While West Ham and Leicester are strong favourites to finish first in bwin’s Championship title betting market, the competitive nature of the league means they are unlikely to be the only sides in the mix. With Nottingham Forest, Brighton and Middlesbrough expected to mount the most credible challenges, news.bwin.com/en/ takes a look at the cases for each of the main contenders.
Team: West Ham Title odds: 4/1
West Ham’s title chances were expected to be hit by the loss of several key players in the wake of their relegation from the Premier League last season. However, not only are the likes of Scott Parker, Carlton Cole and Robert Green still at the club, but they have added some impressive names to their squad. With the arrivals of Kevin Nolan, Joey O’Brien, Matthew Taylor, Abdoulaye Faye and new manager Sam Allardyce, West Ham are arguably as strong now as they were this time last season. Although Parker could still move on before the end of the transfer window, the decision of West Ham’s owners to invest in order to ensure the club returns to the Premier League as soon as possible looks set to pay dividends. Expect former Newcastle star Nolan to have a second Championship winners’ medal in three years around his neck come May.
Team: Leicester Title odds: 4/1
Like West Ham, Leicester’s owners have provided their manager with significant funds to give him the best opportunity of winning promotion. Foxes boss Sven-Goran Eriksson is no stranger to splashing the cash and has invested big money in Sean St Ledger, Paul Konchesky, Matthew Mills, Kasper Schmeichel and Lee Peltier while bringing in Michael Johnson on loan and John Pantsil, David Nugent and Neil Danns on frees. Ordinarily, a note of caution should be sounded about how you can’t buy success, but the Swede showed his aptitude for quickly gelling a new group of players during his time at Manchester City. Should he do the same at the King Power Stadium then Leicester certainly have the quality to derail West Ham’s title push, although an automatic promotion spot might be the more likely outcome.
Team: Nottm Forest Title odds: 11/1
Forest’s second successive failure in the play-offs brought an end to Billy Davies’ tenure at the club, with former England boss Steve McClaren brought in with the brief of getting the two-time European Cup winners back into the top flight. Although they lost Robert Earnshaw to Cardiff and Nathan Tyson to Derby, McClaren has brought quality in the shape of Andy Reid, George Boateng and Jonathan Greening to the Forest ranks. However, he says he is “frustrated” in his ability to add more bodies to his squad, suggesting another play-off spot could be the best Forest fans can hope for.
Team: Brighton Title odds: 14/1
Norwich, Leeds and Millwall all showed it is possible to push for promotion to the Premier League in the year after escaping from League One, with the Canaries sealing second spot in the table last season and both Leeds and Millwall challenging for a play-off place until late on. With this in mind, Gus Poyet’s Brighton could be the surprise Championship packages this year after storming to the 2011 League One title playing an attractive brand of football. They might have lost Elliott Bennett to Norwich, but the capture of Craig Mackail-Smith shows the Seagulls’ ambition, and with a new stadium to play in Brighton could upset the established order in their first season Championship season since 2006.
Team: Middlesbrough Title odds: 14/1
Middlesbrough have not even come close to winning promotion back to the Premier League following relegation in 2009, finishing 11th and 12th in their two seasons in the Championship since then. However, four straight wins at the end of the last campaign suggested manager Tony Mowbray was starting to have a positive impact, and despite continued budgetary constraints Boro are expected to continue this form into the new season. That said, a title challenge might be beyond them and Boro fans might have to content themselves with a place in the top six.
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