English Championship Outright Preview

2017/18 EFL Championship
Outright preview on the 2017/18 EFL Championship that gets underway on Friday the 4th of August
It may not be one of Europe’s glamour leagues but the EFL Championship is a favourite amongst punters and fans who enjoy a more physical brand of football. England’s second tier offers great value on a weekly basis and is a lot easier to follow nowadays with a whole host of fixtures being screened in South Africa.

The league will get underway on Friday the 4th of August and promises to be one of the most hotly contested in recent years with a plethora of sides in with a shout of gaining promotion to the Premier League.

To Win Outright
Middlesbrough 13/2 | Aston Villa 7/1 | Fulham 9/1 | Norwich 10/1 | Sheffield Wednesday 10/1 | Wolves 10/1

The Contenders

Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough are currently priced up as favourites to claim the Championship and with right reason. The Boro impressed near the back end of last season but couldn’t pull off a Houdini-esque escape act to remain in the Premier League as they eventually finished 12 points off safety. They have managed to retain the majority of last year’s Premier League squad, while the capture of Britt Assombalonga will make them a lot more lethal in front of goal.

Aston Villa

Like Middlesbrough, Aston Villa are a side who are more accustomed to turning out in the Premier League rather than the Championship. This will be the Villans second consecutive season in the second tier and you can tell their board want this to be the last year just by looking at how willing they have been to splash the cash, not to mention acquiring the services of free-agent John Terry. Manager Steve Bruce has used his chairman’s money wisely bringing in some vastly experienced midfielders and defenders. I think his dealings will ensure that Premier League football returns to Birmingham next season.

Fulham

Next up on the betting board we have another side with an illustrious Premier League history in the form of Fulham. The London club put in a solid showing in the Championship last season, finishing sixth in the league. And while they didn’t manage to come through their promotion play-off, their display in the regular season will have given Cottagers fans a reason to smile again. That said fans smiles’ may get even bigger this term as Fulham’s handy squad could seriously push for a promotion place this time around.

Surprise Package

Reading

I seriously cannot believe that Reading are available at 20/1 to claim top honours in the Championship. The Royals enjoyed a stellar campaign last year, finishing the regular season in third place, only nine points off champions Newcastle. Manager Jaap Staam has managed to keep most of his squad together, only getting rid of fringe players and the deadwood. The Reading boss has also made some shrewd signings, bringing in former Arsenal goalkeeper Vito Mannone as well as Ajax youngster Pelle Clement. I would not be one bit surprised to see Reading duking it out with the likes of Middlesbrough and Aston Villa for the Championship title come next year May.

Value Bets

To Be Relegated: QPR 9/2
This is a rather speculative shout but I feel QPR are going to go the way of Blackburn and continue to plummet down the leagues. The Hoops only managed to avoid relegation by two points last year as they stumbled to an 18th place finish. Their defence was a shambles for the majority of the season while their forwards were far from prolific in front of goal. And while Ian Holloway is a wily coach, I think he will struggle to get this QPR squad playing to his tune.

To Be Promoted: Sunderland 5/1
The Black Cats endured a torrid time in England’s top tier last season but did show some fight near the backend of the campaign. They have lost prolific marksman Jermain Defoe who has signed for Bournemouth but they still have a solid squad and a midfield ideally suited to the Championship – Lee Cattermole is the sort of combative midfielder that will thrive in England’s second tier. Sunderland will need to find the back of the net with more frequency than last season though, and a lot will rest on the shoulders of new signing James Vaughan. The journeyman striker had a solid campaign for Bury in and his 24 goals saw him named in the League One Team Of The Year.

League Winners Verdict: Aston Villa 4/1
Villa manager Steve Bruce has really done some smart business during the transfer window. The former Manchester United centre-half has greatly improved Villa's defence by bringing in Chelsea legend John Terry as well as former Blackburn Rovers stalwart Chris Samba. The duo could form a formidable centre-back pairing although they will face competition for a starting berth from the talented Micah Richards. I really like the look of this Villa squad, particularly their defensive options. My money is on them claiming the Championship title and returning to the promised land next year.

Article by Darry Worthington