With the Championship season being just over halfway and with many big teams underperforming (cough* Aston Villa *cough) and many teams doing far better than expected, I thought it was time to try and predict the top 6 of arguably the most unpredictable league in English football.
1st) Newcastle (Current promotion odds of 1/25)
There was little doubt that when Newcastle got relegated that they’d be back in the Premier League soon, despite losing Wijnaldum to Liverpool, summer signings of Gayle, Ritchie and Yedlin have proven more than solid in a Newcastle team that looks certain to be promoted.
At times Newcastle have looked a league above their opposition, which has been evident in their 6-0 away win at QPR and 4-0 home wins against both Birmingham and Rotherham, performances like these surely suggest that promotion is inevitable for the Geordies?
Newcastle, along with Brighton have been the two most consistent and in form teams this season, despite Brighton currently sitting in 1st place, 2 points above 2nd placed Newcastle, over the remaining half of the season it doesn’t look like Newcastle will be dropping many points, which is why I predict them to finish in 1st place.
2nd) Brighton (Current promotion odds of 1/16)
Brighton seem to have carried over their incredible form from the end of last season and are proving themselves as promotion favorites. Currently in 1st place with a 2 point lead over Newcastle and 9 points ahead of 3rd place Reading, promotion looks almost certain for the seagulls.
After a disappointing exit against Sheffield Wednesday last year in the play off semi-finals Brighton have looked like strong promotion candidates from the start of this season. Anthony Knockaert and Glen Murray have provided 25 league goals between the two of them so far and don’t look like stopping. If it wasn’t for Newcastle chasing the 1st place spot so closely Brighton would be favorites to finish 1st, however I doubt many Brighton fans will be unhappy with a 2nd place finish.
3rd) Leeds (Current promotion odds of 11/4)
Gary Monk seems to have revived Leeds this season, their 57% win rate this season and 20 goals so far from Chris Wood has seen them currently sitting comfortable in a 4th place play off position.
After disappointingly finishing 13th last season the club bought in Gary Monk along with the signings of Kemar Roofe and Pablo Hernandez who have added further strength to the team, which should help them to finishing in the top 6 for the first time since 2010.
4th) Derby (Current promotion odds of 9/2)
Since the return of McClaren and the end of Nigel Pearon’s brief “banter era” as manager of the club, Derby look well on the way to finishing in a play off spot. Top two may be out of reach due to the consistency of Newcastle and Brighton but the Rams look on their way to a strong top 6 finish
With Ince and Bent thriving under McClaren, and their solid defense proving almost impossible to beat at home, surely Derby will comfortably finish in the play offs. It is this recent form and revival under Steve McClaren that makes me believe that Derby will be in with a chance of finishing in the top 6, and having a chance of promotion.
Could this be the year we see Derby manage to not bottle the play-offs and finally return to the premier league? And if so, could this be the season they get more than 11 points?
5th) Sheffield Wednesday (Current promotion odds of 4/1)
A Mo Diame goal was it all it took for Sheffield Wednesday to not return to the Premier League in last years play-off final, but that seems behind them now as they are currently cruising in a play off position.
Summer signings of Daniel Pudil and Adam Reach have further strengthened what was already a strong championship squad, which should further assist them in their hunt for promotion.
6th) Reading (Current promotion odds of 8/1)
Jaap Stam seems to have bought a spark to reading, which is clearly reflected in their results. Currently sitting 3rd in the table (at the time of writing) they seem to have cemented themselves as one of the favorites for promotion.
Yaan Kermorgant and Garath McCleary have provided 16 goals between them and have proven to be crucial in Reading’s success so far this season which I believe will continue, which is why I predict as strong season for Reading, with a 6th place finish, narrowly putting them in a play off position.
By Ben Terry, Championship correspondent on 31/01/2017 at 12:03
Follow Ben on Twitter @benterry_