Championship Promotion Betting: Verdicts on the eight contenders with 10 games to go

With just 10 games remaining in the Championship, Mike Norman takes a look at the eight clubs in the hunt for promotion, assessing their recent form and upcoming fixtures before giving a verdict on each…

Bournemouth
P 36 – 66pts
Promotion Odds – 1.68/13
Top 2 Finish Odds – 1.9210/11
Six-game Form – DLLDWW
(8pts)

The run-in (position of opponent in brackets)
Blackpool (24th)
@ Cardiff (15th)
Middlesbrough (4th)
@ Ipswich (7th)
Birmingham (14th)
@ Brighton (19th)
@ Reading (18th)
Sheff Wed (10th)
Bolton (17th)
@ Charlton (12th)

Verdict: Eddie Howe’s league leaders have been brilliant all season, defying those who gave them little chance of making an impact in this extremely tough division (they have been matched at 90.089/1 to win the title). But the Cherries are now in pole position and couldn’t really have asked for a better set of fixtures to end their campaign. Eight of Bournemouth’s ‘run-in’ games are against sides 10th or lower in the table, and the two promotion-chasing teams they still have to play are the two that have lost their form. Howe’s men score goals for fun, appear to have gotten over a sticky patch, and now look destined for the Premier League courtesy of automatic promotion.

Derby
P 36 – 66pts
Promotion Odds – 1.774/5
Top 2 Finish Odds – 2.56/4
Six-game Form – DWWLLD
(8pts)

The run-in (position of opponent in brackets)
@ Norwich (5th)
Middlesbrough (4th)
@ Wolves (8th)
Watford (3rd)
@ Wigan (22nd)
Brentford (6th)
Blackpool (24th)
@ Huddersfield (16th)
@ Millwall (23rd)
Reading (18th)

Verdict: The Rams have won just two of their last seven league games, a worry in itself, but the main concern is that away from home they’ve lost their way and are conceding far too many goals. Steve McClaren’s men haven’t won on the road for two months and their last four away games have resulted in just two points taken and nine goals conceded. Derby’s next two away games are at in-form Norwich and Wolves, and five of their next six games, home or away, are against clubs currently sitting in the top eight. Their final four games look winnable, but with so many teams in the hunt it looks like the Rams’ best chance of being promoted will be via the play-offs.

Watford
P 36 – 66pts
Promotion Odds – 2.35/4
Top 2 Finish Odds – 3.185/40
Six-game Form – WLWWWD
(13pts)

The run-in (position of opponent in brackets)
Reading (18th)
@ Wigan (22nd)
Ipswich (7th)
@ Derby (2nd)
Middlesbrough (4th)
@ Millwall (23rd)
@ Nottm Forest (9th)
Birmingham (14th)
@ Brighton (19th)
Sheff Wed (10th)

Verdict: You’ll hear the word momentum mentioned many times between now and the end of the season and right now two clubs chasing promotion have it – Norwich and Watford. It’s eight wins and a draw from the Hornets’ last 11 league games, their victories coming courtesy of a very impressive 25 goals scored. Odion Ighalo, Matej Vydra, and Troy Deeney are all finding the back of the net and you sense Watford can outscore any side in this division. Their run-in is kind too with four games against clubs currently 18th or lower to come, and only Derby and Middlesbrough from the current top six to play. Slavisa Jokanovic’s men look a great bet to be promoted.

Middlesbrough
P 36 – 66pts
Promotion Odds – 2.1411/10
Top 2 Finish Odds – 3.55/2
Six-game Form – DLWLWL
(7pts)

The run-in (position of opponent in brackets)
Ipswich (7th)
@ Derby (2nd)
@ Bournemouth (1st)
Wigan (22nd)
@ Watford (3rd)
Rotherham (20th)
Wolves (8th)
@ Norwich (5th)
@ Fulham (21st)
Brighton (19th)

Verdict: No club currently in the top eight has collected fewer points during the last six games than Middlesbrough, their away form has deserted them, and Boro possibly have the hardest run-in of all the clubs chasing promotion. When you’ve lost three of your last five and haven’t won on the road in four outings then the last thing you want is three successive away games against the top three clubs in the Championship. That’s what Aitor Karanka’s men face, and after that they have to go to in-form Norwich. Throw in games against Ipswich and Wolves, and Boro fans – of which I am one – must be fearing that not only will their club miss out on automatic promotion but a play-off place isn’t guaranteed yet either. My heart is full of optimism, my head says Boro are a lay to be promoted.

Norwich
P 36 – 65pts
Promotion Odds – 1.684/6
Top 2 Finish Odds – 2.111/10
Six-game Form – WWWWLW
(15pts)

The run-in (position of opponent in brackets)
Derby (2nd)
@ Huddersfield (16th)
Nottm Forest (9th)
@ Brighton (19th)
Sheff Wed (10th)
@ Bolton (17th)
@ Leeds (13th)
Middlesbrough (4th)
@ Rotherham (20th)
Fulham (21st)

Verdict: Everyone at Norwich must be kicking themselves for losing at home to Wigan last week but the Canaries remain in a strong position to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking. Alex Neil’s men are the form side in the division – they have that all-important momentum. A home win over Derby on Saturday will be a huge result and would put Norwich in a fantastic position in the table. After Saturday’s game their run-in pits them against just one club – Middlesbrough – currently in the top eight and automatic promotion would look a real possibility. The only worry is that defeat at home to Wigan – that’s what this division can throw up, very strange results at the most unexpected times.

Brentford
P 36 – 62pts
Promotion Odds – 6.05/1
Top 2 Finish Odds – 14.013/1
Six-game Form – LWWLWD
(10pts)

The run-in (position of opponent in brackets)
Cardiff (15th)
@ Blackburn (11th)
Millwall (23rd)
@ Fulham (21st)
Nottm Forest (9th)
@ Derby (2nd)
@ Sheff Wed (10th)
Bolton (17th)
@ Reading (18th)
Wigan (22nd)

Verdict: Brentford have been fantastic this season and if you want to look beyond the market leaders then at 6.05/1 to go up, or at 14.013/1 to finish in the top two, then the Bees will surely give you a good run for your money. Mark Warburton’s men are just four points off top spot currently but they have a very favourable run-in, including games against clubs currently positioned 21st, 22nd, and 23rd in the table. There are no easy games at this stage of the season of course, but on paper a trip to Derby looks to be the only fixture where Brentford will be considered big outsiders to win. The gut feeling is that the Bees will fall just short of automatic promotion, but I think they’ll make the play-offs and we all know that once you get to that stage then it’s a lottery as to who gets promoted.

Ipswich
P 36 – 61pts
Promotion Odds – 8.27/1
Top 2 Finish Odds – 30.029/1
Six-game Form – WLWLLD
(7pts)

The run-in (position of opponent in brackets)
@ Middlesbrough (4th)
Bolton (17th)
@ Watford (3rd)
Bournemouth (1st)
@ Huddersfield (16th)
Blackpool (24th)
Cardiff (15th)
@ Wolves (8th)
Nottm Forest (9th)
@ Blackburn (11th)

Verdict: A bit like Derby and Middlesbrough, Ipswich have been very in and out of late; in fact no club chasing promotion has lost more games than the six the Tractor Boys have lost in 2015. Mick McCarthy’s men seem over reliant on the superb Daryl Murphy but when he isn’t on the top of his game then Ipswich tend to struggle. It’s also eight league games without a clean sheet now for McCarthy’s men, and with games to come at Middlesbrough, Watford, and Wolves, plus huge home games against the likes of Bournemouth and Nottm Forest, then Ipswich are the team least likely of the contenders to be playing top-flight football next term.

Wolves
P 36 – 58pts
Promotion Odds – 10.09/1
Top 2 Finish Odds – 140.0139/1
Six-game Form – LWWWLD
(10pts)

The run-in (position of opponent in brackets)
@ Brighton (21st)
Sheff Wed (10th)
Derby (2nd)
@ Nottm Forest (9th)
Leeds (13th)
@ Birmingham (14th)
@ Middlesbrough (4th)
Ipswich (7th)
@ Wigan (22nd)
Millwall (24th)

Verdict: Wolves have too much ground to make up, but their recent form has been very good and they have some very winnable fixtures to come. The problem is, making up eight points on one club is doable, but making up eight points on four clubs and seven on another is going to be a huge task. Realistically Kenny Jackett’s men will be looking to do just enough to make the play-offs but that will probably mean they still have to take somewhere in the region of at least 22 points from the 30 available. A trip to Middlesbrough looks like being their hardest away game however, and if they can beat Derby at Molineux in a few weeks time then they’ll have a fighting chance of being in the mix right to the death.

Summary

Three clubs really catch the eye and it’s almost impossible to split them. Bournemouth have hit form with back-to-back wins over Wolves and Fulham, scoring seven goals in the process, and they’ve found their way to the top of the table, albeit on goal difference. They have arguably the most appealing run-in too.

But Watford and Norwich are the form teams, and both have run-ins that don’t look too difficult on paper. I’d wager any two of these three will go up automatically with the marginal preference being for the Cherries and the Hornets.

Brentford keep on surprising and I fancy that they won’t lie down without a fight. Their remaining fixtures could see them build up some momentum, so even if they fail to gain automatic promotion they could be viewed as the form team going into the play-offs. They are the ‘risk-takers’ wager.

Derby and Middlesbrough are the two sides I fear for most. I can’t see either going up automatically and I genuinely feel that one of them could fall out of the play-off places also. They are available to lay at 1.071/14 (Derby) and 1.141/7 (Boro) respectively in the Top 6 Finish market and I definitely believe that laying both will give you a great run for your money.

You can follow me on Twitter – @MikkyMo73

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*Please Note: Top 2 Finish odds would mean automatic promotion; Promotion odds allows for automatic promotion or being promoted via the play-offs