The Championship Returns: Nottingham Forest look the value pick for promotion at 6/1
After three long months without a ball being kicked in the English second-tier, the Championship will resume this Saturday, with nine league games left to be played until the division’s conclusion on July 22.
Then the play-offs will take place (final scheduled for August 3), to decide which of the four teams who finish the campaign between third and sixth-place will earn promotion to the Premier League for the 2020-21 season.
Fulham, Brentford, Nottingham Forest and Preston each reside in the current top-six, though the likes of Bristol City in 7th, Millwall in 8th, Cardiff in 9th, Blackburn in 10th and Swansea 11th all still have a great chance of breaking into the play-off places before the campaign is finalised next month, with only three points standing between 6th and 11th place.
With Leeds topping the table on 71 points and West Brom following closely behind in second on 70 points - six points ahead of Fulham in third - the fight for automatic promotion seems all but over at this point, although as we have seen in the past, nothing is a formality where promotion and Leeds United are concerned.
Assuming the top-two do go up automatically, though, we’ve analysed the rest of the teams gunning for the play-offs and assessed their chances of promotion, alongside all of the odds you might wish to consider when placing a wager on this particular market.
Just a year after they fell victim to relegation from the Premier League, Fulham currently find themselves in pole position to return to the top-flight, sitting third in the Championship as things stand.
Scott Parker’s side have been impressive for the most part of this bizarre season, beating the likes of Leeds back in December and play-off rivals Preston just before the enforced break.
Defensively the Cottagers have been solid, conceding just 38 goals in 37 games, while at the other end of the pitch a familiar name has taken the division by storm in the shape of Aleksandar Mitrovic, who heads up the Championship top scorer charts with 23 goals to his name.
Indeed, the west Londoners have one of the toughest run-ins from now until the end of the campaign, with games against Brentford, Leeds, Nottingham Forest, Cardiff and West Brom all still left to play.
With this in mind, they’ll have to be on top form from the get-go to ensure they don’t let their current league position slip, though with a nine-point cushion on seventh-placed Bristol City, they shouldn’t face too many problems in securing their play-off status.
As for promotion, Fulham’s experience and know-how in the Championship play-offs could shine through in the coming weeks, with the bookies feeling confident in them going up by giving them a 38% chance of promotion (13/8).
Brentford have been an exciting side to watch this term. The Bees have a fantastically talented young squad at their disposal, which contains the likes of Ollie Watkins, Said Benrahma and Sergi Canos, while manager Thomas Frank has gained notoriety in the second-tier this season for his team’s dynamic style of play on the pitch.
Alongside a gleaming new Premier League-appropriate stadium, the west Londoners are fit to make their debut appearance in the top-flight next season, and at 6/4 are the bookmakers favourites to do so next month.
Brentford kick off their restart with two really tough games against Fulham and West Brom, but after that have what could be described as a fairly favourable run-in of fixtures.
Aside from the visit of Preston on July 14, the Bees don’t face anyone else from the current top-ten so should feel confident in their ability to secure a spot in the play-offs, with bookies heavily fancying them to do so at odds of 1/40.
If they can keep their key performers fit - most notably the 22-goal Ollie Watkins, who will have one eye on obtaining the Championship Golden Boot award this season - Brentford have a superb chance of promotion. They may not be as experienced as some of the teams around them, but as we have seen throughout the whole of the season, their quality on the pitch is better than most.
The value selection could be Nottingham Forest to earn promotion at 6/1. The East Midlands outfit used to be mainstays in the top-flight but have not returned to the top of the pyramid since their relegation back in 1993.
This season, though, Forest have been regular tenants in the top-four, often flirting with the idea of automatic promotion. While that may now look to be a bridge too far considering they currently sit ten points behind West Brom in second, they still stand a great chance of promotion via the play-offs.
Prior to the break, Forest had hit a bit of a lull in performance, winning only one of their last six league games but with fixtures against some of the division’s lower-placed sides approaching (Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield, Barnsley and Stoke), they have a perfect opportunity to finish the campaign strongly.
Forest have one of the strongest defences in the league this season having conceded just 38 goals, while the likes of Lewis Grabban (the Championship’s third-top scorer with 17 goals), Joe Lolley (seven goals, seven assists) and Sammy Ameobi (three goals, seven assists) have each been influential in their rise to fifth-place and provide the club with plenty of attacking firepower in the final third.
We think that 6/1 is a fantastic price for Forest to be promoted. Sabri Lamouchi’s side have a healthy five-point cushion over play-off chasers Bristol City and look to have all but confirmed their position in the top-six, barring a catastrophic slip-up from now until the end of the season.
Then, the lottery of the play-offs could see any one of the four sides competing in them promoted, and with such a talented squad at their disposal, a return to the top-flight following a 27-year absence could be forthcoming.
Championship promotion odds
Alex Neil’s Preston currently occupy the final play-off position in sixth and are being given a slender 7% chance of promotion by the bookmakers as things stand. The Lancashire club started 2020 in scintillating form with four wins and two draws, but began to falter just before the coronavirus-induced break, losing three straight games.
Their position in the top-six is precarious, with Bristol City just a point behind in seventh, ready to overtake them at the first opportunity. You can still get 13/8 for the Lilywhites to make the play-offs with bet365, while their odds to be promoted currently stand at 12/1.
Preston still have to play Cardiff, Derby, Nottingham Forest, Brentford and Bristol City before the season is concluded, though, leaving them with plenty to do in the upcoming four weeks if they are to solidify a spot in the top-six and stand any chance of being promoted; it certainly won’t be easy.
Championship promotion odds
Seventh-placed Bristol are hot on the heels of Preston, and could easily creep into the top-six before the season is finished in a month’s time.
Lee Johnson’s side are usually in and around the play-off places towards the business end of the campaign but have not yet experienced what the Premier League has to offer, with their last taste of top-flight football coming all the way back in 1992.
The Robins’ style of play has earned them accreditation in competitions like the League Cup in recent seasons, where they famously defeated Manchester United 2-1 in 2017 and ran Manchester City right down to the wire, losing 3-2 to Pep Guardiola’s men in early-2018.
They like to get the ball down and play football, which is somewhat of a rarity in the Championship, and it would indeed be refreshing to see them finally earn promotion to the first-tier this season.
With only a point to make up on Preston, Bristol City’s odds of 7/2 to make the top-six this term offers good value, while their price of 22/1 to be promoted also seems high considering the quality in personnel they have.
Indeed, their lack of play-off experience could prove costly against sides like Fulham and Forest, so it remains to be seen if Johnson’s men can overcome that in the remaining stages of this testing campaign.