Football Betting Tips
There’s more money than ever before sloshing around in the Sky Bet Championship these days and both of my fancies for promotion are among the many clubs spending big bucks.
There can be surprises; I was shocked as Huddersfield went up last term after David Wagner’s approach paid dividends. However, if the clubs with the biggest budgets fail it’s more often than not down to incompetent management, both on and off the pitch, over a sustained period of time.
That’s why I don’t like the chances of Sunderland and Hull to make an immediate return to the Premier League, although I think Simon Grayson is a strong choice by the Black Cats to restore some stability.
You’ll find out my verdict on each of the 72 clubs in the EFL when our team-by-team guide is published on Tuesday afternoon but this preview focuses on the best betting suggestions for the new campaign.
I’m siding with Middlesbrough over Aston Villa as my headline pick for promotion from the two clubs battling it out at the top of the market.
Villa will be in contention for a play-off place but Steve Bruce’s men are not as proven a Championship commodity as Boro.
I successfully backed Boro to go up a couple of seasons ago as they pipped Brighton to second behind champions Burnley.
Aitor Karanka was the man in charge of the Riverside Stadium outfit back then but the Spaniard departed last season in the midst of a timid slide to relegation.
The defensive strength that the return to the top-flight was built on remained as Boro conceded 53 goals during the campaign, a total that was less than 10 other Premier League clubs. Bournemouth, who ended up in ninth, conceded 67.
However, you won’t be surprised that Boro’s return of 27 goals scored was the lowest in the Premier League.
Rectifying that awful return in front of goal is the main task for new manager Garry Monk, who takes charge after Steve Agnew oversaw the confirmation of relegation as caretaker-boss.
Monk has acted quickly to add Nottingham Forest striker Britt Assombalonga for a club-record £15million, Toulouse forward Martin Braithwaite for around £9million and West Ham’s Ashley Fletcher for £6.5million.
Assombalonga is a proven goal-getter in the Championship. He netted 30 goals in 65 Championship appearances during an injury-hit spell with Forest but he got through last season unscathed and struck 14 times.
Braithwaite is a more interesting addition. The 26-year-old Denmark international was expected to move to the Premier League but Boro won the race for his signature after 12 goals in France’s top-flight last term.
Fletcher didn’t get the chance to shine during his one season with West Ham but he’s certainly another interesting option as well as Patrick Bamford and Rudy Gestede for the new Boro chief.
Monk has also added a great deal of Championship experience to his squad with West Ham goalkeeper Darren Randolph, Derby defender Cyrus Christie and Norwich midfielder Jonny Howson all signing on the dotted line.
It’s a very sensible recruitment policy. I think 12/5 is an acceptable price for Boro to follow Hull, Burnley and Newcastle over the last couple of seasons in bouncing back to the Premier League at the first attempt.
That’s clearly the remit for Monk and getting Leeds to challenge for the play-offs last term proves that his success in taking Swansea to League Cup glory and mid-table in the Premier League wasn’t a one-off.
Leeds fell away from the top six in the final weeks of the season but it was still a vast improvement from a run of Championship finishes – 14th, 13th, 15th, 15th and 13th – over the previous five campaigns.
Monk’s pragmatic approach is perfect for a promotion bid, see both Rafael Benitez and Chris Hughton for examples last season, and his ability to get the best out of a previously underachieving Chris Wood at Leeds proves that he can make attacking talent sparkle.
Wolves are the other team I’m backing to get involved in the promotion tussle.
The first season of the club being run by Chinese owners Fosun International didn’t go to plan, other than an FA Cup victory against Liverpool at Anfield.
Both Walter Zenga and Paul Lambert are consigned to the list of former Wolves managers after a 15th-placed finsh but I’m expected better things now former Porto and Valencia boss Nuno is in the hotseat.
The summer recruitment drive has been eye-catching to say the least.
Porto midfielder Ruben Neves was expected to end up at Chelsea or Liverpool but instead joined Wolves for a club-record £15million. He’s been joined from his former club by defender Willy Boly on a season-long loan.
Defender Boly is already a fans’ favourite, while Neves at 20-years-old and already boasting a couple of full international caps is as impressive an arrival from abroad as I can remember in the Championship.
Super-agent Jorge Mendes’ involvement at Molineux is key to these deals and there are plenty of questions around how sustainable the approach is in the long-term.
That leads to Wolves needing to win promotion quickly and Nuno changing the Molineux men’s approach to a more patient style of play can cause plenty of problems for their rivals.
Rafael Benitez, Jaap Stam, Carlos Carvalhal and David Wagner are all examples of how managers from abroad can adapt to the Championship and Nuno looks more than capable of adding his name to that list. That’s provided he’s given the time.
The Portuguese led Rio Ave to two domestic cup finals in his homeland and the Europa League for the first time, as well as Valencia to a fourth-place finish in LaLiga.
His time with Porto was disappointing by the high standards of the Portuguese heavyweights but that leaves him with something to prove and he has the funds to make an impact at Wolves.
The Molineux outfit underachieved last season but there’s more than enough talent in the squad to do better. Ivan Cavaleiro and the impressive Helder Costa will be better for their first taste of English football and there’s plenty of Championship experience throughout the squad.
I’m going to go with a smaller stake on Wolves to go up as 9/2 is available for Nuno’s side in the promotion betting.
My final tip for the Championship season is a contender at just too big a price in the top goalscorer market.
Billy Sharp is returning to the Championship after two seasons in League One with hometown club Sheffield United.
The 31-year-old was the third tier’s top scorer last season with 30 goals and that followed on from 21 in the previous campaign.
A return of 51 goals over the last two seasons is deserving of serious respect and Sharp benefits from Blades boss Chris Wilder’s decision to have him as the fulcrum of the attacking play.
I fancy Wilder to keep United out of trouble and into a mid-table finish. That means Sharp will get plenty of chances to continue scoring and he’s got a goals return in double figures in four separate Championship seasons during his career.
There’s 66/1 on offer for Sharp to finish as the Championship’s top goal-getter and that’s worth an each-way interest given both his recent record and previous efforts in the division.