Correctly identified as one of the most difficult leagues in the world, the English Championship kicks off once again this weekend as a cluster of teams will be aiming for the wealth that promotion to the prosperous Premier League brings. Leeds United, so unfortunate to miss out on promotion last season, begin favourites with SportPesa (9/2) but there’s a number of teams who’ll be out to stop them and that includes the three relegated teams from who’ll be seeking title glory themselves.
Fulham (7/1), Cardiff City (10/1) and Huddersfield Town (14/1) won’t have fond memories of their Premier League campaigns last season, but you can guarantee that all three clubs are desperate to be back there. Fulham, with Scott Parker in charge, have performed admirably in the summer by persuading some of their better players to remain put as it stands. With Aleksander Mitrovic and Ryan Sessegnon seemingly staying plus the addition of Brighton’s Anthony Knockeart on loan, Fulham’s team is well equipped for a title assault.
For Cardiff, their best weapon could be their manager, Neil Warnock. An experienced boss at this level, the 70-year-old still has the fight for a championship title race. The Welsh side have retained the bulk of their first choice 11 from last season, and although that wasn’t good enough to maintain their Premier League status, Cardiff will be extremely confident that it can take them back there.
In Jan Siewart, Huddersfield have one of the best young managers in the league and the 36-year-old German will be looking to emulate his predecessor and fellow countryman, David Wagner, by taking the Yorkshire club to the Premier League. There’s been a lot of outgoings at Huddersfield with Jonas Lossl’s move to Everton a big blow, but the make-up of Huddersfield still looks solid enough to go far this season.
Over at Leeds, Marcelo Bielsa will be absolutely desperate to make up for last season’s narrow setback and after leading the promotion charge for the bulk of the season before falling off in the latter stages of the season. Will that experience help them or haunt them? In Bielsa, Leeds have the best manager in the league and keeping his services is a brilliant coup. They’ll undoubtedly feel the loss of Jack Clarke, who moved to Spurs in the summer, but Leeds should certainly be in the mix once the season reaches its conclusion.
Other title contenders who are entering the season in confident mood include WBA (10/1), Middlesbrough ( 14/1), and Derby County (16/1). All three promotion hopefuls have new managers with Slaven Bilic, Jonathan Woodgate and Phillipe Cocu taking over at each club respectively. All three clubs have vast Premier League experience but recent seasons have been testing for them all. With new managers and fresh ideas combining with ambitious chairmen, all three clubs will back themselves to at least reach the play-offs.
At the other end of the table, the fight for relegation is likely to be as fierce as a number of typical bottom half clubs scrap it out with the league’s newcomers. Luton, Barnsley and Charlton all made the leap to England’s second-tier last year and those three, along with Wigan, Millwall and Reading, are expected to slug it out for survival. Barnsley are currently favourites for the drop with SportPesa quoting 11/2 for them to finish bottom.
In the top goalscorer market, it’s the aforementioned Mitrovic that leads the way with SportPesa having the Serbian marksman available to back at 23/4. Swansea’s Oliver McBurnie, a forward who knows the Championship very well, is available at 13/1, and for some value, Luton’s James Collins, a man who The Hatters have consistently relied on, is 80/1 to collect top scoring honours.