Championship ante-post preview

Solving the annual Championship puzzle deserves a knighthood in this day and age. And in 2014/15 it looks increasingly difficult to separate the bulk of the teams with the five leading contenders all found between the 8/11 and 11/1 bracket.

So it may pay to look elsewhere for your ante-post punt, especially when you consider the last two seasons have resulted in an 80/1 outsider winning promotion to the Premier League…

sky bet championship logoChampionship ante post – 3 best bets

They may not be quite on that scale but Blackburn look an interesting proposition at quotes of 20/1. But delving a little deeper and backing Rovers at 18/1 with a +12 start on the handicap appears even more reasonable.

Gary Bowyer can boast a settled unit with the added carrot of holding onto star striker Jordan Rhodes this summer. The Scottish international appeared in all 46 games last year, hitting 25 goals, and his partnership with Rudy Gestede could easily fire the Ewood Park club into serious contention.

Blackburn finished their campaign on the back of a 12-game unbeaten streak which saw them finish just two points outside the play-off positions and their form in the second half of the season was only bettered by Leicester, Burnley, Wigan and Derby.

Derby and Cardiff have been chalked up as 8/1 market-leaders. No Championship favourite has clinched the title since Manchester City in 2002 but five of the last eight ante-post favourites have won promotion.

With relegated clubs holding an unflattering record when dropping down a league, it’s the Rams who represent better value at 3/1 to win promotion. County averaged 2.02 points-per-game in Steve McClaren’s 36 matches in charge last season, which if replicated over the full 46 game season would have seen them promoted automatically.

Five of the last 10 Championship winners were losing play-off participants the campaign before, including the past three champions and McClaren has managed to keep most of his squad together. Should they come close to last season’s electric performance levels, Derby will take some stopping.

With Blackpool hogging the headlines in the relegation market and Wolves looking the most likely to push on following promotion, the race for Top Relegated Club appears to offer a chink of value.

Just nine of the last 36 relegated clubs over the past 13 seasons have managed to bounce back to the Premier League at the first time of asking – a strike-rate of just one in four – but Norwich look to be best equipped for the challenge and are rated 2/1 to perform above Fulham and Cardiff.

The Canaries struggled for goals in their doomed campaign but can call upon a glut of proven second tier campaigners with new-signing Lewis Grabban leading the line alongside Gary Hooper with Kyle Lafferty joining to add further firepower.

Jonny Howson, Nathan Redmond, Bradley Johnson and captain Russell Martin all possess valuable Championship experience with the only question marks surrounding the ability of rookie boss Neil Adams. Should the former youth team coach settle into his new role quickly, Norwich should be aiming for a top-six finish whilst Fulham and Cardiff leave punters with more questions than answers in their quest for a quick return to the big time.

Best Bets:

Blackburn +12 handicap (18/1)
Derby promotion (3/1)
Norwich – Top Relegated Club (2/1)