FOOTBALL LEAGUE fanatic Matt Vale (@MattDVale) shares his thoughts on the specials markets ahead of the 2017/18 Championship season.
WLB Season Preview 2017/18 | Championship: Specials
Middlesbrough seem to be recruiting well, both in terms of manager and players and are my tip for an instant return to Premier League.
Boro had the best defensive record in the bottom-half of the Premier League last season and they seem to have solved their lack of goals with signings of Britt Assombalonga, Ashley Fletcher and Martin Braithwaite.
Johnny Howson and Cyrus Christie are intelligent signings and, although the Championship is wide open, there are certainly less doubts about the Teesiders than most of the chasing pack and the 3/1 (Bet365) on a top-two finish appeals.
I’m not so sure about Aston Villa. Their squad is as good as anything else you’ll see in the Championship but the same could be said for the majority of last season and they continuously flattered to deceive.
Steve Bruce has always been a negative manager so they’ll be defensively sound but he might find it difficult to find a formula that suits both him and his squad. Scott Hogan will improve on last season (especially with doubts about Jonathan Kodjia’s fitness) and they have top-six potential but I’m not convinced they’ll storm the automatic places.
Norwich had a better squad than performances showed last season so they’ll certainly improve under the David Wagner-esque Daniel Farke.
Fulham haven’t necessarily strengthened but they have managed to keep most of their talented squad intact and keeping Tom Cairney was a massive statement. Ryan Sessegnon will easily fill the left-back role vacated by Scott Malone but the lack of a number nine means they’re no value in the betting markets.
Jokanovic’s comments last weekend point to potential signs of unrest and give me enough reasons to leave the Londoners alone and instead plump for Norwich to finish as Top Southern Club at 5/4 (SkyBet).
Brentford scream value because they appear to be in far better shape than the quotes of 25/1 for the title or 4/1 for the top-six would suggest. However, I’m going to go against the grain here and say that they’ll miss out on the play-offs.
Keeping Jota is vital and their recruitment has again been exciting; adding Neal Maupay from Saint Etienne to their attacking ranks, but I still have nagging doubts about Dean Smith’s ability to perform under pressure and get results when it really matters.
The Bees’ tremendous run at the end of last season was symptomatic of similar runs I witnessed him produce at Walsall but he could never quite master it over the course of a season. I’d be all over the 4/5 (William Hill) for a top-half finish and the 4/1 for top six is tempting, but I’m just not completely swayed. And yes, I am still bitter.
Neil Warnock is building a strong squad at Cardiff and they look like definite top-half material for me. Lee Tomlin divides opinion but if they can build the team around him, they might reap the rewards.
Similarly, the shrieks of excitement from Wolves fans following the signings of Ruben Neves and Diego Jota must be taken seriously. They are perhaps a centre-forward away from a top-six push but with Sam Gallagher and a few other irons in the fire, they may well a bet at 8/5 for the play-offs or 100/30 (SkyBet) for Top Midlands club.
Three of the favourites for relegation are Burton, Bolton and Millwall and I wouldn’t be surprised to see all three return to League One but Bristol City could see a season of struggle.
Aden Flint looks to be on course to move to another Championship side and their whole season could hinge on whether Famara Diedhiou replaces the goals of Tammy Abraham.
There’ll be at least half-a-dozen worse teams than the Robins so I won’t get excited about the 7/1 for relegation but the 4/5 (Betfair) available for a bottom-half finish is worth a look.
Ipswich and QPR are the other outside tips to flirt with relegation.
Championship – Middlesbrough top-two finish (3/1 Bet365)
Championship – Norwich top Southern club (5/4 SkyBet)
Championship – Wolves top Midlands club (100/30 SkyBet)
Championship – Brentford to finish in the top-half (4/5 William Hill)
Championship – Bristol City to finish in the bottom-half (4/5 Betfair)
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