As we march towards spring and the conclusion of the European soccer season, most of us will be focusing on our favourite teams in the Premier League, La Liga and so on. To be fair, this season promises a few title races, which have been lacking in the last few years. For example, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich are locked in a two-way tussle for the Bundesliga title, Man City and Liverpool look like going all the way in the Premier League and even Barcelona are showing enough frailty to suggest La Liga is not done and dusted.
However, for sheer pulsating drama the Championship, as ever, seems to be keen on delivering another climatic finish to the season. At the time of writing, eight points separates the top seven places in the league. Compare that to the 25 points separating 1st and 7th place in Serie A or the 27 point-gap from Liverpool to Watford in the Premier League, and you can appreciate how open the Championship is as we move towards the business end of the season.
Leeds are the frontrunners
Leeds United are in pole position at the moment, given odds of 5/4 by Betway to take the title and get back to the Premier League for the first time in 15 years. Leeds are on 54 points, leading Norwich City by a single point. The Canaries are best-priced at 16/5 with Betfair and have arguably looked like the best side in the Championship alongside Leeds.
If you want some value – and it is advisable to first see this guide to English Championship betting offers and enhanced odds – look no further than West Bromwich Albion. The Baggies have long been cited as boring team, certainly during the Tony Pulis years, but they have the shackles off and are in 3rd place, just four points of leaders Leeds. The current odds from BetVictor see West Brom at 6/1 to pip Leeds to the title, a price some will find tempting when comparing recent results.
Indeed, the West Brom of the past would not have been featured heavily on the Championship highlight reels shown on sites like this one, but their free-scoring, high-octane play under Darren Moore has been a revelation. They are the Championship top scorers this season, with a better goal-difference that could become crucial when it comes to the end of the season.
Middlesbrough have flattered to deceive
Of course, the open nature of the Championship means that other clubs could go on a run of form and insert themselves into the mix. Sheffield United are given 5/1 odds by Bet365 to close the four-point gap to Leeds, whereas Middlesbrough, who have seven points to make up, are available at 25/1. Boro, however, seem to be going in the other direction. They have scored a paltry 31 goals under former West Brom manager Tony Pulis, with rumours circulating that he could lose his job at any moment.
At 500/1 with Sky Bet, Swansea might not be able to do enough to catch the leaders with a 14-point gap. But they are a side who look like they could go on a run between now and the end of the season, either taking one of the automatic promotion spots or winning the Playoffs. It’s 25/1 (Sportingbet) that they gain promotion by any means, an interesting outside bet.
In the end, it’s hard to predict the Championship, but that’s the reason it’s one of the world’s most underrated soccer leagues in terms of providing a spectacle. Any neutrals catching the climax to the season look in for a treat.