The Championship lead may
have changed hands 19 times between five clubs this season but the bookmakers
have only seen support for two teams. "Despite all the changes at the top,
punters were rarely swayed away from the big two of West Bromwich and Watford,"
said Paddy Power's spokesman Darren Haines. "For all their form, backers never
seemed convinced of the longevity of Bristol City, Stoke or the early leaders,
It is, of course, West Bromwich Albion who enter the final
weekend of the campaign at the top, with the layers offering only 1-2 (general)
that the Baggies will finish as champions. Their draw with Southampton on
Monday effectively earned promotion and as long as they match Stoke City's
result on Sunday they will win the title. Ladbrokes quote Tony Mowbray's side
at 8-11 to be relegated next season while William Hill offer 11-10 that they
stay up. Tony Pulis' team are 7-4 (Betfred) to pip West Bromwich to the title
but must better their result to do so. Stoke need only to draw to earn
automatic promotion with Boylesports offering 1-16 that they do so.
The play-off picture is far less clear,
with five teams still chasing the final two places. To confuse calculations
even further, two of those sides play against clubs threatened with relegation,
with another taking on a team in the hunt for automatic promotion.
are 9-4 (Coral) to be promoted, either automatically or via the play-offs, with
Crystal Palace 3-1 (Coral), Bristol City 7-2 (general), Watford 4-1 (general),
Wolves 7-1 (Coral), Ipswich 16-1 (general) and Sheffield United 25-1 (Stan
James). Paddy Power have also priced up who will win the play-offs, with Stoke
priced up at 40-1, which could obviously be a massive price if they miss out on
a top-two place.
On form, the team under the biggest threat of missing
out on a top-six place is Watford. Aidy Boothroyd's team, who have spent 99
days on top of the league this season and traded as short as 11-10 with Paddy
Power in November, have managed just one win in their last 13 fixtures. The
four teams immediately below Watford could all overtake them. It could take as
little as Crystal Palace drawing with Burnley and Wolves defeating Plymouth
coupled with a Hornets loss at Blackpool to deny them a play-off place. Even a
draw on the Lancashire coast might see Watford miss out.
liquidity in Betfair's "Championship top-six finish" market (the advice would
have been to lay Watford), the best way to side against Boothroyd's team is to
sell them on Sporting Index's Championship outright index. Here, the winner is
awarded 60 points, second 40, third 30, fourth 20, fifth 10, sixth 5 and every
other finishing position zero. Watford are given a quote of 6-8, so even if
they do finish sixth you make a profit if you sell.
general) and Wolves (4-7, Totesport and VC Bet) are odds-on to win their
matches but Watford are 6-4 (Bet365 and Coral) to take three points at
Blackpool, a team that have suffered just four home league losses this season.
Fixed-odds punters can back Watford at 7-4 with Ladbrokes to finish outside the
At the other end of the table, Southampton are 6-5 (Blue
Square) favourites to join Scunthorpe and Colchester in League One next term.
Leicester are 6-4 (general), Sheffield Wednesday 13-2 (Bet365), Blackpool 25-1
(Paddy Power) and Coventry also 25-1 (general).
Southampton are likely
to have to better Leicester's result to stay up and both have tough games -
Leicester are at Stoke while Southampton, crucially at home, play Sheffield
United. The layers make the Saints 7-5 (Ladbrokes and Totesport) favourites to
win while the Foxes are 7-2 (general) outsiders to be successful at Stoke. By
that logic, Ian Holloway's team are the value punt to go down.
game is predicted in Ipswich's match with Hull. However, should Stoke be
leading Leicester, it is conceivable Hull could take it easy against a side
needing a win to have a chance of a play-off place. If games elsewhere are not
going Ipswich's way the opposite could occur. Either way, the 11-10 being
offered (Stan James) that there will be more goals in the second half than the
first seems a fair bet.