Football League specialist Tom Love (@TomLove_18) provides us with an in-depth ante-post preview of the 2019/2020 Championship season and pens his best bets.
2019/2020 Championship Season Betting Preview & Tips
The Championship is certainly one of the most intriguing and entertaining leagues in Europe. There's some huge clubs, big money, great players and it's always competitive. This season proves no different.
Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds came close last season and they head the market as favourites, the Whites are as short as 4/1 to win the league. Sure, their underlying numbers last season were excellent but many predicted their drop off in the second half of the season given Bielsa's propensity to play high tempo, energetic, full throttle football, it's little surprise that a degree of mental and physical fatigue set in to the latter stages of the campaign. They've done little in the transfer market and have lost linchpin centre half Pontus Jansson to Brentford. They look too short in the betting to get involved with.
Fulham are next in the betting (15/2 to win the league), sitting as the comfortable second favourites the recently relegated Cottagers will be keen to bounce back at the first time of asking. Lots of money was rashly spent last summer which culminated in a disastrous season for the team on the Thames, a more measured and subdued approach to recruitment has therefore ensued this window.
Scott Parker has utilised the loan market to bring in wingers Ivan Cavaleiro and Anthony Knockaert, both can produce some punch going forward. Along with the likes of Tom Cairney, Aleksander Mitrovic and Ryan Sessegnon (if he stays) they have plenty of attacking options. It's at the other end where they look suspect, a porous backline was their undoing last term and they haven't brought in any defenders of note. They did slightly improve under ex player Parker but he is untried as a gaffer in the championship and although they should score a fair few goals they may find it hard to keep clean sheets, so at the prices I'll swerve them too.
Then we get into a cluster of teams of Cardiff, West Brom and Stoke at 12/1. Of those I'd err towards the Potters. Nathan Jones was very successful at Luton and got his side playing attack minded, dominating football. When he came to the bet365 stadium last year it was in stark contrast. Stoke drew a lot of games but Jones managed to tighten up the defence and they didn't concede many.
They were ante-post favourites last year but I think they're well set to give it a better go this time around. They're well stacked at the back now with Liam Lindsay and keeper Adam Davies both making the switch from Barnsley after outstanding seasons. Tommy Smith provides experience and know how at full back, as does Stephen Ward.
Going forward they should have extra punch and with a pre-season to get his ideas firmly across I'd expect them to notch plenty more goals than last season. Nick Powell can conjure up something out of nothing, Lee Gregory comes in after being consistently good up front for Millwall whereas youngster Thibaud Verlinden will he hoping to nudge his way into the starting XI after an exciting cameo towards the back end of the last campaign. I think of that cluster they could be the ones to mount a serious challenge and they're 4/1 (SkyBet) to be promoted. Alternatively you can back the Staffordshire side each way at 12/1 to win the league with SkyBet paying four places.
I'm willing to look down the list and find Bristol City available at 7/1 (WilliamHill) to be promoted and I have to admit, that caught my eye. They've been there or there about in the play off picture in the last few years and I'd argue they have one of the most settled squads in the division. Seldom do you see such little player turnover at a championship club and that's a bonus I believe.
Notably they've made Chelsea loan duo Jay Da Silva and Tomas Kalas into permanent figures, part of a defence last season that conceded just 53 goals, only bettered by Sheffield United, Leeds and Middlesbrough. They've held onto centre half Adam Webster, one of the best in the division. It looks like they could do with another full back and maybe another attacker but Lee Johnson is still expecting a few in-comings.
Famara Diedhiou and Andreas Weimann Both caused a threat to opposition defences last year and their playing styles contrast well for a partnership. They have a strong central midfield with Korey Smith, Marlon Pack and Josh Brownhill rotating around. They'll have threats off the bench too with new signing Sammie Szmodics and Hadeeb Adelekun who can cause problems.
Bookies have them 10th in the pecking order but I have them as a play off worthy side this season and the 7/1 looks a slice of value on the Robins to go up.
Looking at the other end of the table and it does prove a bit of a conundrum. But one thing that stood out is how highly the bookies are rating newbies Luton as the 8th favourites for relegation.
Being a Bradford fan I watched quite a bit of league 1 last season and no doubts that the top two were miles ahead of the rest. The departure of Nathan Jones mid-season didn't seem to have much of an effect on the Hatters as they went onto secure promotion to the championship.
However, much of their good work came from full-backs James Justin and Jack Stacey, both of whom have moved to premier league duo Leicester and Bournemouth respectively. They've managed to coup around £12m from their departures but have failed to replace them with the same quality, which was to be expected. Martin Cranie and Brandon Galloway come in and the latter probably offers more promise than the former but both ultimately are downgrades.
The step up from League 1 to the championship is a huge one and for a team like Luton who haven't been in the top two divisions for a long time, it can prove difficult. They'll be reliant on their home form to take them through to safety but when you compare and contrast squad depth of the Bedfordshire side to other second tier clubs there does seem to be somewhat of a gulf.
Ex Luton legend Mick Harford took charge for the second half of the campaign in a caretaker capacity until the end of the season, he remains at the club but not as the full time manager. That's gone to long time Roberto Martinez number 2 Graeme Jones who will have his managerial debut in the championship. He is highly regarding in the coaching circles by all accounts but we've seen plenty of coaches not translate into suitable managers. He could well be a success but the unknown nature of his true credentials are a slight worry.
It looks like the money generated from the sales of Justin and Stacey will not be heavily re-invested into the playing squad but possibly more sensibly funded into the infrastructure and long term vision of the club. They'll be moving into a new 17,500 seater stadium soon and they could be in a better place to come back and compete in a year or two. I'm sure they'll give it a good go but at the price I think there's a bit of value in them to go straight back down to league 1. I'd have expected them to be ranked as one of the bottom 5 teams and that's not the case here.