Frequently labelled as the ‘most exciting’ or ‘least predictable’ division in England, the 2014/15 Championship season kicks off this evening (Friday) – but how do the bookmakers think the season will pan out?
In the race for Premier League football, it comes as little surprise newboys and 2012 champions Cardiff City are the bookmakers’ favourites for an immediate return. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are 7/1 with Sky Bet to win the title.
The Bluebirds have recruited well to replace Steven Caulker, Jordon Mutch and Fraizer Campbell, adding Adam le Fondre, Kiko Macheda, Kagisho Dikgacoi and most recently, Tom Adeyemi.
Beaten in the 2014 Play-Off Final, Steve McClaren’s Derby County are also a 7/1 shot for the title. The Rams were the highest scorers in the division last season and have added further firepower in Blackburn loanee Leon Best, as well as retaining key players such as Craig Bryson and Will Hughes.
At 9/1 to win the league are recently-relegated Fulham and Wigan Athletic – who finished in fifth last season.
The Cottagers have seen a complete overhaul of their squad but the vastly-experienced Felix Magath remains at the helm and 29-goal Ross McCormack has joined in an £11m move from Leeds United.
The Latics finished in the play-off places last season but were knocked out in the semi-final after going down 2-1 to QPR. However Uwe Rosler’s impact at the DW Stadium has ensured they remain well-backed for promotion.
Norwich City are priced at 10/1 and have only signed three players so far in the transfer window. Gary O’Neil has joined from QPR, whilst strikers Lewis Grabban (Bournemouth) and Kyle Lafferty (Palermo) have boosted rookie boss Neil Adams’ striking options.
Just behind the Canaries in the betting are 14/1 shots Watford. The Hornets have had a busy summer with Matej Vydra and Daniel Tozser returning and Heurelho Gomes, Craig Cathcart, Gabriel Tamas and Lloyd Dyer all arriving on free transfers.
Despite last season’s disappointing 13th-place finish, Beppe Sannino’s Hornets still find themselves as sixth favourites with Sky Bet to win the Championship.
In the relegation market, Jose Riga’s Blackpool are odds on at 8/13, which comes as little surprise considering the Tangerines have only recently put enough signings together to field a team against Nottingham Forest on the opening day.
Newly-promoted Rotherham United, Millwall and Charlton Athletic are all available at 3/1 for the drop.
Rotherham won promotion to the Championship by winning the League 1 Play-Off Final on penalties against Leyton Orient but have come a long way in a short space of time following back-to-back promotions from League 2.
Charlton have replaced one Belgian with another; Riga leaving to be replaced by Bob Peeters, whilst Millwall have picked up an array of journeymen and free transfers ahead of Ian Holloway’s first full season in charge.
Leeds United could cause a stir if they return to the third tier for the first time since 2010 - and the second time ever – and Sky Bet have the Whites as fifth favourites for relegation at 7/2.
Massimo Cellino’s takeover has kept United in the headlines and the Yorkshire giants are something of an unknown quantity under the stewardship of Dave Hockaday – who was sacked before Conference side Forest Green Rovers finished tenth last term.
Birmingham City survived in dramatic circumstances on the final day and are 4/1 to sink this term. The Blues let eight senior players go at the end of last season and have since added a further ten, ensuring it’s all-change at St Andrew’s this season.
Championship winner and promotion odds (Skybet):
Derby County 7/1 or 9/4
Cardiff City 7/1 or 9/4
Wigan Athletic 9/1 or 3/1
Fulham 9/1 or 3/1
Norwich City 10/1 or 3/1
Middlesbrough 12/1 or 5/1
Watford 14/1 or 5/1
Nottingham Forest 16/1 or 5/1
Blackburn Rovers 18/1 or 13/2
Reading 18/1 or 13/2
Wolverhampton Wanderers 18/1 or 13/2
Bolton Wanderers 20/1 or 13/2
Brighton & Hove Albion 20/1 or 13/2
Bournemouth 20/1 or 13/2
Ipswich Town 25/1 or 13/2
Leeds United 33/1 or 10/1
Brentford 33/1 or 10/1
Sheffield Wednesday 33/1 or 11/1
Charlton Athletic 50/1 or 18/1
Birmingham City 50/1 or 14/1
Huddersfield Town 50/1 or 16/1
Rotherham United 50/1 or 18/1
Millwall 50/1 or 16/1
Blackpool 150/1 or 33/1