The Championship season starts on Friday night when Bournemouth and West Brom – two of the leading candidates for promotion in 2021/22 – meet at the Vitality Stadium.
A long, hard season awaits the 24 clubs in England’s second tier and there are likely to be surprises along the way.
Before a ball has been kicked Fulham 6.25/1 are the favourites on the Exchange to finish top.
Our resident Championship expert Mark O’Haire agrees, writing in his season preview: “The Cottagers are primed for a serious assault on promotion and are backed to take top honours.”
Then there’s the Not The Top 20 team who in their 1-24 predictions put Fulham top of the pile.
Fulham have the quality, with Aleksandar Mitrovic just one of west Londoners’ players who can plausibly claim to be too good for the division. They know what it takes too, having gone straight back up in 2020 after being relegated from the Premier League.
But they are no shoo-in. Question marks must remain about their manager Marco Silva who endured a difficult spell at Everton, was sacked by Watford and in charge when Hull were relegated from the Premier League (albeit after taking over when the damage was already done).
Will be promoted from the Championship?
Fellow-relegated club West Brom 7.06/1 come next in the Championship winner betting, then Sheffield United 8.07/1 who are also restarting life in the division. That trio are the promotion favourites.
Bournemouth are under new management after Scott Parker joined from Fulham. Parker is a promising coach and his team are 3.711/4 to win promotion, having fallen short in the play-off semi-finals last season.
Queens Park Rangers 5.14/1 are fancied to go well this term after an impressive end to the season for Mark Warburton’s men was followed by a solid summer of business.
Who will be relegated from the Championship?
There’s not much money in the Championship relegation market yet which perhaps underlines how un predictable this division can be.
On the Sportsbook, however, newly-promoted clubs Blackpool 9/4 and Peterborough 5/2 are at the top of the market.
The odds indicate both will struggle to acclimatise to this tough division. Huddersfield are fancied to be in the mix, though, at 3/1 while Bristol City, Luton and Coventry are all 7/1 to drop into the third tier.
Wayne Rooney hasn’t had a great summer, in part due to clashing with Derby’s owners about limited transfer funds, and it will be interesting to see if he manages to improve their fortunes in 2021/22.
Great players don’t always make great managers but Rooney has been dealt a tough hand in his first job.