The English Football League Championship or the Championship is the second-highest division in the English football league system. Rated on par with the top flight European leagues, the Championship is the wealthiest non-top-flight football league in the world and is the seventh richest league in Europe. Three teams from the Championship get promoted to the lucrative English Premier League and that explains why this league is so popular! The Championship play-off final played at Wembley is widely regarded as the wealthiest game in football. Last year itself, the winner of the play-off final Fulham earned more than £170 million from that game!
Coming to the Championship, 24 teams will be in contention for the three promotion places, with each side playing each other home and away. At the end of 552 matches of the regular season, the team that finishes first is crowned the Championship Champions and earns direct promotion, along with the team that finishes second. The bottom three teams are relegated to a division below, which is called the Football League One. The teams from 3rd to 6th play the Championship play-off where the third-placed team faces the sixth and the fourth-placed faces the fifth in two-legged semi-final (home and away). The winners then face in the Championship final for a ticket to the Premier League. And, there is a lot at stake in that match!
Since the Championship is all about winning the title and going a level up to the Premier League, you won’t see teams regularly winning this league. That should explain why Newcastle United, Reading, Sunderland and Wolverhampton Wanderers have the most Championships with two each! Barnsley has spent more seasons at this level than any other club. They have also become the first club to notch up 1, 000 wins in the Championship! The fierceness of league combined with the financial incentive of promotion makes this a bettor’s delight! The quality of the football, the crazy atmosphere in the stands and the passion in the players – what more do you want!
English football has its own charm, thanks to the commercial success and the presence of world stars in almost every side. Such is the financial pull of the Championship that it won’t be an exaggeration to call it one of the best leagues around with some of the great names taking part. That explains why, season after season, the Championship sees a lot of action.
Take this for example – the 557 matches last season (including the play-offs) have produced 1, 414 goals at just more than 2.5 goals per game. To give more credence to the fact that the league is high-scoring, we have seen around 25% of the matches (one out of every four) producing over 3.5 goals. As a bettor, that’s a great stat for you to keep an eye on! That means, it will be a good idea to look at bets like “over 2.5 goals” and “over 3.5 goals” in your Championship predictions.
How about choosing a victor? The Championship is probably one of the most open leagues in Europe with every match being competitive and very little to choose between sides, effectively meaning there are no freebies! Even then, stats from the last season indicate that when it comes to a winning horse, backing the hosts seem to be a winning one. Last season witnessed 43% of the matches where the hosts ended up as winners, while only 30% of the games ended in favour of the visitors. That is a good enough gap to indicate the importance of passionate crowd baying the home side to get one past the opponents!
Another important stat to keep you hooked is the fact that 276 out of the 557 matches last season ended with “Both the teams scoring” (BTTS). That’s nearly 50% of the games, so keep an eye out for this lucrative pick! Furthermore, keep an eye on the number of goals that happen in the second half of the match, because last season saw around 55% of the total goals happening in the second half. No wonder that the Championship matches keep you hooked until the last minute!
With the season set to resume, there will be a lot of anticipation around the 2018-2019 Championship. Which three sides will gain promotion, which sides will be relegated, and which sides will remain in contention for the play-offs. Whether it is the trio of relegated sides Swansea City, Stoke City, and West Bromwich Albion or the like of big-spending Nottingham Forest or Leeds United, there are a lot of favourites for the title. History suggests that only nine out of the 30 relegated clubs over the last decade have got back into the Premier League. Notwithstanding that, Stoke City remain the strong favourites under manager Gary Rowett and players like Benik Afobe, James McClean, and Tom Ince making them one of the strongest squad in this division. That however, shouldn’t rule others out of contention.
Leeds United have made the coup of the transfer season by signing charismatic manager Marcelo Bielsa who has admirers among the world’s best including Pep Guardiola. The club has made the right move in its ambition of regaining the lost heights and don’t be surprised if they spring a surprise in winning the division. There is also so much excitement around Derby County, considering the recruitment of Chelsea icon Frank Lampard as their manager. More than anything else, it will be interesting to see how Lampard’s first steps into management will end up with! Also keep an eye on Tony Pulis’ first full season in charge of Middlesbrough, with the experienced manager looking to surprise everyone. Aston Villa came within a game away from gaining promotion last season and as new ownership kicks on, there could be surprises coming from them as well!