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Rob Burnett: Get ready for the Championship – the most exciting league in the world

06 Aug | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Rob Burnett: Get ready for the Championship – the most exciting league in the world

If it’s thrills and unpredictability you’re after, you just can’t beat the English second division

We already know either Real Madrid or Barcelona will win La Liga.
 
We already know Bayern Munich will win the Bundesliga.
 
We already know Paris Saint-Germain will win France’s Ligue 1.
 
We already know Celtic will win the Scottish Premiership.
 
We already know Juventus are likely to win Serie A again.
 
We already know the Premier League will be won by Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City or Manchester United.
 
But who will win the Championship? Erm…
 
The top leagues in Europe may be exciting on a week-by-week basis, but unpredictable? For unpredictable you need to look at England’s second-tier.
 
Let’s have a look at the favourites, but with the caveat that there are probably only about five or six clubs that will go into this season without much hope of sneaking a play-off spot.
 
Betway have Derby County down as favourites at 11/2. The Rams were tipped to go up last season, and looked good value for it until boss Steve McClaren was linked with the Newcastle job and their form fell away so badly that they didn’t even make the play-offs, finishing up in eighth having been top in late February.

That collapse saw McClaren sacked, whereupon he did indeed hop off to St James’ Park.
 
His replacement is Paul Clement, a man who has a similar background to McClaren: both had fairly unremarkable playing careers before making their names as highly-rated coaches under top-class managers at global powerhouse clubs. McClaren at Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson, and Clement under Guus Hiddink and then Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea, PSG and Real Madrid.
 
He can point to league titles in England and France, and Champions League success with Real, and as a result was one of the most sought-after coaches in Europe this summer. But a great coach does not always a manager make, and this will be his first go in the big chair. The question is, will he be a Brian Kidd, or a Jose Mourinho?
 
His 6/1 rival for the Championship title is a former Mourinho protégé, Aitor Karanka, whose Middlesbrough side only missed out on promotion last season after losing 2-0 to Norwich in the play-off final.
 
Boro will have to put that we-were-so-close feeling out of their collective minds and in the words of Steven Gerrard “go again”, but more worrying for Karanka will be how his side copes with the loss of last season’s top scorer Patrick Bamford. The Chelsea loanee got 19 last term, but has now gone to Crystal Palace.

His replacement Cristian Stuani will have to prove he can make the transition from La Liga right out of the starting blocks if Boro are to have a chance.
 
Hull City are next up at 10/1, the highest placed of any of the relegated trio looking to bounce back up at the first attempt.
 
The Tigers have lost Robbie Brady, James Chester and Tom Ince, and Dame N’Doye is on the way out, but boss Steve Bruce has kept his job and he does know how to get Hull out of the division – after all, he did it two years ago.
 
Brentford place highly at 12/1 but it remains to be seen if new boss Marinus Dijkhuizen, the Bees new head of football philosophy Flemming Pedersen and the data-driven ethos at the club can build on Mark Warburton’s impressive fifth-place finish from last term.
 
Burnley look good value at 14/1 while Wolves and QPR are both at 16s, which brings us full circle: the same price for two clubs who came into the division from opposite directions – QPR relegated from the Premier League, and Wolves as League One champs the season before last.
 
So those are the favourites – but then, in the Championship it’s anyone’s race. Gentlemen, start your engines…

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