The battle to earn a spot in one of the world’s biggest soccer leagues is always intense and this year, it has been as tough as ever, with recently relegated clubs taking on teams whose star is rising. So who is looking good for promotion to the Premier League in 2022?
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Who do Bettors Favor?
The dust has settled on the early rounds of the Championship and as we head into the congested yet crucial winter period, the race for promotion has taken on a clear shape. Bournemouth and Fulham are seven points clear of the chasing pack, and fans checking out the best online sportsbooks have backed them into relatively short prices.
Recently relegated West Bromwich Albion are rated as the best of the rest, and then there a host of contenders at similar prices, including Stoke, Coventry City, QPR, Blackburn, and Sheffield United.
Who is Leading the Promotion Race?
Teams relegated from the Premier League are awarded so-called ‘parachute payments’ to help them to manage their Premier League level payroll in the lower league, and this can often give these teams an advantage, particularly if they also retain the bulk of their top flight players.
That has certainly been the case this season. Fulham and West Brom, both relegated at the end of last season, are top and third in the Championship table respectively, while Bournemouth, who were relegated in 2020 are currently in second.
Bournemouth’s resurgence, ironically under the former Fulham manager Scott Parker, has been impressive. Although they made a slow start to the season, drawing three of their first five, they were top of the table by the middle of September and remained there until November 21. Unfortunately for Parker, they haven’t been able to maintain their momentum in recent games, winning only one of the last five and dropping points against teams they had expected to beat.
This slump opened the door for Fulham, who have overtaken their rivals to top the table. From early in the campaign, bookmakers were rating Fulham as big favorites and that opinion did not change throughout the fall. Under Marco Silva, the West Londoners have kept the majority of their Premier League squad and have been on an incredible run of form, going nine games undefeated since October 2, and their prolific striker Aleksandar Mitrovic has already recorded 21 goals. They have the strongest squad, the best striker and arguably the best manager in the league and if anything, they are slightly undervalued by their current odds in the Championship Futures market.
Which Other Teams are in the Automatic Promotion Race?
A gap of eight points is far from insurmountable, with two-thirds of the season to go, but the problem for fourth-placed West Brom is that they aren’t showing anything like the consistency needed to close it.
Albion have briefly been in the top spot, the most recent occasion being the end of September, but they alternated between winning and losing throughout October and in November, they’ve looked even poorer, winning one out of five. Their away form is the big problem but there is no evidence that they are improving, indeed, they seem to be in decline.
A run of six games unbeaten has enabled QPR to overtake Albion and go third, but they are surely too inconsistent to mount a serious challenge to the front two, and their aim will be to secure a playoff spot. The same can be said for Coventry City and Stoke, who are on the fringes of the play-offs at the moment, but who face a fierce challenge from a host of teams below them.
Which Team is a Good Bet for Playoff Success?
The play-offs add an extra degree of excitement to the Championship season and keep many teams involved in the hunt for promotion much deeper into the season than was once the case.
Teams that finish 3rd to 6th have another shot at getting to the Premier League and with the top two pulling away, that has left a large field of contenders battling for position in their wake. While many would expect West Brom to finish in the top six at a minimum, the other three playoff spots are definitely up for grabs. That’s good news for the division’s mid-table teams who only need to stay in touch with the top six and hope that a late-season surge is enough to take them into the play-offs.
Of those contenders, I like the look of Swansea City. Swansea are a club that has relatively recent Premier League experience. They lost out in the playoffs last season and the squad has taken time to adjust to new manager Russell Martin, but they seem to be on an upward trajectory after a shaky start.
I would also be wary of assuming that Blackburn Rovers – currently fifth – will fade out of the top six. Manager Tony Mowbray has experience of taking a team into the Premier League, and they play a brand of football that would not look out of place in the top flight. Significantly, they have won five of their last seven, suggesting that they can show the consistency needed to mount a sustained promotion charge. They look a solid bet, if you can find a Championship Promotion market with your favorite sportsbook.
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