Championship tips and predictions
Fulham v Newcastle United
The Championship season kicks off at Craven Cottage this Friday as Fulham host Newcastle United. Newcastle are overwhelming favourites for the Championship title having kept a large number of their Premier League stars. Fulham are a team with a point to prove after a particularly disappointing campaign last season.
The Cottagers finished in a disappointing 20th league position last season, mainly thanks to Ross McCormack and Moussa Dembele’s goals. Fulham scored an incredible 66 goals last year, 36 of those goals coming from Dembele and McCormack. Defensively however they were very poor shipping 79 goals, only Bolton and Charlton conceded more. Fulham lost Dembele in the transfer window and are left with a huge void to fill, they will be hoping new addition Sonny Aluko can hit the ground running.
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As for Newcastle they begin life in the Championship hoping that they can get out at the first attempt. Rafa Benitez has made some significant signings in Dwight Gayle and Matt Ritchie, two players with genuine quality who are both proven at this level. On paper there is little doubt that Newcastle have the strongest squad in this division. They boast a host of international stars who all have Premier League experience, as well as a Champions League winning manager to steer the ship.
Betting Predictions – I do fancy goals from this game, if last season is to go by then both teams to score at Craven Cottage should be a banker. Both teams have a point to prove and I would be extremely surprised to see a goalless stalemate.
Newcastle draw no bet 2/5
Both teams to score 8/11
Newcastle win 1/1
Newcastle win and both teams to score 3/1
Fulham 1 Newcastle 2 (15/2)
Ipswich v Barnsley
Newly promoted Barnsley travel to Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich in their Championship debut for the 2016/17 season. Ipswich will be keen to start the season with a flourish in front of their home fans and build on their 7th placed finish last season.
Having narrowly missed out on the playoffs last year the aim for Mick McCarthy’s team this year will be to secure a top six finish. The Imps have a strong strikeforce in Darryl Murphy, Brett Pitman and Freddie Sears. These three could give Barnsley a real torrid 90 minutes if they are on the top of their game. They also have experience at the back and in midfield which will stand them in good stead for this game.
Barnsley will be delighted to be back in the Championship after a terrific end to last season. Not only did they seal promotion from League One, they also won the Football League Trophy. The first game of a new season is never easy, especially when you have a long journey to make. Barnsley will need to be well drilled as well as clinical if they are to get anything from this game.
Ipswich draw no bet 4/9
Ipswich win 1/1
Brett Pitman anytime scorer 6/4
Under 2.5 match goals
Sheffield Wednesday v Aston Villa
Last season’s play-off runners up Sheffield Wednesday host recently relegated Aston Villa at the Hillsborough Stadium. Both sides will have serious ambitions of promotion and will feel that they have the squad and staffing in place to achieve this.
Sheffield Wednesday for me look a good bet for promotion this year with quality all over the park. I particularly like their forward trio of Fernando Forestieri, Steven Fletcher and Gary Hooper. I think that has some serious firepower at this level and will upset a lot of defenses. They also have some very technical players in the midfield to provide them with fuel. Last year the Owls were really unlucky to miss out on the Premier League, that disappointment should spur them even more this season.
As for Aston Villa it is vital they pick their heads up and put last season behind them. They have managed to keep the bulk of their squad and have new manager Roberto Di Matteo to steer them towards the top six. The aim will undoubtedly be top 6 for the season, a tricky task but they should have the players to help them achieve this goal. My worry for them still is the lack of character within the team. Last year was embarrassing to watch with the team in disarray for the last 6 months of the campaign.
Sheffield Wednesday win 6/5
Blackburn Rovers v Norwich City
For me this is a game featuring two teams with completely different objectives. I think Blackburn may see avoiding relegation as a priority, whilst Norwich will be looking for promotion.
Blackburn Rovers lost a key man in Jordan Rhodes in the January transfer window, and suffered another blow with the sale of captain Hanley to Newcastle in this window. I do fear for Blackburn this year, having lost key players and not investing enough in there squad. They struggled at times last year and I don’t see too many positives for them approaching the 2016/17 season. This game will be a hard test against a team just relegated from the Premier League.
As for Norwich they will be looking for a swift return to the Premier League after suffering relegation from England’s top tier last season. They have kept hold of most of their players and will be a force in the Championship this year. They know exactly what this league is all about, with numerous players having played in this division before. Manager Alex Neil understands how to get the best out of a squad in this tier and I fancy Norwich to be in the top 6 at the very least this year.
Norwich draw no bet 4/5
Norwich win 7/5