Championship Betting Tips

The Championship is the second tier of English football and is hosted by the English Football League (EFL). It’s been about in its current form since 2004, but as the top league as ran by the EFL, has actually been about since 1892, formerly that of Division 2, before then Division 1 following the formation of the Premier League in 1992.

The league is often referred to as the wealthiest non-top flight football division in the world and is actually one of the richest in Europe in its own right, with more money coming in than a lot of the top-tier European leagues.

Who Will Win The Championship?

Last Updated: 6th February 2019
Norwich City Football Club Gates
pittaya, flickr

Over the last few months, Leeds United and Norwich City have been battling it out for top spot in the EFL Championship. After Norwich’s recent win at Elland Road, the top two are locked level on 57 points apiece after 30 league matches. Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United are very much in the mix, as are West Bromwich Albion and Middlesbrough. With the top two having dropped a number of points in recent weeks the title race is wide open and we should be in for a thrilling end to the season.

The battle for the play-offs also promises to be as intriguing as ever, as several clubs try and make a late dash for the top six. Who will win promotion to the Premier League? Which three teams will be relegated to EFL League One? Who will prevail in the race for the Championship Golden Boot? Read on as we take a post-transfer window look at England’s second tier.

Norwich City – 7/4

Norwich have arguably been the surprise package in the Championship this season. Having kicked off their campaign with one win from six fixtures, the pressure was starting to grow on Daniel Farke. However, the German deserves an enormous amount of credit for turning things around, with Norwich now top of the table with 16 matches left.

The Canaries have pushed Leeds all the way in the race for the title this season, with City now joint 7/4 favourites to lift the Championship trophy aloft come May. Norwich have experienced a number of promotions to the Premier League in recent times, which could just give them the edge over Leeds in the race for first place. On top of that, they have got all of their key players back from injury now and results have improved compared to their sticky patch which coincided with the absences of those men.

Leeds United – 7/4

Brining in the experienced Marcelo Bielsa last summer was a real coup by Leeds. The Argentinian has an incredible CV, managing the likes of Argentina, Chile, Marseille and Lazio – among several other clubs – during his illustrious 29-year managerial career. With Bielsa at the helm, Leeds were always going to have a say in the title race this season but few expected El Loco to have such a quick impact.

United have gone off the boil somewhat in recent weeks, though, losing five of their last seven in all competitions. However, before falling to a 2-0 defeat to Hull City in their final game of 2018, Leeds had won seven Championship matches in a row. With the Whites also priced at 7/4 to win the league, it really is too close to call. The Peacocks appear to have a relatively easy run-in but there are concerns that Bielsa teams tend to fade due to the physical demands his style of football entails.

Sheffield United – 9/2

Sheffield Utd have had another outstanding season in the Championship. After finding their feet back in the second tier last year, the Blades have really pushed on this term. Chris Wilder’s men will not give Norwich or Leeds a moment’s rest from now until the end of the season, with United just three points away from the automatic places at the time of writing.

Sheffield Utd are heading in the right direction under Wilder, and the Blades are certainly capable of pushing the top two close this term. If you fancy United to finish top of the pile, check out the solid odds of 9/2.

West Bromwich Albion – 10/1

West Bromwich Albion have blown hot and cold this season. The Baggies were one of the pre-season title favourites, but Darren Moore’s men have hardly spent any time in the top two. When on song, such as when beating Leeds 4-1 or QPR 7-1, West Brom are excellent, but the Midlands outfit have had too many off days this season, losing to the likes of Bolton Wanderers, Wigan Athletic and Blackburn Rovers.

On paper, Albion arguably have the best squad in the Championship, with the likes of Gareth Barry, Kieran Gibbs and Jake Livermore all enjoying fine campaigns. With 16 games left, Moore’s side find themselves seven points off the top, which could be too much ground to make up in the title race. However, they do have a game in hand and four points would look a much more manageable gap. If you do fancy the Baggies to win the league, you can currently get the tempting price of 10/1 and those odds will shorten significantly if they can become just a little more consistent.

Who Will Be Promoted To The Premier League?

Last Updated: 6th February 2019
Pitch Invasion by Stoke City Fans Following Promotion
TubesSCFC, Wikimedia Commons

The battle for the top six in the Championship is hotting up week after week. In such an open division, several clubs will still fancy their chances of finishing in the play-offs. The likes of Queens Park Rangers, Swansea City and Nottingham Forest have probably given themselves too much to do, but you try telling them that.

Norwich, Leeds and Sheffield Utd should be shoe-ins to finish up in the top six, barring a dramatic collapse, but which three teams will join them? West Brom and Middlesbrough seem the likeliest, while the likes of Derby County, Bristol City and Aston Villa – plus several others – have plenty of work to do. Below we have the odds for the main contenders to be promoted (first) and to make the top six (second).

West Brom – 6/4 (2/9 Top 6 Finish)

WBA’s position is interesting as they could yet push for the title but equally they have work to do to be assured of a top six finish. They are 6/4 to go up, one way or another, and just 2/9 to make the top six. Given they are only three points above seventh placed Derby 2/9 may seem a little short, although they do have a little more breathing space over the rest of the chasing pack.

Middlesbrough – 2/1 (1/3 Top 6 Finish)

Tony Pulis’ Middlesbrough are available at just 2/1 to be promoted this season, either automatically or via the play-offs. However, Boro have loftier ambitions, and they are priced at 16/1 to win the Championship. Finishing in the top two, let alone first, will be a tall order, but we like the look of 2/1 for the Teessiders to be promoted. In Pulis, Middlesbrough have a very experienced manager, who knows all about promotion to the Premier League. Boro showed a real signal of intent with a vital victory at West Brom recently, which could stand them in good stead in the race for promotion. Those odds of 2/1 equate to around a 33% chance of making the Premier League and we think that makes Boro decent value.

Derby County – 4/1 (4/5 Top 6 Finish)

Frank Lampard has had an excellent first year at Derby after a slow start. Optimistic Rams fans would have targeted automatic promotion before a ball was kicked this term, but toppling Norwich and Leeds will take some doing. Lampard has assembled an excellent squad at Pride Park, packed with talent and plenty of experience. Derby have been away from the top flight for far too long, but will this be their year? At 4/1 for promotion, County could be worth having a punt on at those odds. Equally the 4/5 for them to overhaul one of the sides above them looks good and at present they trail Bristol City only on goal difference.

Bristol City – 8/1 (2/1 Top 6 Finish)

Bristol have stormed up the Championship table by winning five games in a row. In fact, the Robins have not lost a match since being beaten 2-0 by Leeds back in November. Bristol City also had a strong first half to the season last year before tailing off in the last few months. However, we can’t see Lee Johnson’s men making the same mistake again. Ashton Gate is a very difficult place to visit for away sides while the Robins are decent on the road. You can get City at 8/1 to be promoted to the Premier League for the first time in the club’s history. With the class above them that may be a stretch but 2/1 for them to maintain their current top six spot is sure to interest many.

Aston Villa – 9/1 (5/2 Top 6 Finish)

Dean Smith started life at Villa Park superbly, but Aston Villa have faltered of late. Villa’s recent win over bottom club Ipswich Town was their first victory since beating Swansea at the Liberty Stadium on Boxing Day. At the moment, the Villans are down in ninth place, four points behind sixth placed Bristol City. Hull City and Blackburn are also on 43 points while Forest have 42 and Swansea have accumulated 41. Smith’s troops have a lot of ground to make up, but four points is certainly doable. If Villa make the play-offs, they will be hoping to go one better this time around after losing to Fulham in the final last season. The Midlands club are available at 9/1 for promotion and if Tammy (first name actually Kevin) Abraham can keep banging in the goals they may just be able to make a late charge.

Relegation Betting

Last Updated: 6th February 2019
Football Player Conceding Goal

Just like the battle at the top, the fight for survival in the Championship is set to be captivating. Ipswich look doomed, with Paul Lambert’s men currently eight points adrift of safety. However, Bolton, Reading and Rotherham United are still fighting for their lives. Meanwhile, Neil Harris’ Millwall and Paul Cook’s Wigan are not out of the woods just yet. Last season, Bolton and Reading survived by the skin of their teeth, and both teams could need more last-minute heroics this year. Realistically, there are two relegation places to avoid, with Ipswich already preparing for life in League One.

Ipswich Town – 1/16

Ipswich have had a disastrous season so far, spending the majority of the campaign at the foot of the table. In previous years, Town have had various cracks at the play-offs under Mick McCarthy – how the club could do with him now. Things have gone rapidly downhill since McCarthy’s departure, with Town falling further and further into the mire as the season has progressed. Ipswich are 1/16 for the drop while you can get Lambert’s team at the big price of 9/1 to pull off the great escape. Unfortunately for Ipswich, we can see their long stay in the second tier coming to an end and 9/1 is nowhere near long enough to tempt us to bet otherwise.

Bolton Wanderers – 1/7

Phil Parkinson’s side made an excellent start to their campaign, picking up 10 points from their opening four games. However, Bolton have claimed just two league wins since then, with the last of those coming on Boxing Day. The Trotters have the worst home record in the Championship at the moment, accumulating a mere 13 points from a possible 45 at the University of Bolton Stadium. Despite surviving on the final day of last season, we can see Bolton slipping back into the third tier at the end of this term. Wanderers are second favourites for the drop, priced at 1/7.

Rotherham United – 4/7

In truth, Rotherham are punching above their weight just being in the Championship and in recent years they have moved frequently between it and League One. However, United have been a credit to themselves this season, keeping their heads above water for the majority of the campaign. If the Millers are to stay in the Championship, their home form will have no doubt played a key role. Rotherham have been pretty solid on their own patch, with 21 of their 26 points coming at the New York Stadium. Paul Warne has done an excellent job in South Yorkshire, and the Millers could well stay up this year. Rotherham are priced at 4/7 to be relegated and with so many other poor sides about that may seem a shade short.

Reading – 4/6

Reading have had another dismal season in the Championship. It only seems like yesterday when the Royals were one win away from the Premier League, but things have gone from bad to worse since that fateful day at Wembley. Jaap Stam and Paul Clement have moved on, with Jose Gomes the new man in charge at the Madejski Stadium. With 16 games remaining, Reading have left themselves with lot of work to, as Gomes’ boys currently sit 22nd on just 25 points. At 4/6, they could be worth backing for relegation.

Millwall – 12/1

Whilst the above are all priced at odds-on for the drop, the final two teams up for consideration are real outsiders. Millwall had an excellent second half to their season last term, going on to finish in eighth place. The Lions have picked up in recent weeks, but they are still living dangerously close to the edge. The Londoners have sealed just six league wins all season, although they did beat Everton recently to progress through to the last 16 of the Emirates FA Cup. Millwall should have more than enough to stay in the Championship this season, but they are available at the big price of 12/1 if you fancy them for relegation.

Wigan Athletic – 20/1

Wigan, last season’s League One champions, have no plans of dropping back down to the third tier anytime soon. Although the Latics have struggled at times, Cook’s side have been very competitive in the Championship. Wigan have been superb at the DW Stadium this term, winning eight, drawing three and losing only four of their 15 home league matches thus far. Away from home, though, the Latics have taken just five points, failing to win on their travels since beating Stoke City 3-0 at the bet365 Stadium way back in August. 20/1 is tempting, but Wigan should be just fine, with their home form alone likely to be enough to see them survive.

Championship Top Goalscorer

Last Updated: 6th February 2019
Football in Net

At the time of writing, veteran striker Billy Sharp leads the way at the top of the scoring charts with Tammy Abraham, with both players netting a superb 19 goals. Sharp has scored goals for fun at this level over the years, so it’s no surprise to see the Sheffield Utd ace doing so well. Abraham, who is on loan at Aston Villa from Chelsea, is the bookies’ favourite at 3/1. The Villa man has an outstanding 71% conversion rate and his pace and all-round game make him a real threat. Norwich’s Teemu Pukki is one behind, with Neal Maupay on 17 and Che Adams with 16 to his name. The race for the Championship Golden Boot is wide open, with several strikers in tip-top form and a number of players not much further back in the standings who could yet go on a run and nick the glory.

Tammy Abraham (Aston Villa) - 3/1

Abraham has been a vital player for Villa this season. Despite not making his first Championship appearance until September, the 21-year-old has still managed to net 19 times, including four goals in one game in a 5-5 draw with Forest back in November. Since the turn of the year, Abraham has scored five league goals in five matches, scoring braces in wins over QPR and Ipswich. The London-born man made a name for himself in the Championship a couple of years back by scoring a hatful of goals for Bristol City, and now he’s doing the business for Villa. 3/1 is a very generous price, especially as we think Villa may have a strong end to their campaign.

Billy Sharp (Sheffield United) - 7/2

Sheffield Utd’s Sharp seems to be getting better and better with age. The Blades’ No. 10 is 33 now, but the goals just keep on coming. Sharp has been on fire over the last couple of months, netting an outstanding nine goals in his last 10 Championship outings. The veteran has played a pivotal role in United’s surge up the table, scoring in 12 league wins so far. Abraham may have age on his side, but Sharp has all the experience in the world. Can Billy beat the young boys to the Golden Boot this season? Sharp is available at the tasty price of 7/2.

Teemu Pukki (Norwich City) – 9/2

Pukki has to go down as the find of the season in the Championship. To be honest, not many people had heard of the Finland international, who arrived on a free from Brondby last summer. However, Pukki has hit the ground running at Carrow Road, scoring 18 Championship goals to help fire the Canaries to the top spot. The Norwich ace has a real fight on his hands to be top scorer, but he is certainly worth having a punt on at 9/2.

Neal Maupay (Brentford) - 9/2

Brentford’s Neal Maupay was heavily linked with a move away from Griffin Park in January. However, the Frenchman stayed put, which was a huge relief to Thomas Frank and the Bees fans. Since arriving in a £1.6m move from Stade Brest back in July 2017, Maupay has gone on to become a big hit at Brentford. The 22-year-old has really come of age this season, though, netting 17 Championship goals. Brentford’s form has picked up of late, with Maupay at the forefront, as the French star has helped himself to five goals in his last six league and cup outings. Maupay is also priced at 9/2.

Dwight Gayle (West Bromwich Albion) - 7/1

Dwight Gayle is an incredible striker to have in your ranks at this level. After scoring the goals to help Newcastle United to promotion back in 2017, the Magpies have lent Gayle to West Brom for a season. So far, the 28-year-old has bagged 15 Championship goals this term, the same amount as Baggies teammate Jay Rodriguez, who is priced at 10/1 for the Golden Boot. Gayle is capable of scoring at any given moment, and you can get the tempting odds of 7/1 for the forward to end up top scorer.

Che Adams (Birmingham City) - 16/1

Birmingham’s Che Adams has had a breakthrough season at St Andrew’s. Garry Monk worked tooth and nail to keep the 22-year-old at the club in January amid plenty of Premier League interest. Adams has been in terrific goalscoring form of late, helping himself to 10 Championship goals since November. The Blues ace is currently just three behind joint leaders Sharp and Abraham. As Birmingham push for the play-offs, Adams’ goals could turn out to be priceless for City. The solid odds of 16/1 are certainly worth having a few quid on, with Adams seemingly hitting form at the right time.

As stated, the league is the highest ranked league that is run by the English Football League following the formation of the Premier League. The Championship was renamed from Division 1 to try and boost the profile of the league and whilst it will always be the second ranked tier of English football, is a vastly competitive league and is often made up of teams that have previously won the top flight and even those that have had success across Europe.

The league has always had a sponsor assigned to in some form since its inauguration in 2004. The initial one was that of Coca Cola, who held a contract from 2004 through to 2010. It then changes hands to that of Npower from 2010 to 2013, before switching again in 2013 to Sky Bet, who have a deal in place to run through to 2019.

The sponsors often have some input on how the league is named as well. Sky Bet initially were refereeing to it as the Sky Bet Football League, but from 2016 changed this to the Sky Bet EFL.

League Structure

The league starts with 24 teams in total and play throughout the course of a season, running from August through to May. As with most league, each team will play each other twice, both home and away, which then cumulates in a total of 46 games for each team, some 8 more than the Premier League teams would play, causing for a fairly congested fixture schedule.

Games are usually played on a Saturday afternoon and Tuesday night, but TV coverage means that games can be played any day of the week, usually taking advantage of the new Friday night coverage on Sky Sports and also Sunday afternoon slots, where Premier League games aren’t taking place.

The games are played out over the course of 90 minutes and teams will be awarded 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw and zero for a loss. The rankings within the league go on total points, then goal difference, goals scored and head to head records for the season, where needed.

As the season closes, the top 2 ranked teams in the league will be awarded automatic qualification into the Premier League. The team finishing first will be crowned champions. The next 4 teams in the league, ranked from 3rd through to 6th will go into the play offs at the end of the season.

The play offs will be played out in order of league ranking. So, 3rd will play 6th and 4th will play 5th. The semi-finals are played over two legs, with each team playing once at home and then away. The winner is the team with the best aggregate score. In the event of a tie, away goals will not count and teams will play out extra time and penalties if needed in the second leg.

Play Off Final

The play off final is said to be the richest football match in the world. The reason behind this is that the money that the promoted team will get is worth around £100million in sponsorship money from the Premier League alone.

To put that into perspective, in 2017/18 season Wolves finished top of the league, winning around £8million in prize money from the EFL. West Brom, who finished bottom of the Premier League in the same season received almost £100million, showing a huge gulf in payments. To put that into perceptive, the winners of the Champions League, thought to be the elite European club coemption, take home around £40million in prize money.

The game takes place at Wembley Stadium and is a one-off game. The winners will be promoted to the Premier League and the losers will remain in the Championship for the following season.

Relegation

Three teams will be relegated from the Championship each year. These are the three lowest ranked teams in the league and with the lowest points. Like promotion, if two or more teams are tied on the same points then goal difference, goal scored and head to head record will come into play.

Transfer Window

Championship teams are only allowed to sign players within a dedicated timeframe each season, known as the transfer window. It’s often an exciting for clubs and fans as it allows them to improve on current squads, the flip side being that they may lose their better players.

What you will often find is that the Premier League teams will come in and lure the better players away from the league, allowing them to play at the pinnacle of English football. A much greater emphasis is placed upon being able to nurture home grown talent, although the money involved with the league still means that hefty transfers fees can be paid. As an example, Wolves smashes the transfer record for a Championship player in 2017 when they signed Ruben Neves for £15.8million.

Other notable championship transfers include Helder Costa to Wolves in 2017 for £12.8million, Ross McCormack to Aston Villa in 2016 for £12million and Matt Ritchie to Newcastle in 2016 for £12million.

The window officially opens in early May, after the completion of the league format. This allows clubs to sign domestic players only. It’s worth noting that any players signed by teams still in the play-off will not be eligible to represent that team until after those games. The window for international players will officially open at the start of June and runs for around 12 weeks.

The window then closes in early August, prior to the start of the season. This has been changed for the 2018/19 season as previously it would close at the end of August, meaning that al transfers need to be done before the start of the first game.

Teams are allowed to still sign loan players up until the 31st August however and are also able to register players who are without a club until the same time. Players may be transferred out to any team who’s window is still open.

Prize Money

The gulf in prize money between the Championship and the Premier League, as already highlighted is substantial. Whilst the Premier League will pay out money based on their final league positions, the Championship actually pay out a flat fee to all clubs.

The fee is split though, based on the ranking prior to the start of the Championship season. This will include a first tier and second tier. First tier teams will be awarded a basic payment of £2.3milllion and a £4.5million solidarity payment, whilst second tier teams are paid £2.084million and £4.3million, respectively.

In the 2017/18 season, the team that won the league – Wolves – and the team that finished bottom of the league – Sunderland – were both initially tier 1 teams, therefore receiving exactly the same amount in prize money, even though they finished some 23 places apart. The numbers are a little skewed as money is awarded every time they appear on live TV, of which Wolves were on more, however as a basic payment, they were the same.

History of the Championship

The Championship has been ever-present in the English football game since 2004. In fact, in its first season under the current naming rights and format, the league was the fourth highest attended league in Europe, behind only that of the Premier League, La Liga and the Bundesliga. Two of the major scalps were that of Serie A and French Ligue 1.

The numbers are skewed slightly in that the Championship has 24 teams compared with 18 to 20 for the other leagues but given that it’s the second-tier of English football, was still impressive.

Southampton were the first winners of the league under its then new branding and with them, Wigan sealed the other automatic qualifying spot, gaining entry to the top flight of English football for the first time in their history.

In 2007, Leeds United were the first team in the league to go into administration due to overspending and subsequently unable to pay outstanding bills. As a result, they were deducted 10 points, which meant they would be relegated as a result.

The 2016/17 season saw two former powerhouses of English football enter the league in that of Aston Villa and Newcastle United. As a result, the league saw the highest cumulative attendance in their history, with just over 11million, with almost 2million of those coming from both Newcastle and Aston Villa alone.