought after front man Jack Marriott from Peterborough, so it’s clear that Derby mean business this term.

Derby’s main rivals Nottingham Forest have also made headlines in this summers transfer window after signing a host of top quality players, including striker Lewis Grabban from Bournemouth (£6.8million), Joao Carvalho from Benfica (£15million) and Tobias Figueiredo from Sporting Lisbon (£2.3million). Alongside these bank-busting acquisitions, the East Midland club, who have recently been taken over by the super-rich Greek shipping magnate Evangelos Marinakis have also obtained former Tottenham centre-half Michael Dawson from Hull and left-back Jack Robinson from QPR on free transfers. These signings have put out a statement of intent from Forest; they mean business this term and will feel as though this season could finally be the season they escape the Championship and gain promotion to the top flight for the first time since 1999. Aitor Karanka will know just how hard it’ll be to secure a play-off place this term, however he does has plenty of experience in this league having managed Middlesbrough for four seasons, where he got them promoted to the Premier League back in 2016.

Although they have lost a significant amount of financial backing, you simply can’t rule out Aston Villa’s chances of promotion this season. Steve Bruce’s men came within touching distance of the Premier League last term when they made it through to the play-off final at the end of May. A slender 1-0 defeat to Fulham means that the Villains now have to contest with another campaign in the Championship, which was to be the least of their worries, as it also meant them losing their financial privileges due to Financial Fair Play regulations coming into play. Villa gambled last season and invested a huge amount of money into their squad knowing that if they did not achieve promotion, then it would leave them in a hugely undesirable situation at the end of the campaign. The future looked extremely bleak for Villa following their failure in the play-offs, however last month they were offered a lifeline after two investors – Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens – sprung into action to save the cash-strapped outfit. They now don’t have to worry about selling their prized asset, 22-year-old midfielder Jack Grealish, which will give them a huge boost this season. Alongside the likes of Albert Adomah, Henri Lansbury and Conor Hourihane, Grealish will make up a strong, experienced Villains side who will be strong contenders for a top six finish. It’s hard to look past Villa to be promoted when you think of the sheer size of the club, and at odds of 4/1 to go up, we think they could be a solid inclusion into your outright accumulator this time around.

Relegation

The obvious candidates for relegation this season have to be Rotherham United. The Millers will be the smallest club in the division by some distance next term; they’ll have a much more limited budget to play with and in the past that has been what’s cost them in the second tier. The last time the South Yorkshire club were in the Championship it ended in disaster, as they finished rock-bottom on just 23 points back in 2016/17. The two seasons before that, Rotherham were extremely lucky to remain in the league as they finished 21st on both occasions, narrowly missing the drop by a couple of points. Paul Warne’s men are going to have their work cut out to avoid a repeat of last time this term, and after making just one permanent signing this season in the form of ex-Sunderland and West Brom full-back Billy Jones, it’s hard to envisage anything but another struggle for the Millers this term – they’re priced at odds of 11/10 to be relegated with most bookmakers.

Bolton Wanderers are another side who will be firm candidates for the drop this term. The Trotters were in danger of relegation for the majority of last season after spending most of the campaign in the bottom three, but managed to save themselves right at the death by just three points after Barnsley and Burton both lost their final games and they picked a dramatic last minute win against Nottingham Forest in theirs. Phil Parkinson has done some good business in this summers transfer window though, bringing in as many as nine players on a free transfer, including former Stoke and Bournemouth defender Marc Wilson, centre-half Jack Hobbs from Nottingham Forest and striker Clayton Donaldson from Sheffield United. The cash-strapped Trotters have also made Charlton’s Josh Magennis their marquee signing, bringing the 27-year-old in for a fee in the region of £225,000. This shows promise, however with most of the clubs around them splashing out millions on new signings, it still remains to be seen whether or not it will be enough to keep them in the division this term. Odds to go down: 6/5.

Finally, the third team we predict to struggle this season is Wigan Athletic. The former Premier League mainstays have fluctuated between the Championship and League One in recent seasons, and with a limited budget to play with it’s difficult to imagine them avoiding the drop again this time around. After a fantastic season last term, where the Latics clinched the League One title, they now enter the Championship knowing that it’s going to take something extremely special to retain their place in the second tier. Players like Will Grigg flourish in League One, scoring goals for fun, but can he cut it in the Championship? That’s the real test and looking at his stats in seasons gone by, you’d unfortunately have to say no. Aside from the loan signings of defender Reece James from Chelsea and goalkeeper Christian Walton from Brighton, Wigan’s only permanent signing is 26-year-old winger Kai Naismith from League One side Portsmouth. This has to be cause for concern for fans of the club, who have seen their beloved side struggle in this unforgiving division before. Will they upset the odds this season? We’ll see, but for us, it seems like an uphill challenge. Odds to go down: 9/2.