The Sky Bet Championship reaches its climax this Saturday 2nd of May, and after a grueling 46 games, the leagues winners and losers will be decided. Its been an incredible season in the English second tier, and after a title-race involving four or five different sides until the last few games, Watford and Bournemouth both secured promotion in the latest round of games. The title is still to be decided between the two of them on Saturday though, and there are several sides still in with a shout of the play-offs, so it’s all to play for this weekend.
First up, let’s look at the odds for this season’s champions:
As things stand Watford are on 88 points with +41 goal difference, while Bournemouth are on 87 with +50. Watford play at home at Saturday lunchtime to Sheffield Wednesday, while Bournemouth will also be in the capital as they face Charlton away. A win would be good enough to secure Watford the title, but Bournemouth can overtake them with a win at Charlton if the Hornets fail to beat Wednesday.
It’s very difficult to look beyond Watford for this one, in the belief that they will win their final fixture, and those who like to back at short odds might be tempted to back them to win Saturday’s match rather than the title, at slightly better odds of -250 with Betvictor
For once in the Championship the relegation battle is done and dusted before the final games, with Rotherham’s win at home against Reading on Tuesday night taking them clear of Millwall and Wigan, neither of whom can now survive. Blackpool were already relegated some weeks ago, after a terrible season which sees them a huge 20 points adrift of safety going into the weekend.
The Play-offs are much more interesting, with four teams effectively battling it out for 5th and 6th place. Middlesbrough and Norwich both held a chance of automatic promotion until last week, and they are clear in 3rd and 4th. ‘Boro are on 84 points and play Brighton at home on Saturday, while Norwich are on 83 and play at home to Fulham. The results of those games will decide 3rd and 4th, but both are already assured of play-off places and will already be planning for the first legs.
As the table stands, Ipswich hold 5th spot with 78 points and +19 goal difference, while Derby are 6th with 77 and +32. Brentford and Wolves are both on 75 points and will be waiting to pounce if either of the aforementioned sides slip up. Brentford have a +16 goal difference, while Wolves have a lowly +12, and goals could be all-important in the final shake up.
The bookies are offering odds on all of the six teams involved for promotion via the play-offs:
Middlesbrough – +225 with Bet365
Derby – +350 with Coral
Saturday’s fixtures will have a huge bearing on how we view the odds, so here are the games of those involved in the mix for 5th and 6th places:
Derby v Reading
Blackburn v Ipswich
Brentford v Wigan
Wolves v Millwall
Ipswich have by far the toughest fixture away at Blackburn, with each of the other three games looking like home bankers. Derby haven’t been performing of late, and it’s only two wins in ten for them, but they should surely have enough to beat a tired-looking Reading side. Their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Arsenal clearly zapped it out of the players, as they’ve been on a run of four straight defeats since then. Derby’s form has wobbled since manager Steve McClaren has been heavily linked with the Newcastle job, but they should still have enough to get over the line on home soil.
Brentford and Wolves play the two sides who were relegated by Rotherham’s midweek win – Wigan and Millwall. Both will have their tails up in search of three points, and have every chance of getting them against demoralized opposition. That would put pressure on Ipswich who could be left level on points with both if they lose at Blackburn. Mick McCarthy has worked wonders at the Suffolk club, and they’ve only lost twice in ten matches. He’ll be fairly confident about going to Blackburn and getting at least the point that they need to secure a play-off place. If they do get beaten, Brentford have a 3-goal swing to make up and Wolves have a 7-goal swing to overcome – so look out for goals at Molineux as Wolves attempt the unthinkable.
In terms of promotion, Norwich look to have the best squad on paper of the six teams, they’ve got the best form over the last ten matches, and seem to have a real momentum under new boss Alex Neal. Middlesbrough may suffer the hangover of not reaching the automatic spots after a 1-0 win at Norwich looked to put them in a great position. However they lost the following game 4-3 at Fulham, and the side that narrowly misses out on the top two often fails to make an impact in the play-offs. Derby had looked like world-beaters earlier in the season, but their form has tailed off dramatically and they are hard to back at present. Ipswich have been punching above their weight a little this term, and it’s hard to make a case for them achieving promotion.
For those looking at alternative bets for the weekend, an accumulator on the ‘must win’ games could be a viable option. Watford must beat Sheffield Wednesday to guarantee the title; Derby must win at home to Reading to secure a play-off place; and Brentford and Wolves must beat Wigan and Millwall respectively to try and force their way into the play-offs. As a fourfold this pays +273 with Betfred
Promotion from the Championship:
Watford, Derby, Brentford & Wolves to win – +273 with Betfred
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