06:27 GMT +320 October 2019
Listen Live
    Football

    The Sputnik Intelligent Punter's Guide To The 2019/20 Football Season (Part One)

    CC0
    Columnists
    Get short URL
    by
    0 21
    Subscribe

    Domestic football returns in England this weekend, with the first round of Football League matches being played (the Premiership starts next weekend).

    Last season Norwich, Sheffield United and Aston Villa (via the playoffs), won promotion from the Championship (the second tier of English football), while Rotherham and Bolton (as we predicted), and Ipswich - who we said would struggle - were relegated.

    How will the division pan out this time - and what are the best bets?

    When it comes to backing teams to finish in the first three, once again last year (as we predicted) proved it pays to look beyond the obvious. Norwich, the champions, were available at 25-1 ante-post (they were even bigger after a poor start), while runners-up Sheffield United were 28-1 shots. Only one market leader (Newcastle, in 2016/7) has obliged in the last sixteen years, while the average odds of the champions in the last eleven years has been almost 14-1. We've seen teams priced at 80-1, 40-1, 33-1 (three times), 28-1 and 25-1 (four times) finish in the top three in the same period.

    Teams relegated from the Premiership the previous season are usually among the market leaders but beware: since 2007-8 only nine sides have managed to get promotion at their first attempt. For the last two years none of the relegated teams has made the top three the following season, and one (Sunderland in 2017/8) actually finished bottom.

    The previous year's play-offs are usually a good guide to the promotion markets. For the last three years a team beaten in the previous year's play-offs has got promoted twelve months later. That augurs well for West Brom, Leeds and Derby.

    Now let's take a closer look at each of the 24 teams and their prospects, in alphabetical order.

    BARNSLEY Odds: 100-1.

    Promoted from League One after relegation the year before, the Tykes are the bookies' favourites to be relegated, but while they face a tough campaign, their good home form (they were unbeaten at Oakwell all last season), could see them defy the odds and keep their heads  (just) above water.

    Prediction: Strugglers

    © AP Photo / Dave Howarth
    Barnsley's Ethan Pinnock, left, and Burnley's Sam Vokes battle for the ball during the English FA Cup, third round soccer match at Turf Moor, Burnley, England, Saturday Jan. 5, 2019. (Dave Howarth/PA via AP)

    BIRMINGHAM Odds: 66-1.

    Without their nine-point deduction they would have finished in mid-table last year, but manager Garry Monk and some good players have gone and a season of struggle looks very much on the cards for the Blues.

    Prediction: Relegated

    BLACKBURN ROVERS. Odds: 35-1.

    Tony Mowbray's outfit stabilised well last year following promotion and they could well improve further this year, (like Sheffield Utd did last year in their second season up) and become challengers for the play-offs.

    Prediction: Play-off contenders

    BRENTFORD Odds: 11-1.

    The Bees have finished 9th, 10th, 9th and 11th the last four seasons, but this is their last year at Griffin Park and all things considered we can expect a concerted push for the play-offs.

    Prediction: Play-off contenders

    BRISTOL CITY Odds: 16-1.

    The Robins were unbeaten from November to February but wobbled in March and in the end just missed out on the play-offs. Sheffield Utd though had a similar campaign a year earlier and found the necessary improvement to go up and it's hard to see Lee Johnson's men not in the challenging pack again.

    Prediction: Play-off contenders.

    CARDIFF Odds: 9-1.

    It's a boost that Neil Warnock, who has such a great record at getting sides out of this division, stays, but while they look sure to be challenging, their odds don't look great value given the relatively poor recent record of teams relegated from the Premiership.

    Prediction: Top half.

    Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock celebrates at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Cardiff City at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, Sunday, May 12, 2019.
    © AP Photo / Rui Vieira
    Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock celebrates at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Cardiff City at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, Sunday, May 12, 2019.

    CHARLTON ATHLETIC Odds 125-1

    Lee Bowyer's team, promoted via the play-offs, had a good defensive record last year but they will have the smallest squad in the division and the smallest budget and  all things considered are likely to face a real struggle in trying to stay up.

    Prediction: Relegated

    DERBY Odds  16-1.

    Made the last play-off place last year despite nine away defeats; manager Frank Lampard has defected to Chelsea - with some good loanees- and so it might be hard to kick on and make the necessary improvement needed to go up.

    Prediction: Top half

    Derby County's Harry Wilson, left, and Fikayo Tomori celebrate victory after the English Championship Play-Off, Semi Final, Second Leg soccer match against Leeds United at Elland Road, Leeds, England, Wednesday May 15, 2019
    © AP Photo / Nick Potts
    Derby County's Harry Wilson, left, and Fikayo Tomori celebrate victory after the English Championship Play-Off, Semi Final, Second Leg soccer match against Leeds United at Elland Road, Leeds, England, Wednesday May 15, 2019

    FULHAM Odds 6-1.

    Second favourites with the bookies to return to the Premiership after one season, big boost that top scorer Mitrovic stays, very likely to go well, but given record of relegated teams, current odds don't look good value.

    Prediction: Play-off contenders

    HUDDERSFIELD Odds: 16-1

    Relegated last year after a terrible campaign in which they only got 16 points, the Terriers could well struggle again this year despite the drop in class and don't make much appeal at current odds.

    Prediction: Strugglers  

    HULL Odds: 60-1

    In the relegation zone in October, the Tigers improved dramatically to get into play-off contention but manager Nigel Adkins has gone and momentum may be lost.

    Prediction: Mid-table

    LEEDS: Odds 4-1

    Missed out on automatic promotion after failing to win any of their final four matches, but while it's easy to see why the bookies have made them favourites, it's worth noting that only one market leader has obliged in this market for sixteen years and so at current odds, they don't make great appeal.  

    Prediction: Play-off contenders.

    LUTON Odds: 55-1

    Kicked off the campaign on Friday with a 3-3 home draw with Middlesbrough, last season's League One champions (who were undefeated at home), should have enough about them to stay out of trouble.

    Prediction: Mid-table  

    Luton Town's Kazenga Lua Lua celebrates scoring against Doncaster Rovers during the League One soccer match at Kenilworth Road, Luton, England, Saturday March 23, 2019.
    © AP Photo / Chris Radburn
    Luton Town's Kazenga Lua Lua celebrates scoring against Doncaster Rovers during the League One soccer match at Kenilworth Road, Luton, England, Saturday March 23, 2019.

    MIDDLESBROUGH Odds 17-1.

    Great defensive record as you would have expected under Pulis last year, but didn't score anywhere near enough goals and this cost them a play-off position. If new boss Jonathan Woodgate can adapt to a more positive style of play (& a 3-3 draw in first match at Luton suggests he will), then you've got to fancy them for promotion given their historical record (they've achieved five promotions to the top flight since 1987/8).

    Prediction: Promoted

    MILLWALL Odds 60-1

    Only escaped relegation by four points last year and finished weakly, with their energies consumed by their FA Cup run, when they were unlucky not to make the semi-finals.  Away form (15 defeats) will have to improve or else they'll be in real danger of relegation.

    Prediction: Strugglers

    NOTTINGHAM FOREST Odds 22-1.

    Another season of turmoil off the pitch and now Sabri Lamouchi becomes their 13th manager in eight years. A more positive approach (last season they had far too many draws), can make them strong contenders for a play-off place.  

    Prediction: Play-off contenders.

    PRESTON Odds 25-1

    Had a terrible start, and finish to the campaign, but were great in mid-season. Another topsy-turvy campaign could be on the cards, at best they could challenge for the play-offs, at worst, they'll be lower mid-table.

    Prediction: Mid-table.

    QPR Odds 66-1

    A nightmare start was followed by a great run which saw them arrive on the edge of the play-offs at Christmas, but then another terrible run, (they lost 14 out of 21 games in 2019) saw them slump to 19th. New boss Mark Warburton did well at Brentford and Rangers fans will hope he can turn things round and steer the club into calmer mid-table waters.

    Prediction: Strugglers

    READING Odds 75-1

    Finished 20th the last two seasons but it could be third time unlucky for the Biscuitmen as the league this year looks better than last season

    Prediction: Relegated.  

    SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY Odds 30-1

    Finished very strongly last year under Steve Bruce, and while he's now defected to Newcastle, you've still got to fancy their chances each-way; they're a similar price as 'dark horses' Norwich were last year, have a good squad, and the promotion of Steel City rivals Sheffield United last year is likely to inspire.

    Prediction: Promoted.

    STOKE Odds 12-1.

    Drew their way out of contention last year (22 draws) likely to do better this year and can't discount, but automatic promotion could be beyond them.

    Prediction: Play-off contenders

    SWANSEA Odds 35-1.

    Relegated from the Premiership in 2017-8, the Swans really got it together from the turn of the year, (they were unlucky not to beat Man City in the FA Cup) but manager Graham Potter  and some more good players have departed, and it might be difficult to regain momentum.

    Prediction: Mid-table

    Swansea City's George Byers, right, and Brentford's Ollie Watkins in action during their English FA Cup fifth round soccer match at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea, England, Sunday Feb. 17, 2019.
    © AP Photo / Nick Potts
    Swansea City's George Byers, right, and Brentford's Ollie Watkins in action during their English FA Cup fifth round soccer match at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea, England, Sunday Feb. 17, 2019.

    WEST BROM Odds 10-1

    Lost out in the play-offs having finished fourth, but that's a good pointer to their chances given recent trends; the appointment of Slaven Bilic as their new manager is another positive. The last  two occasions they were relegated from the Premier League prior to 2017-8 , they returned within two seasons.

    Prediction: Promoted

    WIGAN Odds: 100-1

    Among the bookies' favourites to go down, but they did finish well last year, and that gives some optimism that can stay afloat again this time, though they are still likely to struggle unless away form (just two wins last year) can improve dramatically.

    Prediction: Strugglers.

    VERDICT:

    Market leaders don't have a great record in this ultra-competitive league so once again it might pay to look beyond the most obvious suspects. West Brom come out strongly on a number of trends  as do Middlesbrough at 17-1.  Of the bigger priced-clubs, Sheffield Wednesday, Bristol City, Blackburn and Nottingham Forest could be worthy of an interest.

    Elsewhere in the Football League, Portsmouth (9-2) could be hard to peg back in League One ,  Burton (16-1) and Oxford (25-1) both of whom had strong campaigns in the second-half of the season, are each-way possibles, along with Simon Grayson's Blackpool (25-1) ; while in League Two, Plymouth (17-2), Scunthorpe 12-1)  Northampton Town (12-1) and Swindon (18-1) make some appeal.

    Views and opinions, expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Follow Neil Clark @NeilClark66 and @MightyMagyar

    Support his Anti-Stalker Crowdfund

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Community standardsDiscussion
    Comment via FacebookComment via Sputnik