Sunderland is the biggest team still remaining in the Championship promotion race and it looks like a good bet for success in the playoffs.
Who do Bettors Favor?
Checking out the best-rated online sportsbooks we can see that bettors favor Middlesbrough to come through the playoffs as the third promoted Championship team, although not by a wide margin. Boro is rated as a +160 chance to win the playoffs, with Sunderland and Luton the joint second favorites and Coventry the underdog of the quartet.
Championship Promotion Betting Briefing
The Championship is not the only second-tier football tournament in Europe to have a playoff system, but it is perhaps the most valuable. Promotion to the Premier League is said to be worth as much as £250 million in additional revenue and teams that can manage to spend more than a season in the EPL can earn significantly more than that, including the £100 million plus of parachute payments that are made to teams that are relegated from the Premier League.
The playoffs involve the teams that finished third to sixth in the Championship and, as you might expect, teams that finished third have been the most successful in the playoffs.
In the 34 seasons that the current playoff system has been in existence, 12 third-placed teams have won the playoffs, while half that number of sixth-placed teams have earned the final promotion spot. With Burnley and Sheffield United already promoted, that leaves Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Luton and Coventry competing to make the Championship playoff Final on May 27.
Luton in Pole Position
Luton Town may not be a name that is familiar to many soccer fans outside the UK, indeed the club has not been in the top flight of English football since 1992.
It was promoted to the Championship in 2019, but the arrival of new manager Nathan Jones, towards the end of the 2019/20 season propelled Luton to the top of the end of the table, and this season, despite the departure of Jones in November, it improved further to end the regular season in third.
The secret to Luton’s success is an incredibly tight defense. Only Burnley had a better defensive record, but unlike either Burnley or Sheffield United, which finished above it, Luton has not been a free-scoring team. It scored fewer goals than all of the other five top-six teams, in fact.
A long unbeaten run of 14 games to close the season was impressive, but in knockout soccer an ability to score at any time is essential, and it is asking a lot for its defense to carry the pressure of the playoffs alone. Some bettors would argue +275 is a big price for a team that finished third, and there is plenty of historical evidence to support that, but I have a feeling that Luton will lack goals in crucial moments.
Another Turbulent Middlesbrough Season
Middlesbrough ended the season in third place, five points behind Luton. One of the bigger names in English soccer, the club has had 15 seasons altogether in the Premier League, although it hasn’t been in the topflight since 2017 and hasn’t managed back-to-back years at the top since 2009.
The club has also had its share of drama, and this has been another turbulent season. After finishing seventh last season, former Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder was sacked in October, with the club lying 22nd in the table. Michael Carrick has since steered the club steadily up the table, breaking into the top six at the end of 2022 and the top four a month later.
The problem for Boro is that it goes into the playoffs in terrible form. It ended the campaign with two defeats and a draw, including disappointing performances against both Luton and Coventry. It also has the second-worst defensive record in the top ten and looks like a poor favorite in the betting.
Coventry’s Remarkable Surge
Like Luton, Coventry’s resurgence has been remarkable. After being homeless for two spells and dropping to the fourth tier, the club has finished in the top ten of the Championship for consecutive seasons before breaking into the top six this year.
Long-time manager Mark Robins was under pressure after a run of seven games without a win to start the season, and there was another tough spell in December and January, but the club lost only one of its last 17 games to finish the campaign strongly. Like Luton, however, Coventry’s squad is one of the weakest in the Division and it may also fall short against better-funded opponents.
Back Sunderland for Promotion
The biggest team in the playoffs, Sunderland has quickly graduated from promotion last season to top six contenders under new manager Tony Mowbray, renowned for his attractive style of play and an old hand when it comes to the Championship.
It has not been an easy season for the club, and it went into the last week of the regular season outside the playoff places, making the top six thanks to a 3-0 win at Preston. But good form going into the playoffs is always a good sign and Mowbray’s team is unbeaten in nine, showing also the free-scoring style that can often prevail in these high-pressure games. Expectations will be high on Wearside, but the best betting pick is to wager on Sunderland to earn promotion.