A 2018/19 EFL Championship Season Preview
A 2018/19 EFL Championship Season Preview
We’re quite literally hours from the start of the start of the English Football League once again, and the Championship will likely be the league that attracts the most attention. As the top second tier in the world football, featuring a monster prize of Premier League football and all the riches that it brings, the EFL Championship will once again, bring a roller-coaster of emotions for an entire division that begins the season with aspirations of pushing for the playoffs. Without further ado, let’s look at the main runners and riders for promotion to the top flight, and those who could be escaping through the relegation trap door to League One.
The Title Contenders
It’s hard to look beyond Gary Rowett’s Stoke City side as the main favourites for the title at around 5/1 odds with most bookmakers. The Potters have dropped out of the top flight but have spent bucketloads of their parachute money on some top-Championship pedigree, notably Benik Afobe, Thomas Ince and James McClean to augment their existing squad. The mere fact that Rowett was so happy to jump ship from Derby to Stoke in the summer should underline City’s potential to bounce straight back.
It will be something to see how Aston Villa fare now that they are under new majority ownership. Steve Bruce has been retained, and funds are promised to back the experienced Championship campaigner. The threat of financial fair play (FFP) penalties means Villa might have to bid farewell to a homegrown winger, Jack Grealish, but they are listed at 12/1 to be at the top come May. Nottingham Forest are another club with new owners that have also splashed the cash, but at odds of 9/1, it’s not overly appealing given that Forest’s last few seasons were in the doldrums of the lower mid-table.
If you’re looking for a reasonable outside shot, take note of Preston North End’s start to the season: boss Alex Neil finished in a highly respectable seventh position last term, only two points off the playoff places. With an appealing price around 35-33/1 odds, a surprise title for the Lancashire outfit would be akin to seeing your number land on the roulette wheel, with the ability to choose odds of up to 35/1 when you attempt to hit it big.
The Likely Relegation Candidates
It’s hard to see beyond the Bolton Wanderers and Rotherham United as the main favourites for the drop. Bolton have endured a difficult pre-season, with the playing staff going on strike earlier this summer. The Wanderers boss, Phil Parkinson, worked a minor miracle to keep them up the last term, but it might be a bridge too far this season. Rotherham, on the other hand, gained a promotion from League One via the playoffs and are full of wily campaigners from the third tier. It won’t be the first time the Millers have attempted to battle to stay up in the Championship, but they will be up against it.
At 4/1, Reading could be a value shot for relegation. The Royals have slashed their spending in the last 18 months, and the departure for Jaap Stam saw the club go down a safer route with coach Paul Clement. The Perennial Championship side, Ipswich, could also be a relegation contender if the new boss, Paul Hurst, fails to get to grips with the Tractor Boys’ squad.
One thing’s for sure: the battle for promotion and relegation in the Championship will be as intense as ever. With the prize at stake becoming bigger every year, the sides are becoming more desperate in their ambition to get a taste of Premier League football. Unfortunately, the main trend in the Championship is that those sides with the Premier League parachute payments —given to those relegated from the top flight — have a significantly unfair advantage on the rest of the division. Cardiff bucked the trend last season under wily campaigner Neil Warnock, but it’s hard to see beyond at least one of the relegated trio of Stoke City, Swansea City or West Bromwich Albion bouncing back at the first attempt. Be sure to stay tuned to our weekly tips and predictions to get a feel for how the Championship is shaping up.