The Sky Bet Championship may have ended for another season, but the 2018/19 campaign really isn’t that far away! As much so, league sponsors Sky Bet have issued prices ahead of that, and we focus on the likely league table based on those odds.
At the time of writing, there is a four-way battle for the league title, although a summer of change at these clubs means that anything is possible! There is one side expected to struggle more than anyone else too. It is worth mentioning that Cardiff City were expected to struggle last season, and they ended up as runners-up in the Championship.
So where shall we start…..the bottom, or the top? (All prices are for teams to win the league title outright)
We’ll start at the top and see which sides are expected to contest for the 2018/19 Sky Bet Championship title.
Aston Villa, Stoke City, Swansea City, West Bromwich Albion – 15/2 joint-favourites
It perhaps isn’t a huge shock to see the three relegated clubs from the Premier League backed to do well. There is certainly some doubts over them all however. West Brom have Darren Moore at the helm, in his first managerial job. Swansea have no manager at this stage, but Graham Potter, the bookies favourites, hasn’t managed in this country before. Also, Stoke City have Gary Rowett at the helm, who has fallen short at reaching the top end of the table before. As for Aston Villa, a summer exodus is expected at Villa Park, which is likely to weaken their squad.
So who should challenge for the play-offs?
Middlesbrough (10/1), Brentford & Derby County (16/1), Leeds United, Norwich City & Sheffield Wednesday (20/1)
These clubs are next down the pecking order regarding the odds. Middlesbrough will go into a full season under Tony Pulis, so optimism is high, despite losing in the play-offs last season. Brentford play an exciting brand of football, scoring plenty of goals. Likely next Derby boss Frank Lampard would love to take the club into the top flight during his first season in management. Leeds, Norwich and Sheff Wed all disappointed last season, so naturally will be targeting improvements.
Who else is looking to gatecrash the play-off picture?
Birmingham City, Bristol City, Hull City, Sheffield United & Wigan Athletic (25/1), Blackburn Rovers, Nottingham Forest & Preston North End (28/1)
Birmingham only just avoided relegation, but they’ll expect some natural improvement under Garry Monk. Bristol City began the season so well, only to fade away, so the key for them is consistency. Hull were another to disappoint last season, but Nigel Adkins has history of winning promotion before. Sheffield United had a good first season back at this level, and Chris Wilder is ambitious, and shall aim for the very best. Wigan impressed in League One, and Paul Cook will be looking to continue that winning feeling in the next division up. The same can be said of Blackburn, with Tony Mowbray a safe pair of hands. Nottingham Forest have a manager that has also won promotion out of this division before. Preston just missed out on the play-offs, so they’ll be hopeful of a decent season.
So, who may struggle?
Millwall & Reading (33/1), QPR (40/1), Bolton Wanderers & Ipswich Town (50/1), Rotherham United (66/1)
Millwall were superb last season, but Neil Harris may struggle to back it up, although many tipped them to struggle after winning promotion in the first place. Reading reached the play-off final two years ago, and they’ll have aspirations to do a lot better than last season. Bolton survived on the final day, and survival again is very much their aim. There seems to be little faith in Paul Hurst getting Ipswich involved in a play-off battle, although he guided Shrewsbury to the play-off final in League One against all the odds. Rotherham are expected to struggle. It is natural for the League One play-off winners to be deemed tipped to struggle the next season, plus their horror show the last time they played in this league is still fresh in the memory. Lessons however will have been learned from that.