Championship winner odds: Relegated trio lead the way
The three teams relegated from the Premier League lead the way in the Championship winner odds for the 2023-24 season and have been handed reasonable starts in the new EFL fixtures.
Leicester, Leeds and Southampton will begin life back in the Championship under new managers with their sights set on an immediate return.
Coral’s Lewis Knowles said: “Losing key players such as Youri Tielemans and James Maddison will have hit the Foxes hard but Harry Winks is a very good player for this level if they can keep him fit, then that will give them a massive chance of securing promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
“Leeds are next in the betting at 13/2 but it’s been anything but a straightforward pre-season for the Yorkshire club and it might be that Russell Martin’s Southampton (7/1) are the biggest threat to Leicester’s title hopes.”
The fixture computer looks to have been kind to the trio too – at least in the early stages. Here we analyse the three divisions’ schedules using an aggregation of leading bookmakers’ odds and identify the most notable runs.
Leicester boss Enzo Maresca faces Coventry in his first game in charge and, while the Sky Blues reached last season’s play-off final, they are ranked only 11th in the Championship winner odds at 25/1 this time around.
Matches against Huddersfield, Cardiff and Rotherham, all ranked in the bottom six, and 16th-ranked Hull follow before they face Southampton in game six.
Leeds, who now have Daniel Farke in charge, open up at Elland Road against Cardiff – always a fiery encounter but representing opposition ranked 19th by the bookmakers and fancied to battle against relegation.
Birmingham follow with West Brom the toughest opposition in an opening six games against teams averaging 14.2 in the projected league positions.
Saints, who have appointed Russell Martin as manager, have 14/1 fifth favourites Norwich as well as the Foxes in their opening six games but also two promoted sides – Sheffield Wednesday, in the season’s opening game on August 4, and Plymouth – as well as QPR.
Leicester will also fancy their chances in the run-in, with relegation candidates Birmingham, Plymouth and Preston in their last six games. Leeds and Saints have things tougher and meet at Elland Road on the final day.
Fast start vital for Hornets
Watford are also under new management yet again in the form of Valerien Ismael and are 16/1 in the Championship winner odds.
They have the easiest first six opponents on paper, with QPR, Plymouth and Birmingham in the bottom four of the combined odds and Stoke, Blackburn and Coventry also outside the play-off places.
The Hornets have the only harder run-in on paper than Southampton, though, and it stretches to their final eight games, facing Leeds, West Brom, Preston, Ipswich, Southampton, Hull, Sunderland and Middlesbrough.
Martin’s old club Swansea have West Brom and Coventry as the only projected top-half finishers among their first eight, which also include Birmingham, Preston, Bristol City, Cardiff, QPR and Wednesday.
The toughest start on paper in the Championship fixtures belongs to Coventry as they seek to bounce back from their Wembley heartbreak. Mark Robins’ side face Leicester, Middlesbrough, Swansea, Sunderland and Watford before things start to ease up with Hull, Cardiff, Huddersfield and QPR back-to-back.
Their first six are matched for difficulty by QPR’s, with Cardiff the only let-up in a run also featuring Watford, Ipswich, Saints, Boro and Sunderland.
Promotion hopefuls Peterborough have the toughest start on paper in League One, with five of their first six opponents projected to finish in the top eight.
Reading, Barnsley and favourites Derby are tipped to finish above fifth-ranked Posh, with Charlton and Portsmouth also in the play-off picture and only Northampton seemingly offering much respite.
Burton and Cheltenham – both among the relegation favourites – face four and five of the projected top eight in their respective first eight games, while Shrewsbury’s first six, by contrast, includes both those teams plus Stevenage, Fleetwood and Carlisle, all ranked in the bottom seven.
Projected strugglers Cambridge and Carlisle have tough run-ins, with the late-season fixtures seeming to favour Cheltenham if they can stay in touch, while Derby have the friendliest run-in on paper of the League One promotion favourites.
Three of the last four teams promoted into League Two are the favourites to go up again as this term’s top three, with last season’s risers Wrexham and Notts County sandwiching Stockport.
Intriguingly, the latter visit big-spending Wrexham on the final day with promotion potentially at stake – providing an echo of the Dragons’ National League meeting with Notts County in April when Ben Foster’s last-minute penalty save went a long way to deciding first place.
Crawley, tipped for relegation, have the toughest opening six games in the entire EFL with Bradford, Salford, MK Dons, Gillingham, Swindon and Stockport’s projected league positions averaging out to sixth.
Spare a thought too for Newport, who face projected top-seven finishers Notts County, Gills, MK Dons, Mansfield and Stockport in succession from games 15-19 – and then have to do it all again, in the same order, in games 33-37.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication