We are almost two-thirds of the way through the 2016/17 campaign, and things are shaping up nicely across English football’s top four divisions. In the top flight, Chelsea have all but had their name engraved on the trophy, and so the battle for Champions League places – and the mad scramble to avoid relegation – is where the attention in the Premier League now lies.
So, for the neutral observer and punters, it is the Championship which offers the most intrigue, with more plot twists then a particularly bleak Scandinavian crime thriller expected. Many made their pre-season predictions and while the likes of Newcastle and Brighton are duking it out for honours at the top of the table, with Rotherham, Wigan et al slaving away at the wrong end, there is plenty of mileage left in this most unpredictable of divisions.
One question remains: where is the pick of the betting value in the Sky Bet Championship?
Championship Winner Betting Tips
The early ante-post favourites Newcastle remain on track for the title but they have their doubters. Seven defeats this term already is not exactly league-winning form, and rumours of a rift so bad between Rafa Benitez and Mike Ashley that the Spaniard almost quit in January appear not to be without substantiation.
But then we can break the argument down into its most base parts: they have the best players, the best manager, their shots on target ratio is better than any other side in the division and they have the elite-level experience lacking in so many of their rivals. That suggests that, when the pressure is on, they will be able to cope
Brighton are only one point behind but they are currently experiencing their traditional wobble as the business end of the season approaches. Defeats at Preston and Huddersfield, plus two points dropped against Brentford, in the past month alone are not the results expected of a champion.
In contrast, the Magpies have found a way of winning even when they aren’t playing well, and Matt Ritchie’s winner against Derby on Saturday in another test of their title-winning credentials – his left-footed shot took a wicked deflection before nestling in the back of the net – is indicative of the notion that when your luck’s in, you’d better cash in.
The 4/7 about Newcastle winning the Sky Bet Championship still represents fine value.
Championship Promotion Betting Tips
It is tough to get excited about Brighton’s price of 1/6 in this market; they have stumbled before in this position, remember. They are an outstanding side, particularly at home, but you have to wonder how badly last season’s failure to ascend the Promised Land of the Premier League has affected what is essentially the same squad of players. Avoid the Seagulls like the plague at such a short price.
One team that does interest is Huddersfield, particularly at a price of 11/4. The Terriers have passed two gut-checks in the past fortnight alone with victories over Brighton and Leeds, and a talented young squad has been assembled by the shrewd and progressive head coach David Wagner. They have lost once since December 1, winning eight of eleven, and as long as the fear factor doesn’t kick in they look an excellent proposition at the price.
And there has to be value in Norwich City making the most of the play-offs as they did back in the 2014/15 season. At home in particular they look good with a shots on target ratio of +2.14 per game, and they have won four of their last five too. The Canaries have a habit of flying high at the right time under Alex Neil, and they should have enough to get into the play-off places. They certainly won’t be available at their current price for promotion of 15/2 then….
Championship Relegation Betting Tips
The chimes of doom are already ringing out for plucky Rotherham United, who will give it a good go until the fat lady sings but unfortunately she is already clearing her throat: the Millers have lost 22 of their 30 matches this term and conceded 20 more goals than any other side in the division bar Blackburn.
You would assume then that the last two relegation places would consist of Blackburn, Burton or Wigan. You fear for the Latics in their first campaign back in the Championship given that their home record (W3 D3 L8) is so wretched. Nigel Clough’s decision to resist the overtures of Nottingham Forest may just prove the spark that kicks Burton to life, and perhaps their 2-1 win over Wolves on Saturday was indicative of that.
And that leaves Blackburn Rovers, whose fans deserve more than the dismal few seasons they have experienced under the Venky’s regime. Their shots on target ratio of -1.10 is amongst the worst in the division, and despite the occasional bright spot – the goals of Sam Gallagher, for instance – the former Premier League champions look to be on thin ice.
At an odds-against price of 6/5, the unfortunate Rovers could be set for a spell in English football’s third tier.