Many describe the Championship as a highly unpredictable division and it has historically been a league where one can expect the unexpected.
However, last season saw Wolverhampton Wanderers spend big and enjoy a procession to the Championship title, while Fulham, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough all showed their clout when landing a top six berth.
Cardiff City were perhaps the only anomaly as they enjoyed second, although it does appear that Premier League parachute money and Financial Fair Play rules help inform our decision-making when it comes to betting on the Championship.
Can Stoke Win the Championship?
Take Stoke City for example. They have just signed Thomas Ince from Huddersfield, a player who previously lit up the stage on a regular basis for Derby County in the second tier.
Gary Rowett has made the switch from Derby and he has recruited Oghenekaro Etobo, James McClean and Benik Afobe to give the squad the look of a Premier League side in the making.
The Potters can be backed at reasonably attractive odds, principally because they will have some tough competition and that could come from West Brom, Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest among others.
Forest are probably the most interesting club this summer, with a new ownership allowing Aitor Karanka to completely reshape the squad and we’ve seen the likes of Lewis Grabban, Hillel Soudani and Joao Carvalho arrive at the City Ground.
Other Options for the Top Spot
Middlesbrough will look to build on their play-off spot last term, with Aden Flint and Paddy McNair arriving to make the defence even more robust, while it appears that the highly talented Adama Traore will continue to terrorise left-backs.
West Brom have been altogether quieter in the transfer market and will be a watching brief along with the other relegated team Swansea City, with supporters expecting a season of consolidation for the Swans under Graham Potter.
If there’s any sort of power vacuum at the top of the league, then perhaps we should look towards Preston North End and Brentford to fill it. Alex Neil and Dean Smith are forward-thinking coaches who are building their squads for a promotion charge and we think the prices available about both sides for promotion could be worthy of a free bet.
Derby County could be anything under Frank Lampard as the former Chelsea midfielder cuts his teeth in football management, while Aston Villa could potentially be led into battle by Thierry Henry if the rumours are proved correct.
Who is Likely to be Relegated?
Not every team stands a viable chance of making the top six, let alone winning the Sky Bet Championship this season, although pretty much any club can sink towards the foot of the league and end up in a relegation dogfight.
Most clubs in the English second tier have to contend with limited budgets and Financial Fair Play, which means that overspending can be disastrous as can be seen from the examples of Sunderland, Leeds United and Leicester City in seasons gone by.
It’s fairly safe to assume that Stoke, West Brom, Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest will be immune from the drop this season, although you can make a case for pretty much the other twenty sides in the division if you try hard enough.
Rotherham are trading at a shade of odds-against with Ladbrokes and it’s easy to see why. The Millers’ last season in the Championship was a car crash, with the Yorkshire side down with several games to spare although Paul Warne has galvanised the squad and they gained an instant return.
Bolton Could Drop
United will simply be focused on finishing above three of the other teams and one of them could be Bolton Wanderers who only just stayed up last season. Some of the best bookmakers actually think the Trotters are the most likeliest to drop and their squad looks modest for this level.
Then we have Ipswich Town, Hull City, Reading, Birmingham, Blackburn, Millwall and Wigan all trading at similar prices. Paul Hurst takes charge of Ipswich after wonderful work at Shrewsbury, with Nigel Adkins looking like a safe pair of hands with the Tigers.
Reading look more of a liability under Paul Clement, with the Royals insipid for most of last season, while we would expect Blackburn and Wigan to enjoy plenty of bounce after enjoying promotion from League One.
At bigger prices with Bethard, Norwich City and Sheffield Wednesday could get sucked into trouble, with Leeds United always capable of reaching crisis point fairly quickly although Marcelo Bielsa looks set to have a crack at Elland Road and perhaps the club have finally hired a manager with credentials to lead a promotion charge.