The Premier League grabs the bulk of the headlines, but it’s the Football League that has the real thrills and spills.
How many teams are in the running for the English Championship title this season?
Any one of three or four teams might win the top flight, but there’s far more variation and unpredictability in the other divisions. Never has that been more evident than in this season’s Championship when, after eight games, just one win separated ninth place and third place. Furthermore, two wins proved to be the early difference between second-placed Middlesbrough and ‘struggling’ Bolton down in eleventh place.
The front-runners are Leeds United, a side reinvented as purveyors of free-flowing fantasy football under acclaimed coach Marcelo Bielsa. The big question remains over the longevity of his incredibly intense approach, which saw them take 18 points from the first 24 and, surely, can only be sustained for so long.
Behind them, Brentford are the apparent dark horses. Anyone who closely follows the Championship has watched them develop and grow into genuine contenders, but few outside the Football League will be aware of the specifics. Manager Dean Smith has created a team that manufacture chances at will and in Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins, they have two incredibly exciting professionals.
And what of Middlesbrough? Currently tucked in behind the front-runners, under the watchful eyes of veteran manager Tony Pulis. Unlike some of his sides of the past, they’re not all about the long ball, but rather focused on soaking up pressure before breaking at pace.
That’s three sides covered before the relegated teams have even been mentioned. Stoke City had a horrible start but are a squad packed with quality that will rise like cream. Swansea had a big summer clear out and took a different philosophy to their former top-flight rivals, but they too remain in contention.
West Brom raised eyebrows with an early thumping of QPR and by winning 4-3 at Norwich City. They have perhaps the most exciting prospect in the second tier, with Leicester City’s Harvey Barnes.
Let’s also not forget former Chelsea and England man Frank Lampard. He’s taken over at Derby County as manager, a side who seem to have spent the last decade on the fringes of the promotion race but without ever quite having the quality or know-how to make the jump to the big league. This season, they’re holding off their East Midland rivals Nottingham Forest, the big spenders with an eye on reclaiming past glories.
Never has a division been so packed with likely winners. Have a look at the odds too, with former European Champions Aston Villa – the subject of a big takeover in the summer – pegged 11/1 to win the league. Sheffield United, another side we’ve not mentioned yet, are priced attractively at 20/1.
The beauty is, any one of these sides could emerge in the coming weeks with a possible title challenge. Even after eight games they’re so tightly packed in that nobody can even think to call it.
Why would you consider betting on any other division?
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