After a three-year spell in the Premier League, Wolverhampton Wanderers make their return to Championship football on Saturday and they could not have asked for a much tougher start to the season than a trip to Leeds United.
Following the shambolic ending to last season, in which the Molineux side only won once in their final 23 league matches, Mick McCarthy’s former assistant Terry Connor has returned to his old job to make way for the arrival of ex-Copenhagen and Cologne boss Stale Solbakken – which has been viewed in some quarters as a surprise appointment.
The Norwegian faces a fight to hold on to many of his top-name players, with Michael Kightly already joining Stoke and star players Matt Jarvis and Steven Fletcher both hankering for moves away after seeing bids rejected for them from Premier League clubs. Despite this, Wolves still have an attack that would be the envy of most Championship clubs.
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake may have struggled in the three seasons Wanderers spent in the top flight, but his record in the Championship is impressive. The striker hit 25 goals in the 2008/09 season as Wolves won the title and alongside him will be hard-working Irish international Kevin Doyle, with the likes of Stephen Hunt and Adam Hammill featuring in the supporting cast.
The quality that Wolves have available to them makes them narrow 7/4 favourites in bwin’s 3-way football betting market, with a Leeds win at 7/5 and 23/10 on a draw.
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake may have struggled in the three seasons Wanderers spent in the top flight, but his record in the Championship is impressive. The striker hit 25 goals in the 2008/09 season as Wolves won the title.
Also in the away side’s favour is the recent head-to-head record between the sides, which has seen Wolves win each of the last three encounters 1-0 – bwin is offering 9/1 on a repeat of that scoreline on Saturday.
Long odds they may be, but new customers to bwin who claim their free £20 bet and use it on this selection could see a return of £200 if successful.
For Leeds, last season started promisingly with a play-off spot looking likely, but after the shock sacking of Simon Grayson, the Yorkshire side failed to adapt to the ways of Neil Warnock and eventually ended in a disappointing 14th place.
There is a sense of optimism surrounding Elland Road for once, though, as Warnock’s record of getting sides promoted is superb and he has added quality signings over the summer such as David Norris, Jason Pearce and the controversial, but potentially inspired, arrival of the ever-popular El-Hadji Diouf.
This optimism sees Leeds placed as sixth favourites to win the division at 10/1 or 4/1 to earn promotion, but they will have to improve their home form in order to achieve either of those.
Only nine home wins last season simply wasn’t good enough for the Elland Road faithful and they must improve in front of their own fans to hold any hope of promotion, but it’s unlikely they will start on a positive note against a strong Wolves side.
Recommended bet: Wolves to beat Leeds @ 7/4
Outside punt: Wolves to beat Leeds 1-0 @ 9/1
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