Championship 2017/18 | Preview & Outright Bets
Wednesday 21 June 10:25 Tweet
As the 2017/18 Championship fixtures are announced, we take a look at bet365's eight favourites for promotion this season....
2016/17 was a tough debut season in the Championship for Aston Villa and their bottom half finish (13th) ultimately boiled down to three factors.
Roberto Di Matteo's woeful start as boss set the scene for the season. After an early EFL Cup exit at the hands of League Two Luton in August, Villa went on to win just one of RDM's 11 league matches charge - against the worst Championship side of recent years - Rotherham. After costly late goals which saw his side drop points against Sheff Wed, Huddersfield, Nottm Forest, Brentford and Barnsley, the Italian was sacked in October.
Villa were never going to challenge for promotion last season with such an appalling away record. They were knocking on the door of the top six in the home table but avoided relegation by just a single point on their travels. Just four wins on the road all season, two of which coming at the bottom two, Villa's away form will need to seriously improve this season.
The third major problem for them last season was their start to 2017. They lost eight of their nine matches across all competitions between Jan 2nd & Feb 20th, losing their unbeaten home record along the way.
Albeit a case of 'too little too late', Villa did show promise under Steve Bruce towards the latter stages of the season - seven wins from eight between February and April including against the likes of Sheff Wed, Derby and Norwich will give fans confidence going into the new season.
19 goal striker Jonathan Kodjia will be key to Villa's promotion hopes, but the likes of Ross McCormack and Scott Hogan will need to start repaying their huge transfer fees - a measly four goals in 35 appearances between the pair hardly justifies a combined £27m price tag. Ex-Chelsea and England captain John Terry joined the club in July and will strengthen their defence even more - only four sides conceded fewer Championship goals than Villa last season.
With a wealth of Championship experience including Henri Lansbury and Albert Adomah combined with the likes of Jack Grealish and Conor Hourihane, we think Villa have to be looking at automatic promotion this season following their 'bedding in' period.
Our Prediction: 2nd
We're not at all surprised to see Boro back in the Championship after just one short season in the Premier League.
Their signings last season made it perfectly clear they weren't prepared to give life on the big stage a real go. Alvaro Negredo's loan arrival gave fans hope, but ultimately anyone who brings in three players from that appallingly bad Aston Villa side who finished rock bottom of the Premier League the season before deserves to end up in the exact same place - the Championship.
That being said, Boro have a fresh start in August after beating Premier League opposition including Watford and Crystal Palace to the appointment of Gary Monk. The ex-Swansea City manager enjoyed large parts of 2016/17 with Leeds United, but his side ultimately missed out on a top-six finish following late surges from Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday.
Monk had a win percentage of nearly 50% with Leeds and improved on their previous season finish by six places - their joint highest league finish since 2006.
Boro seriously struggled for goals in the Premier League last season and will need to strengthen their front line this summer if they want an immediate return. Rudy Gestede is a proven Championship goalscorer despite struggling in the first half of the season with Aston Villa last season and the prolific Nottm Forest frontman Britt Assombalonga has already been heavily linked with a move to the Riverside.
Our Prediction: 4th
Although they didn't suffer quite as much last season following relegation from the Premier League, like Aston Villa, Norwich City had their away form to blame for a pretty disappointing season.
Carrow Road proved to be the third toughest ground to visit in the Championship last season, but the Canaries had to make do with an 8th place finish after just six wins from 23 away from home.
Alex Neil was sacked in March after a winless run of five matches and Norwich have since appointed ex-Borussia Dortmund II boss Daniel Farke, the man who filled the post left by David Wagner when he left for Huddersfield. Wagner has since led Huddersfield to their debut season in the Premier League, but we feel it may be too soon for Farke to replicate his success at Carrow Road.
With Cameron Jerome aging, Norwich are lacking an out and out goalscorer. As proved by Leicester, Burnley x2, Bournemouth, Watford, Boro, Newcastle and Brighton in recent seasons, it's virtually impossible to achieve automatic promotion without a 20+ goal striker.
We can't see Norwich breaking into the top two this season.
Our Prediction: 6th
Fulham were, without a doubt, one of the surprise packages of the season in 2016/17. The Cottagers finished 20th in the 2015/16 season and then lost 40 goal duo Ross McCormack and Moussa Dembele to Aston Villa and Celtic respectively last summer, many fancied them for relegation.
However, under Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic Fulham achieved their highest league finish since dropping into the Championship in 2014 and only missed out on promotion after a Play-Off Semi-Final defeat against Reading.
The West Londoners have already achieved their main two summer targets having extended the contracts of vice-captain Tom Cairney and teenager Ryan Sessegnon. Liverpool and Tottenham had both been linked with moves for Sessegnon this summer whilst Jokanovic claimed the club turned down a £20m bid for Cairney from last season's Championship winners, Newcastle.
Fulham did disappoint in their Play-Off Semi-Final ties against Reading, but they really did impress against the big boys last season. They ended the season as the second best away side, winning at Sheff Wed, Huddersfield, Norwich, Newcastle and drawing at Leeds along the way.
Their early season home form looks as though it cost them a push for automatic promotion, we're expecting them to do better this season.
Our Prediction: 1st
Sheffield Wednesday missed out on promotion to the Premier League for the second season in succession as they were beaten by South Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield in the Play-Off Semi-Finals.
The Owls are gradually improving under Carlos Carvalhal. After a sixth place finish in his debut season they rose to fourth in 2016/17 after a late surge saw them win six of their final seven league matches. Just like Derby have done, Sheffield Wednesday will quickly become known as 'promotion bottlers' if they can't make it this season - could the owners look elsewhere if Carvalhal cannot achieve promotion in his third attempt?
An out and out goalscorer really would help the Owls. Fernando Forestieri's 27 goals over the last two seasons obviously haven't quite been enough to earn his side promotion and the signings of Sam Winnall and Jordan Rhodes, who amounted just six goals for Wednesday between them last season, have not yet paid off.
With Premier League opposition such as Watford and Huddersfield queuing up to sign Forestieri, Carlos Carvalhal needs to bolster his attacking options this summer or they face another disappointing season.
Our Prediction: 5th
Gary Rowett's presence at St Andrew's was sorely missed by Birmingham City fans in 2017 as they watched their side slip from just a point outside the sixth place Play-Off place in mid-December to facing a final day relegation showdown as they avoided the drop by just one point.
Rowett's fantastic record at a less than average Birmingham side was there for all to see, and he's already shown similar signs in the East Midlands as Derby lost just two of their final nine matches last season following Rowett's appointment in March.
It goes without saying that Rowett has a far superior squad at Derby than he did at Birmingham with the likes of Darren Bent, Chris Martin and Curtis Davies. If he was knocking on the door of the Play-Offs with Birmingham, Derby should be in for a promising season following disappointment in each of the last four campaigns under Steve McClaren and Nigel Pearson.
Our Prediction: 3rd
Ex-Russian and CSKA Moscow Head Coach Leonid Slutsky makes his debut in English football this season and will look to take Hull back into the Premier League following relegation in 2016/17.
The Tigers relegation wasn't a huge surprise to anybody even after the impressive work of Marco Silva who took charge in January. After a spirited 2017, Premier League side Watford appointed him as manager.
Despite a very disappointing time in front of goal last season, in Abel Hernandez, Hull have a player with a proven goalscoring record in the Championship. He scored 20 goals in Hull's promotion winning campaign two seasons ago and will be crucial to their success this season.
We can see why Hull are such a huge price for success this season - Leonid Slutsky hasn't managed in England before and his squad is still lacking quality and depth. The Tigers have a big summer ahead of their opening day clash with promotion rivals Aston Villa on August 12th.
Our Prediction: Mid table
We think Simon Grayson's Sunderland could be in for a difficult season after relegation from the Premier League in 2016/17.
David Moyes resigned in May after a woeful season in charge of Sunderland which saw the Black Cats finish rock bottom of the Premier League having won just six matches all season. Like Aston Villa, who occupied that spot just 12 months previous and went on to struggle in the Championship last season, we're expecting to see Sunderland find Championship life hard this season.
The club's future has been firmed up following uncertainty surrounding takeover talks and the vacant managerial position, but Ellis Short is now set to stay on as owner of Sunderland following Simon Grayson's arrival from Preston.
Grayson has led previously lead Leeds, Huddersfield and Preston to promotion from League One and has managed to establish these sides as stable Championship sides, but he's yet to make the step up into the Premier League.
Star striker Jermain Defoe left the club following relegation in May. The veteran striker scored 33 goals for the Black Cats over the last two Premier League seasons and his goals will be sorely missed in the Championship.
Grayson has a huge job on his hands if he's to stop the demise of Sunderland AFC. His squad is lacking in quality and depth following the departures of Jordan Pickford, Jermain Defoe and Fabio Borini, but with a large transfer kitty to play with, we'll be waiting to assess new arrivals before righting them off.
Our Prediction: Mid table