The Championship: The State Of Play
After 8 rounds of matches, today on the blog Tim Poole takes a look at the early moves in Championship winner and Premier League promotion betting.
The fight to reach the Premier League has only just begun – but the war of attrition that comes with it is already in full flow for those that dare to dream.
Eight games into a gruelling campaign (seven for some) and early indications of what lies ahead have started to develop. Who, then, will prevail in the ultimate footballing marathon and secure a place in the Promised Land?
To Win The Championship
This time last season, QPR looked destined for the drop. Now, they look near-certainties for promotion back to the top-flight. How times change – and how Harry Redknapp excels at steadying a sinking ship. He did it at Tottenham and he did it at Portsmouth. This time, the 66-year-old is performing miracles at Loftus Road, a venue many thought he would leave this season.
Instead of walking, the undisputed king of the transfer market chose to remain in west London and recruit a plethora of summer signings. Tom Carroll & Benoit Assou-Ekotto (loan), Niko Kranjcar, Karl Henry, Richard Dunne, Danny Simpson and more have all come in and QPR have conceded just two goals in eight games as a result. Goalkeeper Robert Green, meanwhile, has not conceded for 547 minutes and counting. Redknapp’s side currently hold a three-point lead at the top – and that looks set to increase with time.
Every team can slip up, however, and if QPR put a foot wrong, Gianfranco Zola’s Watford side will be waiting in the wings. No one will be more determined to achieve promotion than the Hornets, who agonisingly missed out in the Play-off final last time out, and one area they can capitalise on is up front. The current leaders have scored just eight goals in as many games. Zola is encountering no such problems, with his side having scored the most in the division (19).
Another factor many have failed to realise is that the Italian and his employers, the Pozzo family, had initially set a two-year plan for promotion. This is year two.
The Value: Reading
If you are looking for value in the winner’s market, though, Reading may be the way to go. After all, Nigel Adkins presided over back-to-back promotions with Southampton and, eight games into the current campaign, the ever-smiling 48-year-old is knocking on the door of the promotion places once again. Indeed, a run of four games unbeaten has seen Adkins’ Royals draw level on points with both Nottingham Forest and Watford, while a double from Russian striker Pavel Pogrebnyak helped them to an impressive 3-1 win at Derby in their last encounter.
With the likes of top scorer Adam Le Fondre, club captain Jobi McAnuff and proven performers Wayne Bridge, Jem Karacan & Hal Robson-Kanu also in their ranks, the sky may be Reading’s only limit.
Current Championship Winner Odds - Odds as at 24th September 2013.
To Gain Promotion
Leicester City & Nottingham Forest
This season marks 10 years since perennial underachievers Leicester City last graced the Premier League, while for Nottingham Forest, it marks 15. Not that it is down to a lack of trying, however, with the latter especially having finished eighth, sixth and third within the last four years.
Both sides currently reside in the top six and the campaign ahead looks set to go to the wire once again. Bookmakers are generally giving the pair similar odds, with Leicester slight favourites over Billy Davies’ side, and it could come down to a David Nugent penalty or Andy Reid screamer to separate them.
Owen Coyle has been here before. The former Burnley and Bolton boss has previous when it comes to achieving promotion and the side left to him by Roberto Martinez – plus a host of summer arrivals led by Grant Holt – is brimming with talent. Indeed, Wigan will be just a point off the play-off places if they win their game in hand. Coyle’s side may find juggling the Championship with their Europa League exploits a stretch too far, however.
The Value: Blackpool
While Burnley lie second in the table after eight games, it is the job Paul Ince is doing at Blackpool that has drawn the gaze of critics and fans so far this campaign. The Seasiders, fourth, have already exceeded expectations and the irresistible chemistry Ince has formed with his son Thomas (the club’s top scorer with four goals) promises an exciting season ahead. Blackpool may thus prove a wise horse to back at prices as high as 9.00.
Current Championship Promotion Odds - Odds as at 24th September 2013.
The Crunch Clashes
Watford v Wigan – Saturday 28th September
With so many sides vying for promotion, it is the meetings between the big contenders that will separate the boys from the men – and the first of these comes when Watford host Wigan. The home side – currently buzzing off the back of a 5-1 win at Barnsley – look strong, with goal-machine Troy Deeney almost certain to net. The Latics, however, have lost their last two games on the road.
Watford v Leicester – Saturday 2nd November
The Hornets face another big test a month later when Nigel Pearson’s Leicester visit for a repeat of last year’s unforgettable Play-off semi-final. The Foxes will not need reminding of the dramatic last-minute defeat that occurred on that occasion – and will be gunning for revenge.
Reading v QPR – Saturday 9th November
A week later, QPR fans will be anticipating their biggest test of the season so far against Reading. Both sides suffered the acrimony of relegation last term, also playing out a dour 0-0 draw that sticks in the memory for all the wrong reasons late in the campaign. QPR’s selective attack, combined with their staunch defending, suggests it could be another low-scoring affair this time around.
Leicester v Nottingham Forest – Saturday 9th November
The second Saturday of November promises to be a bumper one as Leicester host Nottingham Forest only an hour after the Reading-QPR clash. Of all the tough tests lying ahead for either side, this one may just provide the biggest indicator of their strengths. But just how many journalists will Billy Davies and co. speak to after the game?
Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimothyPoole